Reflections of a small business trainer



By Gigi Guyton

Reprinted from the Bangor Daily News

This is the stuff that makes a small business trainer’s heart sing. A springtime flurry of emails and phone calls from entrepreneurs checking in with their big news: a feature in a national magazine, a successful Kickstarter campaign, a graduation from an accelerated entrepreneurship program.
“The proud moments are always when an entrepreneur calls with great news about their first sale or their 100th sale,” said Jane Searles, Women, Work, and Community’s microenterprise trainer in Bangor.
This is not to say we business coaches wish to take any credit. We don’t. We just love watching the entrepreneur succeed, and feed off their success like a proud parent watching a child taking those first steps. Intertwined in this story are quotes to which I think any microenterprise trainer can relate.
“I like people who are pathologically optimistic.” — Jerry Colonna
Cyndi Prince, owner of LooHoo Wool Dryer Balls, was named winner of the Spanx Leg Up program this month.
Spanx, the maker of slimming intimates out of Atlanta, Ga., was once listed as Oprah’s Favorite Things. Spanx owner Sara Blakely decided to return the favor through an application process called the Leg Up program. Leg Up offers women entrepreneurs and their businesses a chance to be promoted to millions of Spanx fans through their catalog, website and social media channels. In that same month, LooHoo Wool Dryer Balls was featured in InStyle magazine.
Prince participated in WWC’s New Ventures Entrepreneurship Training class in 2008. She completed a business plan for a completely different idea. After having her son, she started making woolen balls to put in her dryer since she was using cloth diapers on her son. Prince picked up the New Ventures notebook and mapped out a business plan for LooHoo, and took her wool dryer balls to the marketplace.
“Courage is telling our story, not being immune to criticism.” ? Dr. Brene Brown
While taking New Ventures in 2009, Kathy Fries realized that My Medical Best Friend was sometimes going to be a hard sell. Her business plan wasn’t quite celebrated by one business counselor. She even encountered insurance companies that told her they saw the necessity of her business idea, but didn’t exactly know how to code it.
My Medical Best Friend is a medical consultation service for individuals and families that have recently received a life-altering diagnosis, and must make a decision regarding treatment in the next six months.
Fries was that patient herself. She was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and experienced first-hand the lack of help for patients trying to navigate the health care system. Fries built her own team, and soon built her own business based on the idea.
This month, Fries was one of 18 business ventures pitching to a panel of distinguished experts representing the New England venture capital, angel and business communities at the Top Gun Showcase Event. Top Gun is a highly competitive 16-week course.
“I’m not delusional. I’m an entrepreneur.” — cartoon by Hugh MacLeod
Liz Mott, a 2010 New Ventures graduate, completed her first Kickstarter campaign this month, raising more than the $5,000 she intended. In addition, Altrusa International awarded Liz an $800 grant. This couldn’t have happened to a better woman in the month of May. Mott found herself a widow on Mother’s Day of 2009 with three children to raise on her own. She moved in with her parents on their unused farm in Wells and threw herself into her love of baking and digging into the earth, calling her new business Sunnyfield Farm & Baking Co.
This month she emailed to say she’s being courted by two New England distributors who want to put her biscotti in stores in the Northeast. She’s feverishly working on moving out of her parents’ kitchen and into a commercial-use kitchen, and working on product nutritional analysis for retail labeling. We recently laughed about optimistically celebrating her first sale three years ago — a $3 head of lettuce at her local farmer’s market back in 2010.
“My proudest moments are when a student says, ‘Oh, I get it’, and she shows me she really has.” — Shirley Hamilton, WWC trainer in Lewiston.