Getting a leg up in starting your own business

The Means Report

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) –  Focusing on startups, on entrepreneurship. Have you ever had a dream of being your own boss? Well, it’s a lot easier than you think to make it come true, to be able to lay that foundation. And we are so pleased to welcome from the clubhouse. One of Augusta’s real gems, Mordecai Evans, an instructor in this entrepreneurship program. And congratulations, Tonia Gibbons, their recent graduate. We told you about this program back in February, they’ve graduated their first class. They’re gonna crank up another one soon. Mordecai, welcome. Tonia, congratulations to you.

Thank you, Brad. Absolutely, I look forward to seeing great things from you in the near future. But Mordecai let me lead off with you just to kind of get a feel for this program and the level of interest in it. Has it waned or increased or what during the pandemic? Seems like a time when people would be scared to go out on their own.

Well, thanks for having us, Brad. I think the pandemic has kind of shown us that entrepreneurship is necessary. As you kind of looked at the landscape and people kind of out of work and not a lot of opportunities. People feel like, they felt like they should create opportunities for themselves. So I felt like it was a great time to start a business known during this pandemic and you had time at home. So that also was beneficial to kind of allow you to think through different ideas and concepts to try to make something work.

Yeah, just because you felt like the time was right. You’ve been deeply involved in our community. So many people know you. What kind of lit that fire for you?

As instructor…

Yeah, Mordecai, I’m sorry. I think maybe my mic got cut off during the first part, I wanted to, and I’m sorry these Zoom and Skype interviews are so difficult sometimes for the back and forth part. Now I was asking Tonia, what lit the fire for you to say, you know what now is the time for me to go out on my own?

I think like Mordecai said being at home as a lot of people know my previous employer, the City of Augusta, the mayor’s office. And I left thinking there was something more that I wanted to do and I wanted to do it for the broader community. And so I took some time off, set at home and the pandemic really got me thinking about a lot of things. I was able to write my plan out, which I hadn’t done before. And then I wanted to go into business for myself at some point but the pandemic and seeing the amount of people in need caused me to sit back and write it down and make it plan. And then I saw the MakeStartups and I was like I have to be a part of that class. The clubhouse is known for helping startups and they’re known in our community for helping individuals and entrepreneurs. And so I wanted to make sure that I took advantage of the opportunity.

Yeah, the clubhouse has really led the way in that regard. You’re right. Mordecai, is there a category of businesses, a type of business that is best for these times in which we live for somebody watching, who might wanna take your program? What kind of business works best right now?

You know, Brad, that’s… I don’t know that I can answer a specific question. but any type of business that you think of that serves a need in my opinion. That’s one of the focuses kind of the class was I really encouraged people to identify a problem. And then try to solve that problem with your product or service. So no specific business but just think about something that you see in your world or you see in someone else’s world that is a problem and figure out a way to kind of solve that problem. And we always talk about in our class, be able to communicate the problem and talk about how your product or service can solve that problem. And that’s the key to any business, it’s solutions based and problem solving based.

Yeah, you’re right. So many times we see these businesses start up and we say, why didn’t I think of that? Let me ask you this Mordecai, you made me think of something about entrepreneurship. Does it have to be something that’s brand new, something that hasn’t been thought of before? Or can it be, can your startup be similar to existing businesses?

Yeah, that’s a great question and that comes up a lot. I don’t necessarily believe it needs to be something that’s never been thought of before, even though that’s great, but that rarely happens. It can be something that’s already there that you feel that you can bring a different spin to or improve upon that product or service. So definitely, and as you look around at our landscape, most businesses are not something new. They’re are something they’ve decided to make something better or improve something that’s already existing. So that’s my thoughts on that.

Tonia, what are you going to do? What are you launching? So my business is called Farr More and Associates, we’re a public relations and consulting group here locally. But we go anywhere, we can help anyone. And so just taking my skills that I’ve had from the mayor’s office, Procter & Gamble, from all of the jobs and things that I’ve done, I just compiled them into one thing. And you look around the community and there are so many people that want to do so many things but a lot of times they don’t have the tools. They don’t have the resources, they don’t have the access and I have all of that. And so we’re Farr more than you think, Farr more than you expect.

Well, I think it’s a natural fit for you and I know it’s going to do great. Let me ask you both this and we’ll start with Mordecai and then just go to Tonia. Y’all can each answer one of the most daunting things about starting your own business, I think is funding. And I can learn how to do the right steps to get my business started. But when it comes to asking people to give me, to loan me the money to do it, that’s scary. Mordecai, what do you teach your program participants about the funding aspect of it? And then when you’re finished with your answer, Tonia, what’s your funding journey been like?

