Seasoned Small Businesses –

The story below is a preview of our November/December 2022 issue. For more stories like this, subscribe today. Thanks very much!

Local business owners and advocates share what new entrepreneurs need to hear.

Ask any small business owner how they got started and they will likely tell you that it started with the tiniest glimmer of an idea. Maybe they thought about it at work or daydreamed over dinner. Eventually, though, the daydreams crystallized into a plan — one they just couldn’t ignore.

Sound familiar? If so, you might be wondering if 2023 is (finally!) the year to launch your new venture. To help you think through, we asked a selection of small business owners and advocates for the tips and encouragement new entrepreneurs needed to hear most. Here’s what they shared…

Get ready for the hustle and bustle.

Today, Kat Pascal is a familiar local presence. Most people know her as a co-owner of Farmburguesa and commercial cleaning company Spotless America, as a co-founder of Latinas Network, or as a consultant at the Small Business Development Center. But long before she was any of those things, she dreamed of a better life.

“I was 21 at the time, Jimmy and I were expecting a baby, and we both worked in banking,” she recalls. “Daycare would eat up our paychecks … and we started to think, ‘We need another source of income.'”

This is how the idea of ​​Spotless America was born. The couple made a conscious decision to run a business that they could run at night so they could keep their day jobs while the business grew. But that meant long hours.

“We just worked a lot,” admits Pascal. “Sometimes I’d be in the car with the kids while Jimmy was cleaning.”

The couple created a list of dream clients, divided it up, and competed with each other to win new business. “We were digging during our lunch breaks,” she remembers.

More than a decade later, their hard work has paid off… but Pascal emphasizes that it’s important to prepare for the investment of time that entrepreneurship can require. “There’s an emotional toll,” she says. “But as you gain experience, it becomes more manageable as you learn to manage time and obstacles.”

Create a strategic plan.

Like many small business owners, Carrie Poff — owner of Brown Hound Tree Service — remembers the early days when starting her business meant moving fast and turning fast. She points to a critical moment when she worked overnight to get the company’s website up and running in anticipation of an impending ice storm.

“The next day the calls came in and the phone wouldn’t stop ringing,” she says. But while many startups begin with similar impromptu actions, these companies often see new levels of success when they take the time to create a strategic plan.

“[I] I wish we had started with a written business plan,” Poff admits. She says Brown Hound reaped rewards when she competed in the Gauntlet – a business development program and competition run by the Advancement Foundation. “It still opens doors for us!” she says.

However, planning (and scaling) strategically often means enlisting external expertise – something that can feel awkward, especially for entrepreneurs who are used to being the chief experts in their business.

“I’ve been working with technology entrepreneurs and biotech commercializers for 10-15 years now, and everyone I work with has a technical degree,” said Lisa Garcia, director of RAMP Regional Accelerator and vice president of corporate development at Verge. “They’re very tech-savvy and so, so smart… [So] It takes practice to say, ‘I don’t know.’”

Still, seeking outside help can be crucial:

“It’s expensive to have a legal professional that works…but if you don’t get that legal part right, you might lose all control of your intellectual property,” Garcia says as an example.

Many local resources are available free of charge – from advice at SBDC to mentoring at SCORE.

Think carefully about when you should quit your job.

Diane Speaks never introduced herself as a boutique owner. She had worked as a flight attendant for years when many in the airline industry were suddenly faced with drastic pay cuts. “I needed a plan B,” she recalls.

So she founded She’s International – a clothing and accessories store in downtown Roanoke. Speaks began collecting and selling unique items from her travels and before she knew it she was an entrepreneur. That was in 2006. She said she kept juggling the store with her full-time job for the airlines until she retired in 2014.

“I wouldn’t do it again,” Speaks admits. “I’d probably do both part-time, but they were both full-time… It was way too much.”

Many entrepreneurs know the feeling of gaining a foothold in both worlds, including Pascal, who worked in banking for another five years before she was able to switch to her cleaning company for a full-time position.

“My children had all the advantages. If I hadn’t worked in the corporate world, we might have gotten into trouble,” she recalls. “So we made sure we synchronized things.”

The couple hired an accountant to help them with this strategic move: “There was a lot of money coming in, but a lot of money was being spent on payroll… So we had to figure out how many jobs we needed to secure to supplement my income,” says you.

Want to read more about this feature and get more small business advice including seed capital, peer knowledge and what to do when the going gets tough? Get the latest issue on newsstands now, or see it for free in our digital issue linked below!

The story below is a preview of our November/December 2022 issue. For more stories like this, subscribe today. Thanks very much!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *