Two weeks ago, I asked you in a survey if you'd be interested in sharing your entrepreneurial journey with the 21 Hats community. Most of you said, Yes. Well, here's your first chance.
Step one is to help me get to know you better. I’m always looking for people to highlight in articles, podcasts, and interviews. And I’m always looking to learn more about the needs of our subscribers. Suppose we start with this. In the comment section below, please tell me:
Company name. Type of business. Some sense of its size (employees, revenue range if you’re comfortable). And then as briefly as possible, give us any combination you wish of what makes your business special, what this past year has been like, what questions you are trying to answer, and what challenges you are confronting. Please, no soliciting.
Thanks in advance for taking the time. I’m confident we will all learn a lot.
— Loren Feldman
Hi Loren. I'm Randy Owens and own Financial Connections. We're a business who provides bookkeeping and tax services. Our special service is helping service businesses develop a cash flow system that takes them away from simple "bank balance" accounting to developing and implementing a cash flow system that allows them to not only pay themselves first, but also work a system that will help them create strategies to play financial defense, develop a war chest and then look for the right growth opportunities. We have a staff of 5 and face challeges in terms of getting the word out. The year has been challenging due to COVID but my personal experience of being a "bankrupt accountant" helps me relate to challenges our clients face.
Hi! I'm Christine, owner of Treasure Goddess Yarn. I sell hand dyed luxury yarn, knitting patterns, kits and knitting/crocheting accessories all with a pirate/ocean/mermaid theme. I normally have 4 large yarn shows each year and all were canceled. I had to really ramp up my online presence, started posting short videos and have now moved to a few virtual selling events. I've hired my first part time employee as contract labor to allow me to increase production as well as spend more time posting on social media, photographing, etc. I'm finding it a challenge to get my products in front of new people, it's a tactile thing, you want to touch the yarn, squish it, etc. So I'm trying to find new ways to video it, photograph it and describe my products to work in an entirely online set up. I always feel there is more I should be doing, trying to get myself from running around chasing details and "oh I forgot about that...." "on I need to update that" to a planned out system.
I'm the CEO & Founder of Predictable Profits - a business coaching company specializing in 7 & 8 figure entrepreneurs. The International Business Times just wrote this article about me here: https://www.ibtimes.sg/how-charles-gaudet-became-go-business-coach-7-8-figure-entrepreneurs-53834 ... this year has created an inflection point which has forced us to reevaluate all our strategies and adapt to the current market conditions. As such, it's allowed us, our coaches and our clients to benefit from a number of growth opportunities that several competitors have overlooked. With the marketplace changing so rapidly, we're constantly asking ourselves questions related to maintaining our edge (and identifying the pitfalls to watch out for). Would love to talk. I hope this helps.
Hi Loren -
Thanks for the opportunity to share more about what we do at WIT - Whatever It Takes.
I launched WIT after leaving my career as a teacher. Ten years later we provide the only college-credit entrepreneur programs to middle and high school teens in the US. In our programs, teens learn how to launch a business or non-profit, as well as develop their leadership skills. Upon completion, they earn college-credit that they can transfer to the college of their choice.
Prior to covid we were running in-person classes in Austin, San Diego and NYC. We made a quick switch to virtual and ended up creating a very profitable and impactful virtual summer camp.
Honestly, I thought we'd be "back to normal" in the Fall, but clearly that didn't happen. So, currently we are talking to our teens and their parents to make sure we are creating the programs that they need. We are finding a greater need for mental health support and so we have brought in different experts to equip our young entrepreneurs with tools to help them navigate these times.
One of our greatest challenges is getting the word out about our programs. Some schools are open to sharing our programming with their students, others not so much. Also, schools are navigating their own setbacks right now, so we need to find additional ways to market.
Thank you again for the chance to share,
Hey Loren, T
his is my business, Magill’s Ice Cream. We are located in Denver, Colorado and employ 26 employees.
Magill’s was established in 1981, I came on to the scene in 1998 as an employee and purchased the company in 2003, when I was 20 years old in college.
We make our own brand of all-natural, homemade, small batch ice cream in our retail store and supply to the entire state of Colorado as part of our wholesale business.
The past year has been a bit of a rollercoaster. We went against the grain and decided to remain open and never closed the business for a single day, didn’t lay off a single employee. We have invested in the business more this year than ever before as our concept has changed to a to-go model. The business has regained all the losses from March & April and we have learned a new segment in our to-go, curbside facility which we expanded to in early April. We are continuing go constantly change the business as the market and customers demand and have enjoyed the challenges and strategies that have come up. I said to a close business friend in April “I hate to say this, but I am kind of enjoying the strategic decisions that COVID is making me look at”.
