Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dream that Entrepreneurial Dream

I have known since I was 11 years old that I would grow up to be an entrepreneur. As a kid, I owned a craft shop with my mom and sister where we made handmade items and sold them out of my folks' basement. Called Things-n-Stuff, it was a lot of fun and actually made a little bit of money -- mostly from family and friends but it was a great learning experience. During the summers I worked with the neighborhood kids and we had a "day camp" where we read, played (actually getting exercise) and did the kinds of things that kids don't do any more because they're too busy in front of computers, TVs and Gameboys.

As I grew older, I started babysitting and did things like deliver newspapers for contractor wages (50 cents an hour I think at one point!). Along with all these great efforts I worked as a library page, in a gift shop on the Indiana Toll Road, and in college in the Psych department. Of course, even there I typed term papers for other students and helped with editing. So, it's no surprise that after graduation from my Master's program (and while working on my PhD) I started my own business as an Administrative specialist -- becoming involved in incubators, referral groups and training programs for businesses long before they were the "THING" for businesses to do.

In the big city people were interested -- even excited -- about doing things to help support their companies; there was a sense of anticipation and looking to the future. People wanted their dreams to grow into reality. They had ideas and were willing to do whatever it took to get those dreams to come to fruition. The SBA has organizations throughout the country that were created to help these nascent businesses start, and prosper. The Women's Business Center in Springfield, VA was always buzzing with women -- young and old -- who were taking classes, networking, competing with business plan contests. There was always something going on. It was a great time for the world of entrepreneurs.

Now, however, back in small town midwestern USA, things are much different. Of course the economic environment over the last 8-10 years has not helped, but I feel a sense of fear; of desperation. People have lost their jobs. They've lost their customer base. They've lost their businesses. Money has been really hard to come by and people have retrenched. They seem to be looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; chances to get big buck referrals and meeting just the right person at networking events. The promise is there, hanging in the air -- if you do this, they will come. But I haven't seen Kevin Costner building the baseball field, and I don't believe that simply by hanging out one's shingle, that the work will be there.

It takes a long time, hard work and experience to get a business off the ground. Unless you're awfully lucky, just being in the right place at the right time, isn't going to get the business where you want it to be. You can make the best darn widget in the world, but unless you know how to market it, how to cost it out, how to maintain your books, and much more, you're eventually going to fall flat.

I think its very important to have those dreams -- to work towards getting that business off the ground with smooth sailing. But I also think that one must not put all their eggs in one basket. Understand that you need to network. You need to get and give referrals. You need to read, to study, to talk with others who have been there and done that before. It is a very hard, challenging existence, but if you can determine that what you provide is something that the people want, and if you can devote the time and energy to letting them know you can provide it, then you'll be well on your way to being an entrepreneur. Good luck!!!!!