Mastering Small Businesses –

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

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

Ask any small business owner how they got started and they’ll probably tell you it starts with the tiniest of ideas. Maybe they find themselves thinking about it at work, or daydreaming at dinner. Ultimately, these daydreams culminated in a plan—one they couldn’t ignore.

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

Get ready to hustle.

Kat Pascal is a familiar presence for locals these days. Most people know her as co-owner of Farmburguesa and commercial cleaning company Spotless America, co-founder of Latinas Network, or a consultant to the Small Business Development Center. But long before she became these things, she dreamed of a better life.

“I was 21 and Jimmy and I were pregnant with a baby and we were both working in banks,” she recalls. “Daycare would drain our salaries … and we started thinking, ‘We need another source of income.'”

That’s how the idea of ​​a spotless America was born. The couple deliberately chose a business they could run at night, allowing them to keep their day jobs as the business grew. But that means working long hours.

“We just did a lot of work,” Pascal admitted. “Sometimes I would sit in the car with the kids and Jimmy would do the cleaning.”

The couple made a list of coveted clients, split them up and competed against each other to win new business. “We prospected during our lunch break,” she recalls.

More than a decade later, their hard work has paid off…but Pascal emphasizes that it’s important to be prepared for the time investment that startups may require. “There’s an emotional toll,” she said. “But when you learn to manage time and obstacles, it becomes more manageable.”

Develop a strategic plan.

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

“The next day it started pouring in and the phones kept ringing,” she said. But while many startups start out with similar impulsive actions, these businesses often see new levels of success when they take the time to develop a strategic plan.

“[I] Hopefully we’ve started with a written business plan,” admits Poff. She said the Brown Hounds paid off when they took part in Gauntlet – a business development program and competition run by the Advancement Foundation. “It’s still open for us! ” she says.

But strategic planning (and scaling) often means seeking outside expertise — which can be uncomfortable, especially for entrepreneurs accustomed to being the chief expert of their business.

“I’ve been working with tech entrepreneurs and biotech commercialization for 10 to 15 years, and everyone I work with has some sort of technical degree,” said Lisa Garcia, RAMP Regional Accelerator Director and Vice President The Verge entrepreneurship development. “They’re very tech-savvy, so very smart… [So] Saying ‘I don’t know’ takes practice. “

Still, it’s crucial to seek outside help:

“A functional legal expert is expensive…but if you don’t get the legal part right, you can lose all control over the intellectual property,” Garcia said.

Many local resources are available free of charge – from SBDC consultation to SCORE guidance.

Seriously consider when to quit your day job.

Diane Speaks never thought she’d be a boutique owner. She worked as a flight attendant for many years when many in the aviation industry suddenly found themselves facing deep pay cuts. “I needed a Plan B,” she recalled.

That’s how she started She’s International, a clothing and accessories store, in downtown Roanoke. Speaks started collecting and selling unique items from her travels, and before she knew it, she was already an entrepreneur. That was in 2006. Before retiring in 2014, she continued to juggle a full-time airline job at the store, she said.

“I won’t do it again,” Speaks admitted. “I might do both part-time, but these are full-time positions…that’s too much.”

This feeling of having the best of both worlds is familiar to many entrepreneurs, including Pascal, who went on to work in banking for five years until she could transition to a full-time job at her cleaning company.

“My kids got the full benefit. If I hadn’t worked in the corporate world, we might have been in trouble,” she recalls. “So we make sure our things are aligned.”

The couple hired an accountant to help them make the move strategically: “A lot of money comes in, but a lot of it goes to payroll…so we have to figure out how much work we have to secure to complement me income,” she said.

Want to learn more about this feature and get more small business advice, including start-up capital, peer knowledge, and what to do when you get stuck? Get the latest issue on newsstands now, or check it out for free in the digital edition linked below!

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

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