entrepreneurs In training
Do It Yourself
Reap the rewards of being your own boss
“The number one way to create wealth
in America is to be a successful small business owner,” says
Braun Mincher, quoting a concept from the book “The Millionaire
Next Door.” Mincher ought to know:
He started a company that grew to be the largest ground
transportation company in the state when he was a senior at Littleton’s
Chatfield High School. Mincher and other entrepreneurs offer their
advice on the risks and rewards of pursuing an entrepreneurial purpose.
After merging his company, Express Charters, with a Fort Collins
firm, Mincher became president of an enterprise with annual revenues
of $4.5 million that employed 128 people. Five years later, he sold
his interest for over seven figures.
“In high school, I was active in DECA (Distributed Education
Clubs of America) and FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America)
and participated in their local, state, and national competitions,”
Mincher, now 30, recalls. “I encourage would-be entrepreneurs
to be as active as possible in school classes and clubs. It builds
confidence, provides learning, and creates a network of contacts.”
Mincher, who attended university at night while running his company
full-time during the day, won the Ernst & Young/Inc. Magazine
“Entrepreneur of the Year” award at the state level
Now co-founder of a Fort Collins firm that sells telecommunications
systems and services, Mincher advises students, “Whatever
you choose to do, be passionate about it! Work hard, persevere,
and go that extra step. It takes time and sacrifices, but entrepreneurship
brings fulfillment with self and control over your life, as well
as financial benefits.”
FILL AN UNMET NEED
When Tiffany Cruz, then a 15-year-old student at School Without
Walls in Grand Junction, couldn’t find a handbag she liked,
she decided to make her own. Her one-of-a-kind Fish Bags were such
a hit, first one local boutique and then others asked to sell them.
So, with help from many sources, she turned her original crafts
into a real business, Bags by Tiffany.
Her dad and aunt, both small business owners, were initial mentors.
They also put her in touch with the local business incubator and
Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for suggestions on writing
her business plan. In September 2003, Cruz won the Young Americans
Center’s Young Entrepreneurs competition. She received a $1000
award to help her business, a mentoring relationship with a successful
businessperson, great publicity, and the opportunity to sell her
wares through the YAC Marketplace.
For anyone starting a business, Cruz recommends, “Test your
idea in the marketplace and identify trends. Get advice from people
with businesses and from resources like the incubator. Find people
who will support you for free; I have received plastic, leather,
Web site hosting, and many other items that I could not afford.”
Cruz, now a sophomore majoring in art with a minor in business at
Mesa State College, runs her business despite the challenges of
keeping up with deadlines. She dreams big: “My goal is to
go to New York, get famous, and open my own stores.”
JUST DO IT!
While most 11-year-olds were playing soccer after school, Jonathan Lasatar started his first business.
He sold the assets of the gardening and landscaping company when
he was 15, but by then he had the entrepreneurial bug.
“I took business classes at Boulder High School and got support,”
Lasatar, who graduated in May 2004, says. “Mr. Kozlowski,
my business teacher, used the Junior Achievement approach in his
courses to start and run a real business. He encouraged me to participate
in JA Business Week. I also read lots of business books.”
Lasatar started his current business, Detail Master, in May 2003.
“The SBDC was a huge support. They offered courses and seminars,”
he explains. Now with six employees and large dealership contracts
to detail high-end cars, Lasatar beams, “Entrepreneurship
is incredible. There is so much freedom. Just do it!”
FOLLOW YOUR HEART AND HEAD
There are many paths to entrepreneurial success. I didn’t
realize when graduating high school that eventually I would co-found
and grow a technology-based company, Radish
that would eventually sell for over $40 million. My career goals
evolved along the way — from being an engineer to an international
marketer then an entrepreneur — and continued to develop to
being a mother, business consultant, professional speaker and author.
As they say, variety is the spice of life. It helps to get a strong
education to strengthen your expertise and flexibility; this is
something that no one can ever take from you, no matter what you
do. Gain lots of practical work experience from established companies;
continue your education on their time card.
It is also essential to get to know yourself. What provides meaning
to you? What are your gifts and talents? What are your passions?
Use both your head and heart to find and then follow your dreams.
Be prepared to change as you pursue your passionate purpose and
to give it your all. Success requires relentless determination focused
toward your vision.
— Theresa M. Szczurek (www.tmsworld.com) is author of Pursuit
of Passionate Purpose.
WHO WANTS TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR?
People between the ages of 24 and 44 account for half of the entrepreneurial
activity in the U.S. and there is one female entrepreneur for every
1.5 male entrepreneurs.
SOURCE: Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2001 Executive Report.