Are You an Entrepreneur?

Many people dream of starting their own businesses, but not everyone knows if they are cut out for it. In honor of National Entrepreneurship Month, this page has tips, resources, and interviews intended to give you insight on what it takes to be an entrepreneur.


Watch a brief video from our Women's Small Business series to find out if you have the typical characteristics of a successful entrepreneur.


Entrepreneur Month

Florida Entrepreneurs

We asked a few of Florida's successful entrepreneurs questions on how they got their start and what advice they would give to future small business owners. We hope their responses give you insight into the life of an entrepreneur and what it takes to get your dream started.

Stonecipher

Sara Stonecipher, Owner/Lead Designer/Stylist - MISRED Outfitters - St. Petersburg - www.bemisred.com

What inspired you to start your own business?

My love of fashion started with my mother, the owner of a popular independent consignment shop. After college, I got my break into the fashion industry when I was hired as the lead advertising stylist for Dillard's Southeast Headquarters. From there, I traveled the country as a clothing representative for the fashion house Nilla Shields. Eventually, it was my work under vintage fashion stylist Marjorie Harper of the URBANcollection and CreateThatStyle.com, where I refined my love of vintage and realized that it was a viable industry for a full scale boutique.

What does your average work day consist of?

No matter how many specialists, contractors, assistants or managers you hire, as an entrepreneur, you will always be wearing many hats. My days usually consist of going to different vintage & fabric vendors throughout the area, designing out of my production facility and then checking in on my shop on Central Ave. I choose not to micromanage my staff, as I want them to feel like a contributing part of the business and learn about the fashion industry first hand. The other part of my time is spent helping out at Petersburg's first microbrewery; Green Bench Brewing Company, which was opened by my husband and his business partner this fall.

Did you grow up in an entrepreneurial environment?

I am a second generation small business owner in my hometown of St. Pete, so growing up, I knew I wanted to eventually become an entrepreneur to carry on the family legacy, as well as pour back into my local business community.

What business achievement are you most proud of?

In the past 4 years, I have opened a thriving clothing boutique, designed and produced 2 full scale clothing lines, as well as starting a local manufacturing facility for independent designers. But to date, I am most proud of the work I have done in support of the gentrification of Central Avenue and the Independent Arts District. I am the founder of the 600 block Art District and the Central Arts District, whose presence outside of the city center has helped to grow other thriving business districts into once desolate areas of the city.

What three pieces of advice would you give to a young entrepreneur starting out today?

First, never be afraid to start with a big dream and achieve it in small steps. I left a corporate career to study under a fashion mentor while waiting tables at night to help eventually fund my dream of owning my own business. So many major business success stories started with passion, hard work and a long term commitment to a dream. If you never give up your vision, you can create something better than you ever could have imagined. Second, always surround yourself/hire people who you can learn from. I have been lucky enough to employ a staff comprised entirely of strong, smart, talented women who inspire me just as much as I hope to inspire them. If you think you are the only person who can do everything for your company, your company will inevitably fail. But surrounding yourself with richly talented people will give your company the structure it needs to succeed. Lastly, I love how Five Guys Burger and Fries approaches their business. Five Guys only makes hamburgers and french fries, and they do it really really well. If you are trying to cater your company to meet the needs of everyone, it will be overwhelming to many and frustrating to most, including you and your staff. Figure out your niche and do that the best way you know how. Your customers will appreciate it!



Horne

John Horne - Owner, Anna Maria Oyster Bars - Bradenton - www.OysterBar.net

What inspired you to start your own business?

I had been in business for 15 years, learning the ins and outs of the restaurant business and working for others 80+ hours a week. After that time, I had the opportunity to open my own restaurant and use all I learned from some great operators.

What does your average work day consist of?

