Bring Your Own Business (BYOB): Entrepreneurial Tales From The North Country
This is the third in an occasional series on entrepreneurs and innovation in the North Country. If you have a suggestion contact: email@example.com
By Chris Jensen,
Meg Brown was really old when she decided she wanted to be an entrepreneur: She was sixteen. She went on to major in business in college, but when she finally started her photography studio in Littleton in 2013, book learning collided with reality.
“I realized I didn’t learn anything about being an entrepreneur. It was all about big business, corporations, management. And that had nothing to do with what I wanted to do,” said Brown, now 22.
Rather than charting the future of corporate America, she needed to know about planning and budgets and marketing and how they all fit together to create a successful business.
So she decided to take the Business and Entrepreneurial Technical Assistance class – sometimes called BETA – offered by the Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network in Bethlehem, a non-profit organization that nurtures economic development in the North Country by helping people start and grow businesses.
Some BETA students are interested in starting a business, while others want to take their business to the next level, instructor Carrie Gendreau said.
The class includes planning, cash flow, marketing and operation. But Gendreau also tries to give students a realistic look at what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.
For example, she said wanting to be your own boss isn’t a good reason for starting a business. The reality is that entrepreneurs have many “bosses” such as customers, all of whom need to be pleased.
“We talk about what does it take to be an entrepreneur, because 80 percent of businesses fail within the first five years,” Gendreau said.
One of the things it takes is a compulsion to succeed that Gendreau describes as a “stick-to-it-ness” that entrepreneurs may have trouble explaining in detail, but it’s there.
“It is like hugging the fog. You really can’t put your arms around it, but you know it’s there,” she said.
And it never goes away.
“You work in your business, but you also work on your business. So, when everybody else is on vacation, you may be on vacation, too, but your mind is always going. You are jotting down new ideas,” Gendreau said.
Brown, who runs MegaBug Photography and a companion business called Nutmeg Media, said BETA helped her understand what it really takes to run a business.
“You have to be everything as an entrepreneur, marketing specially and BETA gave the full scope of that,” Brown said. “You have to not only be passionate about why you are in business, but you have to be passionate about being in business. You can’t have one without the other.
It also taught her to plan.
“The business planning is something I always did mentally, but putting it out on a piece of paper makes it that much more real and it holds me more accountable,” she said. “You can’t just go into it and have these lofty goals. You have to physically write them out.”
Brown took the class early in 2015. She just finished the two-year business plan she created as part of the class. She said it helped guide her decisions about what jobs to take – or not take – and it worked.
“And, I exceeded what I anticipated making,” she said.
Linney Kenney, another BETA grad, is an artist in Littleton, with a leather-design studio. As an artist she said she has always found it hard “to transition from the creative side of work to the business side.”
But the BETA class “put me in the mindset of thinking about the business end of my work.”
Kenney and Brown said another advantage of the class was meeting other entrepreneurs in the North Country, raising the possibility of being able to work together.
The next class begins September 20 through November 8th. It’s held every Wednesday for eight weeks from 5:30 – 8 pm at the Littleton Business Center, 33 Main Street, in Littleton. The cost is $225.
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InDepthNH.org is NH’s nonprofit news website published online by the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism. Veteran journalist Chris Jensen covers the North Country and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org(603-869-5451)