We are a debt-free business and operate 100% in cash and have not borrowed any money or capital in the past 5 years. We don’t offer terms to any wholesale customers but require a pre-paid option, which is very rare for the wholesale business.
There are a lot of things that we are trying to figure out and I have enjoyed listening to the podcast (especially Jay) in attempt to make decisions moving forward.
I am the Founder and Director of She Leads Me, a company devoted to helping women build their leadership careers and businesses. With our business model going into 2020, we immediately lost 80% of our revenue the moment that our state shut down. It was a time of uncertainty for sure. We made changes to our business model, recuperated the revenue that was lost and now are about to close out our most successful year yet, all while hiring new team members this year.
Our mission is to not only provide the best business and leadership consulting for women, but to also build a powerful community while delivering top tier services. This community feature has helped women all over the world, through one of the most difficult years yet.
In the coming months, we are working through some more expansion pains, "when we hire for what next" as we deal with the incoming demands that our community needs. We are launching into some new programs and platforms in 2021 and are eager to see it's success.
Our team size is currently at 3, high capacity members are are on track to break the seven figure revenue.
Hi Loren, Firm is Three Atlanta LLC, dba "three" (yes it's a registered trademark) 20 year-old Corporate Communications firm billing between $10-$20M depending on the year. Single member LLC - me. Intentional boutique (limited our last build out to 49 seats). 25 employees at its core with ramps to 45 depending on projects. We use paid media (advertising) earned media (PR) and Company owned assets (web, reports, etc) to manage the expectations of three audiences often at odds - Customers, Employees and the Street (three get it?) - all looking to the c-suite for answers. Think of us as the extension of the CMO, CFO and Chief People officer's offices as advocate for the CEO's vision. Big Clients for the most part. Financial Institutions, Hospital Systems, Consumer Durables, Utilities, all relationships from former jobs on the other side of the conference table. We suck at business development. An embarrassing admission for a marketing company, right? Some restaurants and home services thrown in for fun - less fun these days as we watch our restaurant Clients struggle or fail. I like to think of us as a catalyst for capitalist success. Not going to apologize for the embrace of capitalism as I'm a proud one. (Think I might be a Steve Forbes fan?) Having managed thru 9/11/01, 2009 and now 2020 (no job cuts to date) I feel like we know how to ride the waves with eternal optimism, but admittedly I'd love to know what a tail wind felt like as a change of pace. We've always hired adults and allowed a lot of flexibility so the advent of the zoom culture is not new to us but new tools have changed how we do it. Ours is a team sport - strategy, design, production - lots of passionate, opinionated, smart people trying to often agree on subjective criteria (is red really appropriate here?) so maintaining an esprit de corps culture, focused customer delight - check the egos - while doing so with 2D relationships between staff and Client is genuinely what keeps me up. Our folks work more for a cause than a paycheck. Struggling with how to feed that hunger through PPE and across a digital chasm. Really don't want to run a company with employee churn constantly chasing self involved talent. Contract culture ain't my thing.
Hi Loren....long time no see (we've had the opportunity to meet many times at the Small giants Summit)
As you may remember, my company Triad Components Group was recognized as a Forbe's Small Giant in 2017 (although it was named OptiFuse at the time). We are both big fans of Bo Burlingham and Paul Spiegelman as the Small Giants organization.
Triad Components Group, Inc (TCG) is a manufacturer of electrical and electronic components sold to electronics and automotive OEMs through an authorized distribution network. I started the company in January of 1991 (we're celebrating our 30th year anniversary next month!) and are based in San Diego.
We currently employ 19 people on 3 continents who collectively speak 6 languages. As you can imagine, our team is extremely ethnically diverse and women slightly outnumber the men.
Our revenues this year will be in the neighborhood of $8.2M up from $7.7M last year with about 12% EBITDA (a little higher this year when you factor in the PPP...which was officially forgiven last week). Our compounded growth rate is 27% since 2012 and we've been fortunate enough to be listed on the Inc. 5000 the last 6 years (albeit our best year was at 3319). We are the epitome of slow and steady growth and we like this approach as it doesn't create chaos or drama.
In 2019, we became an ESOP company which gives me a full exit in 2031 (3 trounces, with the first one @ 12% beginning in 2019)
Our products include highly niche parts such as fuses, circuit breakers, switches, trailer connectors, USB connectors, and LED indicator lights. Sales are "long-tail" where it might take years working with OEM customers to design our parts into their products but we where can expect to stay with that customer for the entire life of the product (sometimes decades). Our products are mostly created by our team in collaboration with our customers and are private-labeled by a multitude of factories mostly in Taiwan (I'm writing this to you from my hotel room in Taiwan as I'm now halfway through my mandatory 15-day quarantine upon arrival to Taiwan).
