When I started our marketing agency in 2013, education and support for entrepreneurs and small businesses was not exactly what I had in mind. I had been in IT for almost 20 years, I excelled at my job, and honestly, that is where I expected to hang my hat. As it often does, however, life had other plans. Nearly seven years and a lifetime’s worth of ups and downs later, here we are.
This wasn’t my first rodeo as far as running my own company went. In my late teens and early twenties, I ran a DJ business, and I was good at it. I only stopped because I had other dreams and goals to pursue. When 2013 came around, I was at a company where I loved what I was doing but didn’t love who I was doing it for. They didn’t treat their employees or customers well. There was no effort to go above and beyond for clients or to help employees develop new skills or even correct shortcomings. They just cared about their bottom line. I saw good people get walked out the door for minor infractions. I was comfortable there because I worked hard and knew how to play their game. I even managed to get to the point where I earned a pretty decent salary. However, money isn’t worth much when you and the people around you are miserable and afraid that you are going to be the next one to get fired. It was that environment that spurred me forward out of my comfort zone. I had wanted to start my own company for a while and I thought to myself, “I can do this better.”
So I packed my desk and quit my job. I stepped away from the comfort and security of a steady salary and into the twisting labyrinth of entrepreneurship. I had no customers lined up, no real capital to start with, nothing but an idea of what I wanted to do and determination to do it. I was going to create a company that treated people with respect, and delivered an awesome client experience. To my surprise, a good friend of mine came with me. I was starting my new entrepreneurial journey with someone who depended on me.
The pressure was on. I was terrified. It was one thing to step out on my own, but there was another person relying on me to succeed before I even got my feet under me. I had to start making money quick – I couldn’t let her down. She was a talented designer and web developer, but didn’t know much about IT work. So instead of starting my own IT company, we ended up doing websites, and websites led to SEO, which led to another hire. Here I was, in just under a year, with two employees. Two families outside my own I was responsible for. Two people that I was one bad meeting away from letting down.
In all honesty though, I can say in those first few years, we were extremely blessed. We were able to hit the ground running and get our first few clients fairly quickly. Things weren’t always good though. There were ups and downs. We would gain a client just to lose another one and would hire people just in time for contracts not to be renewed. It was incredibly frustrating to see this company I was pouring my heart and soul into splutter and struggle to grow.
This frustration took a toll on everything in my life. I felt more distant from my employees because I didn’t want to stress them out with the knowledge that we may not have enough money for payroll. My personal life suffered as I put more hours into work while sinking deeper into depression. I felt alone and unseen. I felt like a failure. Sure, the doors were still open and we were still in business, but had I created what I set out to do? To build a company where both employees and customers felt valued and respected?
Then, about a year ago, I had something of a wakeup call. I was honored to be selected to be in a Goldman Sachs 10KSB cohort. There, I met other entrepreneurs like me who were struggling to grow their business. Some were small companies, others had as many as 10 employees but one thing was the same: we all felt the incredible weight on our shoulders of starting and running a small business. I wasn’t alone.
It was then I decided that running a digital marketing agency wasn’t all I wanted to contribute to the community. I wanted to help other entrepreneurs, like me, who struggled with growing their business, managing their lives outside of work, and taking care of their mental health.
That is why I started Small Business Academy. To help people grow their business and have a place to come and learn without judgment. Where other entrepreneurs can send their staff to train as well as find like-minded people who understand what they are going through. No matter what problem you are facing as a small business owner, we want to help. You don’t have to navigate the entrepreneurial world alone, you don’t have to spend hours searching for the right answer. We’re here to help, we’re here to teach, and most importantly, we are here to listen. Contact me today to find out how we can help you.