Small business owners share their stories of risk & reward

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There are many reasons to celebrate entrepreneurs. Over 30 million of them have opened up small businesses. And they’ve provided jobs for over 58 million people.

But entrepreneurship is not an easy path. Opening your own business can be risky. Competition and cash flow are two of the biggest concerns for entrepreneurs, according to a 2019 small business report. But many believe opening a business is worth the risk. 

So we sat down with a few to learn more about the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship. Their insights can help shed some light on how entrepreneurs can achieve success. 

Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

1. Was starting a business easier or harder than you expected?

Jill, Realtor: When I first became a Realtor, I didn’t really think of it as starting a business. But as I’ve worked with more clients, I’ve added employees and my own office. And it turns out that I have a business! And dang, it’s hard—particularly, the people part! The skills that make someone a good Realtor don’t necessarily translate into creating a vision, leading people, managing expenses, etc. I’m definitely still a work in progress as a CEO/business owner.

Tazz, social media influencer and Realtor: A little bit of both. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you only get to do the fun stuff. You also have to put in the work and try to get a little uncomfortable with the things you’re probably not as good at. For me, it’s time management and a number of things that I find tedious or daunting. But those are the things that help the business be successful and help me be successful. 

Image Credit: Courtesy Photo.

2. How have you persevered through tough times?

Sarah, co-owner of Buffo’s RefrigerationWe’re a small business, and we had a couple of workers who gave us a two-week notice and left. And that was during the busy season! When you’re with a small company, and that happens, everything has to be re-allocated to a few people. We hired a new person, and we really hit a home run. We’re a people business, so getting the right employees and having that gut feeling that this person is the right fit is important.

Karen, owner of Anew Foods: Honestly, there are many dips along the roller coaster ride. I’ve had the highest highs and the lowest lows. It’s just part of the game. As the owner, you own everything: the successes and failures. But as my favorite quote [commonly attributed to Winston Churchill] goes, ‘Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.’

Jill: Many years ago, during the financial crisis, I had a transaction where I was representing both the buyer and the seller, and it was about to close. Things were very tight, money-wise. I had payroll to meet, and this transaction represented months of work and quite a bit of money. I was pretty sure that if that transaction didn’t close, I was going to have to lay off my employees and file for bankruptcy. It was incredibly stressful! I remember taking some deep breaths, putting aside my personal worries, and focusing on what was going to be in the best interest of these clients. Once I did that, we were able to solve the problem and move forward. The clients were happy, my employees got to stay on, and my business kept moving forward.

Image Credit: Courtesy Photo.

3. What did you learn from your biggest or riskiest win?

Tazz: On social media, you can always post the good stuff and have a very small reality of what’s happening. Honestly, my biggest risk was starting my business, being true to myself, and being honest on social media.

Karen: After an event where the CEO of Albertsons jokingly broadcast the COO’s email, I decided to write the COO a note. It was a total long shot, but she answered and graciously met with me. It’s amazing what a well-written, sincere email can accomplish.

Image Credit: Courtesy Photo.

4. What does it take to become an entrepreneur?

Tazz: I think entrepreneurship is for everyone. It’s scary, and it’s kind of hard to wrap your brain around the fact that your stability doesn’t rely on your boss anymore. It all relies on you to make things work. But it’s definitely for everyone.

Karen: I hate to tell anyone that they shouldn’t pursue entrepreneurship, but success is largely dependent on your vision and drive. If you’re not willing to put in the time, your chances of ‘making it’ are reduced significantly. In the end, it depends on your personal goals. Only you can determine what ‘success’ means.

Jill: Sometimes you’re good at something—let’s say baking pies. And you decide you want to open a pie shop. Well, do you love baking pies? Or do you love being a businessperson? Because if you don’t love the latter and all that goes with it—the long hours, the responsibility, the financial stress—then you’ll be better off going to work for someone who hires you to bake pies. However, if building a business is what excites you, and you also happen to be great at baking pies, then you are an entrepreneur, and you should go for it!

Sarah: I think you need to be a self-motivator. You gotta be disciplined. I would recommend it to somebody who has the gumption. You just have to be gutsy and able to stand up for yourself and the fact that it’s your business.

Image Credit: Courtesy Photo.

5. What advice do you have for people interested in entrepreneurship?

Karen: If money were not an issue, I’d wholeheartedly say go for it! There is nothing more rewarding than pursuing your dream and seeing it come to fruition. Being financially risk-averse myself, I’ve chosen a path that is comfortable for my situation. But each business warrants a different strategy. So use the amazing resources that are available in your area. Find mentors. Ask questions. And be persistent. It will be rewarded.

Sarah: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Tap different friends for accounting or hiring advice or what they use to track hours. I could sit there and try to figure it out, and every now and then, I do. But every now and then, I also break down and think, ‘Now I need to ask for help.’ 

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