Our company is a HUGE believer in the 6 Small Giants Principles:
- Mission, purpose & values
- Servant leadership
- Defining and maintaining a strong company culture
- Community give-back
- Fostering strong relationships between all stakeholders )customers, vendors and employees)
- Steady growth and profitability
We live these principles in everything we do at TCG and it has paid off in spades even when it was hard (like when the economy was shut down due to COVID earlier this year and we lost 10's of thousands dollars in the Q2).
We are constantly trying to improve ourselves and the way we do things at TCG. One example is that for the past 4 years, we have a optional (but fully subscribed) "book club" that meets each Friday morning, for 30-minutes before work, to discuss a few chapters in a personal development or "classic" business book. During this company-wide meeting all sorts of ideas are shared and discussed which leads us to talk in a common language (i.e. Jim Collin's "hedgehog" concept or Seth Godin's "people like us do things like this" concept). We've now collectively read about 18 books - including (of course) Small Giants, Good to Great, E-Myth, A Stake in the Outcome, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, This is Marketing, and The War of Art among others.
There are several other ways we try to build culture and embody the Small Giants principles at TCG but I won't bore you listing them all (you're always welcome to reach out and I'll provide you with more details).
I truly enjoy your work and the ideas that it spawns...thanks again for inspiring me.
Hi Loren! I just love your morning updates. I don't always catch it, but I love it when I do—please don’t ever stop!!
My copywriting and content agency, MarketSmiths, has been lucky to buck the COVID small business trend and nearly double in size this year, due to 3 factors: 1) organic marketing (including the blog writing, ebooks, emails, web copy, and other lead-gen materials we write) is clearly thriving, 2) we have built an incredible foundation for inbound leads, and 3) we have a growing reputation within corporate America—especially with multiple, well-positioned tech clients. We've completed 3 hiring waves in 2020. I'm incredibly grateful—and of course my heart goes out to all of the many struggling business owners who have had to pivot or shut down.
We’ve also had our fair share of growing pains, including not one but two misadventures in bringing on a #2 (Chief of Staff or Managing Director—still looking). These growing pains are always (always!!) blindingly obvious in retrospect.
It's been great reconnecting with you, and I look forward to speaking soon! -Jean Tang, CEO, MarketSmiths
Hi Loren, we design, manufacture and distribute (B2B and B2C) art and craft supplies around the world. Needless to say, our international business has been a bit down for 2020. But thankfully, the businesses that have embraced online-anything seem to be thriving. I've been able to keep my employees and contractors busy while we shift our schedules to accommodate COVID mandates. We've definitely had some pipeline issues, but by increasing on-hand stock of almost everything (including packing tape), we've managed to keep production moving - and orders going out the door. "Cash is King" right now!
After 23 years of being in this business, 2020 was a well-needed hit of the Reset-Button. I grew accustomed to doing things the way everyone has always done it. Tradeshow circuit, big once-a-year product releases, etc. While somewhere in the back of my head I knew I should be asking "why?" or even "why not??". 2020 finally gave me the mental brain space to ask and actually take the time to LISTEN.
We've made a lot of changes on how we run our business this year. We stopped automatically being reactive and are slowly starting the process of being deliberate. We're even moving our facility to a larger one so that we can pick/pack/ship with greater efficiency. By increasing our overhead, it's definitely given me the kick in the butt that sales (and profits) must go up. There's a lot of low hanging fruit that's hiding in plain sight. 2021 is the year to start harvesting with a purpose!
-Jaime Echt CEO, The Crafter's Workshop
Loren, I appreciate the Morning Reports and Podcasts. During the summer I would put my earbuds in and listen as I gardened in the cool of the morning. The small business interaction and discussions are unique for a business forum.
Barcelon Associates Management Corporation is a family owned management company. Started by my Father Ted Barcelon in 1979. My wife and Co-CEO Sandy Barcelon and I have been working together in our business for 38 years. Our youngest son Sean works with us and in the near future we will become a 3rd generation company. We primarily manage affordable housing for seniors and families is the greater Bay Area in California. We currently have 108 employees/team members and have many long term clients and team members.
We love our business, team members, clients, and the residents we serve. Being able to make a good living while working in the affordable housing industry is a blessing. This along with looking forward to a 3rd generation family business is special. Employees make all the difference in the world to us. Combining our employees with great clients is a beautiful thing.
We are a people business and operating in the social distance and Stay at Home environment has been difficult. The loss of interpersonal interaction is concerning. Our working relationships are crucial to success and serving our clients. We manage 20 apartment communities therefore 90% or our team members are working in small team groups at our communities. We are continually concerned for our team members and how to support them during this time and doing whatever we can to protect our residents from COVID-19.