Great question. And as you look at most businesses, we call it bootstrap and that’s how they start. They start by you just doing the work yourself and not a lot of capital involved. And so what happens is as you bootstrap your business and you continue to kind of grow then at a certain point, you need access to funding. So we do have a portion of our class that is dedicated to business financing. So we had a local bank come in and talk to our students about SBA financing and different ways of getting money. We also had an individual come in and talk about angel investing. So we did show them where they can get the funds when the time is right. But for the most part, we encourage people to start, just start on your own, start in your garage, start wherever you are and just bootstrap it.

Is that how you’ve been kind of doing it in these early days, Tonya, bootstrapping it, getting your own business going by yourself?

Absolutely, absolutely. My business is a little different because it’s a service-based business. So I don’t have to have a building. I don’t have to have employees right away. I can contract some of my work out and that’s what I do. And so bootstrapping is definitely what I’ve done with my business. It is the way to go. I don’t owe anyone anything. Right now it’s very freeing to know that you’re not in debt going into business. And I think that’s where sometimes people mess up is they go out and get loans and not able to pay the loans back. And so on top of running a business, now you got to figure out how to pay this money back. And so I didn’t want that. Like Mordecai says, we’re bootstrapping it. We’re doing all, I’m doing all the work, doing most of the phone calls to consulting everything right now. And I do see it getting bigger but at this point, yeah, I’m gonna continue the bootstrap process.

No, I think that’s a great approach. Mordecai, do you have to have any skills or qualifications to take your course? Do I have to have a certain degree or level of education to get in there with you?

All you need to have is an idea and motivation to be an entrepreneur. We’ll show you the rest.

Well, that’s wonderful. How long does it last, how many weeks is it?

So the first cohort was a 12 week timeframe and we talked about issues, technology, accounting, patent law, business law, financing. And just a variety of topics that I feel entrepreneurs need to understand prior to getting into business. So I feel that, you know, I had a great group of students and I feel that, you know, I will say this to myself. I feel that they got their money’s worth and got a lot of value out of the program. Of course, I say that because I was the instructor.

I know they did, I know they did. Hey, Tonia’s living proof of that. You’re gonna create the future superstars of the business world. What about a profit though? I won’t put Tonia on the spot ’cause she’s just getting cranked up with her business. But Mordecai, just generally speaking, how long might it take a startup to turn a profit?

No, that’s a good question. I would say that it varies on your product and your service and your market. Anywhere from a year to two years. Most businesses take anywhere from three to five years to really start making it. So I just believe you just gotta be in it for the long haul and you got to have a passion for what you do. And again, going back to kind of one of the questions we talked about before is solving that problem and having a passionate about solving that problem. And the more people you solve that problem for, the greater the income potential for you.

When does the next class start? How can people get in touch with you who love what you’re saying? ‘Cause I love what you’re saying, both of you, how do they get involved?

Reached out to the clubhouse, Grace Anne and she can give anyone any details about getting started. The next class will be this fall. We don’t have an exact date yet. But if you reach out to the clubhouse, we can give you more details about when that class is gonna start.

Tonia, et me let you wrap us up just to talk to the potential entrepreneurs like you watching out there who might still be hesitant, who might still be fearful about taking that leap. It’s so much easier just to work and collect a paycheck and go home each night. What would you say to them?

I would say, if you can do it for someone else, you could do it for yourself. And that’s what really pushed me is I saw that I was able to get in and work with just about anybody and do just about anything in the community. And I though why not take a chance on myself? Why not invest in myself? I feel I have a lot to offer to the greater community. And so I just wanted to take a chance on myself. So don’t ever doubt yourself. If you feel you have something to offer that you can turn into a business, take some time, invest in yourself, invest in a course like Make-Startups. Invest in any opportunities that you can get to further your idea into an actual business.

Yeah, I just wish you all the best. We’re gonna be cheering for you. Mordecai, thank you so much for shaping our future business leaders. I mean the next Instagram or Airbnb, you never know what’s gonna come out of that clubhouse. I can feel it but I thank you both for your time and I wish you and the entire clubhouse team all the best.

Thank you so much.

Thank you, Brad, we appreciate it.

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Brad Means

The Means Report first aired in January of 2009 offering coverage that you cannot get from a daily newscast. Forget about quick soundbytes -- we deliver an in-depth perspective on the biggest stories. If they are making news on the local or national level, you will find them on the set of The Means Report. Hosted by WJBF NewsChannel 6 anchor, Brad Means, The Means Report covers the topics impacting your life, your town, your state, and your future.