The PVCC Alumni Association and Career Services, along with Academic Advising, recently sponsored an Alumni Career Panel focusing on Entrepreneurialism. The five panelists shared their stories and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
How did the idea for your business come about?
- Josie Emch, Sitters Select – “I went to school to become a teacher, so I merged my passion for teaching with my entrepreneurial spirit to form Sitters Select. I only hire Education majors or current Educators.”
- Kyle Kacerek, Prest Coffee – “Always at the back of my mind I wanted to start a venture around pressed fresh juice and coffee. I thought it would be cool to bring fresh squeezed orange juice to the UofA campus. I just went for it.”
- Wilson Okwuobu, ConVey Concierge, Empire Health Groups – “I took my Grandma’s car in for service and realized people don’t like to take their cars in for service. In doing surveys and research, I found that over 50% of people drive with their check engine light on. I created an auto concierge service.”
- Heather Rausch, Foxfire Events – “I made a list of everything I love to do. I thought about what business would combine all those things and was pointed to the events industry. I had to determine my demographic which was women who want to excel in business.”
- Adam Wong, Rockstar Workforce – “I decided leadership was the path I wanted to go down. I realized there were not many leadership development companies of my age, that could bring the fire that I could bring. I started to carve my niche and identify the need.”
What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
- “I wanted freedom, flexibility, the ability to be creative, to think outside the box and not have limitations.” - Heather
- “I wanted to control the destiny of myself and family. In addition, the tax savings advantages are a plus.” - Adam
- Other panelists shared: I would be more ethical than my current employer. I wanted to be my own boss.
What worried you the most as you started your business venture? What excited you most about starting your business venture?
- “You have to go all in on the business, you can’t run a business while working 9-5, I had more excitement than fear, developing recipes, pricing menu, etc.” - Kyle
- “The ability to manage your fear makes a huge difference, balance sheet and financial possibilities excite me.” - Wilson
- Additional responses: Worries - Single mom, leaving the corporate world, had a mortgage, can I do it, started business three months before the pandemic. Excitement - Your concern can be the excitement, less risk now to jump on it, I always want to attract positivity and success to my business.
How did you raise funding for your venture?
- “Why should I pay for school? I went after scholarships and used savings I had accumulated in college to start my business. It only takes $150 to start a business in the service industry.” - Josie
- “I put money away, sold my video games, borrowed money from a family member, bartended, and used “Kickstarter” to expand.” - Kyle
- Other experiences: Won a Pitch Contest, put money from one business into another business, took money earned and reinvested it back in the business, tapped into 401K.
How did you build a successful customer base? How did you market your business and what tactics have been most successful?
- “Word of mouth is key, speed, quality affordability, hit all three of those and you’ll ‘kill it’, friendly, fast, affordable. I hid punch cards around Tucson, then gave out clues on social media to create buzz.” - Kyle
- “Do a lot of networking, talking to people, getting involved, not just exchanging business cards. Build relationships by serving in leadership roles, find a couple organizations and ‘dig in’.” - Heather
- Additional suggestions: Build trust, tell everyone you know that you’re starting a business, use LinkedIn, ask clients for referrals.
Who helped you most along the way?
- “Distinguish who your mentors are now, have mentors for different areas, they will help with your growth and success overall.” - Josie
- “Fear can hold you back, you need someone to inspire you and tell you it’s going to be okay. Reach out to your professors and counseling.” - Wilson
- Other responses: Friends and family helped me, fellow entrepreneurs, started a mastermind group, remove toxic people from your life.
What suggestions and/or considerations do you have for someone aspiring to be an entrepreneur?
- “Ask yourself, what’s your ’why’, be clear on your vision, have a collaborative mindset, rather than a competitive one. Surround yourself with great people and resources. Find support and structure, build trust and identify a few key groups.” - Heather
- “Invest in yourself, be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, reach out to other entrepreneurs. It is much easier and efficient to keep current customers than recruit new customers, differentiate your business from your competitors.” - Adam
- Additional advice: Become friends with your competitors, listen to podcasts, mistakes are cheap when you are young, pick something that interests you, otherwise you will burn out quickly, surround yourself with like-minded people.