Good Morning Loren! Airgility, Inc. is the name of our business, we are an early stage tech company working at the edge of innovation on artificial intelligence & autonomy for unmanned systems. Our mission is to improve & save lives through the deployment of intelligent robotic systems. We currently have 9 full-time employees and 10 part-time/interns. This year has been tough in general, just like for most, but we see many opportunities and have stayed resilient. Our challenges including having the resources to properly launch product and to establish new products/services and scale into the next couple of years.
It’s Michael Goldberg of Practice Perfect Systems. I hope that you and your family are doing well.
All dental practices are suffering. I seek to help as many as possible cope with the brutal facts and pivot to accept the new reality this Pandemic has accelerated.
Dentistry, probably like many niche businesses, suffers from only looking within their industry for answers and solutions. I have always had one foot in dentistry and one elsewhere through a series of non-dentist mentors. While that served me well during my dental career, today it’s a critical perspective any businessperson must have.
That’s the perspective my consulting company promotes. While we try to educate many, we focus our personal coaching and consulting for a very small and specific niche within dentistry; dentists who want to incorporate non-traditional therapies into their practices while maintaining maximum functionality, profitability and preserving the business’ value.
The message has been well accepted and allowed us to grow. I’ve had to add an employee during this pandemic, as I switched from in-person to virtual everything.
Our challenge moving forward is in how to scale or whether in fact we should?
Hi Loren, I'm Chris. I run Underdog.io, a talent marketplace. We're bootstrapped, we have 10 employees, we generate revenue in the seven figures, and we work with 550+ customers. Business this year has understandably been pretty brutal. If we're lucky, revenue will be down 40% YoY after having grown 50% YoY for a while. We're grappling with how we manage to bounce back next year and whether the pandemic has fundamentally changed any aspects of our business: how companies hire, how job seekers look for work, and what's most important to both sides of the market in this "new normal." Thanks for asking this question!
People I have met at Pitch sessions (in person as well as vistually after COVID-19 are some of my best "go-to" investors. ) My company is Prime Capital Connections. It is my 6th startup and I am in my 11th of raising capital for companies that need funding of their project.
I have 3 criteria that must be there for me to engage for a capital raise:
1. The product or service must make sense to me.
2. The product or service must be able to scale and become a big company.
3. I must feel I have the right investors for whatever the business is that clients need capital for.
If all three criteria are there, I will engage with the company and make the appropriate connections to the investors I work with.
I am the proverbial solo-preneur, work from my home office in Parker, CO and have attended more pitch sessions in person and then virtually via ZOOM calls after COVID-19 appeared than I can count.
I have a Wall Street background.... Merrill Lynch for 10+ years. Many of my former Merrill Lynch clients and my former Merrill Lynch colleagues are investors that I work with for capital raises. My affluent golf buddies are also investors and all of us are enjoying the lowest interest rate environment in modern history since the markets crashed in 2008. In 2010, investors re-engaged and started investing in great companies again.
Loren, first let me say I love what you are doing and thank you for all you do with the small business community. My business Advoco is a software consultancy that specializes in implementing a maintenance software product called Infor EAM. We help companies get the most out of their assets through better maintenance and planning. We serve clients like Pepsi, Frito Lay, Cliff Bar, US Air Force, etc. We are close to a $20 million dollar business with over 100 teammates. 2020 has been a great year for us because the pandemic has allowed companies to focus more on IT projects and how to become more efficient. Two years ago we started a new online learning and training program so now it has paid off for us. What makes us special is our people and our focus on our core values. We challenge each and every one of our team members to be courageous and always do the right thing. To be Driven, get stuff done. Innovative - Help our clients realize the impossible. Honest - Always be authentic and trustworthy. Community - We are always better together. And lastly, which I believe is the most important, Knowledgable - Never stop learning and sharing. I think as business owners we will always have challenges and 2021 is not going to be any different. I think the #1 challenge we all face is no matter what happens we have to believe in the possibilities and find out what makes each of us special. When we do that we will all not only survive but thrive.
Hi Loren, Tree Luxury Candles & Gifts is my business name. I mainly make candles, and rooms sprays. I’m a vet small business I’m the only person working for my company. My revenue stream is a little embarrassing to mention at this point. What makes my business special is I normally donate funds to my favorite organizations for specific products sold. Operation SlayCancer is one and The Shepherd Center in Atlanta is another. I have Multiple Sclerosis, the doctors at the Shephard Center has helped me get back to a somewhat normal life.
This past year has been extremely difficult which caused my business to come to a standstill. Hopefully that will change soon due to the changes I had to make. The main question I have at this point, is it best to eliminate products are close down...