I start most days at my office at home, going through business emails from our three stores from the day before…sales, comps, managers' Daily Reports on customer experiences and input from the staff. I like to know what is going on at each store but I am rarely in all three in one day, so I rely on email to keep me updated. I usually spend lunch at one of the stores and then swing by the "real" office for any paperwork or appointments I've set up. Then I try to get in a store during the Early Bird or Happy Hour shifts and talk to the customers. I'm home almost every night for a glass (or a bottle) of wine with my wife by 7 or 8 p.m. ... ahhhh. Of course, this ideal day is usually sidetracked with a Culinary Program advisory board meeting ... or a Chamber coffee, luncheon, After Hours or catering function ... or a committee meeting for a fundraising event we're donating food to ... or ... you get the idea.

Did you grow up in an entrepreneurial environment?

I did doubly … My father was in the citrus business in Polk County. He started a horticulture nursery as well as owning his own groves and selling fertilizer and insecticides for Ben Hill Griffin. My mother owned her own court reporting business for 42 years and had up to 10 employees at a time. Every night at the dinner table, I heard many stories from my parents about the ups and downs of owning and running a business with employees.

What business achievement are you most proud of?

We have grown a small 50-seat restaurant on the City Pier on Anna Maria Island into a chain of three restaurants with 232 employees who have a record of long term employment in our company. Our employee retention is what I am most proud of and we reward long term employees (3+ years with AMOB) with an annual day trip somewhere. We have been to Tampa Bay Rays games in the Owner's Suite, Buccaneer games, Howl-O-Scream at Universal Studios, City Walk and even a trip to Biloxi for a weekend. Last year, we took 96 long term staffers to Busch Gardens, who together represented 657 years of AMOB hourly experience. We have a great staff and they take great care of us and our guests…we try to take care of them as well.

What three pieces of advice would you give to a young entrepreneur starting out today?

1.) You have to spend money to make money. 2.) Be a good member of your community by being involved in the local Chamber and charities. 3.) Be good to your staff. They interact daily with your customers, clients and guests more than you do.



Rice

Hamilton Rice - President, Technology Conservation Group - Lecanto - www.tcgrecycling.com/

What inspired you to start your own business?

When I was in my teens I wanted to start a business and I had been involved with starting 2 companies before the age of 25 before starting my own company. I was in the west suburbs of Chicago and it was December of 1996 when I decided it was time to start my own company. I watched companies in the scrap and asset management business operate with no moral or ethical compass when it came to collecting and processing e-waste. Many companies collect e-waste that does not work and they send it to 3rd world countries to be processed. In these countries the processors are not certified and had no safe means of disposing of hazardous materials such as leaded glass, mercury switches, florescent bulbs and even cyanide solution to strip the gold from printed circuit boards. So a good portion of my inspiration came partly from a strong desire to "process e-waste correctly and clean" and the desire as a youth to own a business.

What does your average work day consist of?

I workout, go to the office and depending on the evening, I coach soccer or hangout with my family.

Did you grow up in an entrepreneurial environment?

My Dad was 22 years in the Military and when he retired he worked for a Bio-medical company for 3 years and then the company decided to go into a different direction with their focus and gave my Dad the accounts for the bio-medical business, which forced him into business for himself. This lasted about 2 years. So no, I was not brought up in an entrepreneurial environment.

What business achievement are you most proud of?

We have provided health care, vacation, holiday and personal days for 10 years without disruption.

What three pieces of advice would you give to a young entrepreneur starting out today?

1. Be open to advice. 2. Surround yourself with good people. 3. Don't do it just for the money.



Johnson

Laura Johnson, CEO - Coton Colors - Tallahassee - www.coton-colors.com

What inspired you to start your own business?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in having my own business. I’ve always had a love of creating things and this love turned into a passion for art that led me to create in many different mediums. While I absolutely adore creating, I have an equal love for the selling process. Nothing is more exciting than selling something I have designed. I think I was born this way!My mom was the one to first see my artistic tendencies and cultivated my passion for artistry. Even as a teenager I was creating items and selling them. Later, I pursued a degree in Studio Art at Florida State University. After graduation and newly married I continued to create many different products and sold them in various ways.

