For my first day of class at the St. Pete Chamber's Entrepreneurship Academy, being that this was the orientation and all, I was expecting a pep talk. Instead, I got a rough awakening. This was going to be serious stuff.
"Talent and passion are not enough," said Barry Foster, a successful business coach and the class moderator. "You need to be a business first.
"You are not in business (just) to make money," he said. "You are in business to make a profit."
Not sure I was loving this. Sure, money matters, but I'm really in business to make a difference, and, I hope, so are the other people here.
* * * *
We went around the room and introduced ourselves. My classmates are a diverse group of men and women, ages ranging from probably mid 20s to mid 60s. Some are embarking in their first post-college adventures, others getting ready for their post-retirement careers.
There are talks of retail shops, technology products, wholesale distribution, non-profits, health services and exporting companies. My classmates are at various stages of their dream ventures. Some are just starting out; others, like me, have already embarked in the entrepreneurship world. Everyone seems eager to learn, eager to push forward.
The next two hours we heard more from Barry, along with three other inspiring St. Petersburg entrepreneurs: Al Karnavicius, owner of Bayprint, a printing company in its 30th year; Judi Steinocher, founder of mindbodylab, which focuses on mental and physical well-being; and Frank Clemente, co-founder of conceptBAIT, an event design company celebrating its 10th year.
They all talked about their successes, but perhaps more importantly,about the failures that led them to where they are now. The common theme was this: Without a solid business foundation, your idea will crumble. This, they said, applies to your business regardless of whether it's for-profit or non-profit. "The only difference between the two," one of the speakers said, "is the tax designation." If it's not a business first, you will fail.
These were harsh words. I admittedly don't think "business first." My approach is idea first, then figure out how to make it work. For me, that often meant dipping into my personal savings. And that, of course, is not a sustainable model. But it's what feels right ...
* * * *
The Entrepreneurship Academy, now in its 17th year, is one of the St. Petersburg Chamber's signature courses. Its goal is to help grow entrepreneurship, said Chris Steinocher, Chamber president. The goal is to provide information and networking, to encourage educated risk-taking and to help "grow smarter from within."
Chris earned major points from me when he talked about his view of business. It's about making money, of course, "but we need to do it in a way that services the community for now and for future generations," he said.
* * * *
a business first," stressed Barry, the business coach-moderator. "Be a
business that supplies the services of what you are passionate about."
then it all made sense. All his talk about focusing on business and
money did not mean to imply that we had to be greedy people to succeed. It didn't mean that missions weren't important or that personal goals didn't matter. What it meant is that if you don't make your business work, eventually it will crumble. And along with it, your dreams will, too. And if that's not enough to reason to take business seriously, I don't know what is.
- Insight from the speakers, Class 1, is in the Shop Talk section.
- For more information on the St. Pete Chamber's Entrepreneurship Academy, go to their website or contact Sean Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Interviews with some of my classmates coming soon.
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Venouziou, founder of LocalShops1, is available for freelance projects:
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firstname.lastname@example.org or 727.637.5586