My talk will cover several topics and I have some great stories to share with the COSE audience. I’ll talk about the journey of Cheryl & Co., how I got started and the obstacles I overcame. In the beginning, I was undercapitalized like most entrepreneurs. I was also a single female in the ‘80s looking for capital for a cookie business! It was hard to get financing.
I’ll talk about the structure of a business. Owners often just think about taking their product to market without thinking about the structure of the business. Should it be retail only, corporate sales, wholesale, catalog sales, should I sell to QVC? Should we outsource, centralize production, etc.? It’s important to understand that opportunity often brings more challenges. You have to decide how many areas you can be an expert at.
I will also talk about vision. My definition of vision is the ability to see the invisible and do the impossible. The invisible is the ability to see the potential of a product. Entrepreneurs get it – they see the world a little bit differently. Often times the category already exist, they just find a way to deliver a product or service it in a different way – a way that saves the customer time, solves a problem, or offers a convenience.
Customer service is also one of my favorite topics. I’m a great believer in customer service and I was a fanatic about looking at our customer retention rate at Cheryl & Co. Because really there is no sense of taking all the time and energy to find a new customer just to let them slip out the back door. I always say if you don’t take care of your customers someone else will.
What the best business advice you ever got?
I’ve been fortunate to have had several great mentors along the way who have shared their wisdom. During a particularly tough time, one gentleman who spent time in a concentration camp and had escaped Nazi Germany, simply told me to never give up. It really struck home and I needed to hear that at the time.
Another mentor extolled the importance of cash flow; the old Cash is King adage. He told me that just because you’re profitable doesn’t mean you have cash on hand. Making sure you pay your bills and never running out of cash is critical. Both seem obvious now, but I believe you get pearls of wisdom when you need them.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs starting out today?
Entrepreneurship is not for everybody. It’s a lot more than luck. It takes perseverance and a lot of sacrifice. You can get immersed in your vision and making your dream come true and that can affect your personal life and relationships. It’s important to always have great optimism and surround yourself with others that have that same optimism and a realistic awareness of what it takes to be successful.
See Cheryl at think spot on Thursday, May 21, 2015, 5 - 8:30 pm at Windows on the River. Register now at www.cose.org/thinkspot.