Coton Colors as we know it today really took shape with a tiny handprint. My youngest daughter, Mary Parker, was just a few months old when – in following the same tradition as with my first two daughters - I made a clay impression of her handprint and took it to a local kiln to be fired. It was there that I stumbled upon a pile of raw clay plates. As an artist, I’ve always loved creating pottery items, but at the time I had three young daughters and was dabbling a bit in hand-painted cotton clothing. The clothing line was a perfect way to fulfill my need to create a product to sell while balancing motherhood. But, I frankly missed my passion. So, on the day I was having that little handprint fired, I picked up six of those raw clay plates, went home and personalized them with each of my daughters’ and nieces’ names. I laid out each girl’s plate on the Thanksgiving table a few weeks later, and suddenly it began! One family member told a friend and another friend told a stranger, and Coton Colors as we know it today began, in my garage, atop my ping pong table, where all great business begins!

What does your average work day consist of?

Nearly 20 years later, my day looks very different than those early days {or rather nights} painting pottery in my garage. With more than 3,000 stores across the nation that carry our products, including major retailers like Neiman Marcus, Dillard’s and Lifeway Christian Stores, and hundreds of products added to our line each year, my days are full of variety, which is what I love most about what I do. I am an early riser and get to the office usually early in the morning, which is located off of a beautiful tree lined canopy road in Tallahassee, Florida. It is exciting for me to arrive to the office as it is a new space we purchased and renovated in 2012. I had the joy of designing the renovation and interiors with my daughter, Kyle, who is also our Product Design Manager. It was fun making the selections together and we are still actively collecting pieces to be housed and displayed in our creative spaces. Like all of my design projects, the office space is ever evolving as I tend to thrive on creating and changing things constantly.

My office is located right next door to my dad, Coton Colors’ CFO. After a quick catch up status meeting with him, I head into a series of three quick meetings. First up is with our Key Initiative Team, to work through the status of our key company goals we set annually. This is quickly followed by our management team huddle where each of our manager’s gather to go thru any roadblocks and status checks for individual department goals. Lastly I huddle with the Design team to check status of the various projects we have ahead of us that day. These daily meetings go a long way toward keeping our team focused and greatly aligned to get what needs to get done.

After our huddles, I work through various emails relating to all areas of the business, including marketing, sourcing, design, etc. We have an open office space that fuels input and a team environment so I am often gladly interrupted by various team members bringing me their latest ideas on marketing, photography or design. A good portion of my day is spent with the design team, checking in with the various super creative people I am blessed to be working with.

Honestly, I work a lot of hours and usually end up leaving after 7 each evening. My husband and I love to cook so I am usually treated upon arriving at home to a delicious meal and a cold glass of wine.

I also have the good fortune to travel frequently – sourcing around the world, personalizing our Coton Colors products at special events in retail stores, selling in our showrooms in Atlanta, Dallas and Las Vegas, speaking to groups of entrepreneurs and business leaders. My days are full of inspiration, much of which comes to life in the form of product when I begin my next morning of art design!

Did you grow up in an entrepreneurial environment?

Most certainly. My father was investor in and leader of several businesses. He is an accountant by trade however has the beautiful, yet unusual mix of being a numbers guy combined with an entrepreneurial spirit. He always led by example the power of hard work. Also, my mother is extremely creative and entrepreneurial. Throughout my childhood, I remember arriving home from school to see my mom crafting various items to sell. Both have been absolutely instrumental in my ability to start and grow Coton Colors.

What business achievement are you most proud of?

When people ask me if I’m amazed that I’ve grown Coton Colors into the business it is today, I always shock them with the answer that I always expected even more. And I do. I always expect bigger and better… and know that with the team we have, we are continuing to accomplish more than any of us can imagine. To answer the question… I am most proud knowing all that we have accomplished and all the HAPPY there is to come! I love that I have been able to grow a business out of an artistry that is exclusively mine. Secondly, I have formed a creative working environment that employs fabulous, interesting people that allows them to grow their incredible talents. My joy is watching the Coton Colors crew tackle projects we never would dream we could while watching their families form and grow throughout the years.

What three pieces of advice would you give to a young entrepreneur starting out today?

Go with what you know, what your gut is telling you. Leave the guilt at the door, it’s a waste of time. Always think bigger than your instinct but keep your feet on the ground.