In a world of instant gratification and entitlement, true entrepreneurs seem to be an endangered species.
The first trait of an entrepreneur is a proclivity for risk; a willingness to pursue a dream or vision, even if it means using your own home as collateral, or quitting a 40-hour job with benefits and security.
According to Wikipedia (the All Knowing Oz of the World Wide Web), the term “entrepreneur” was first defined by the French-Irish economist Richard Cantillon as a “person who pays a certain price for a product to resell it at an uncertain price, thereby making decisions about obtaining and using the resources while consequently admitting the risk of enterprise.”
There are many examples of this entrepreneurial spirit (Misty at Brix and Heidi at My Coffee come to mind, since I’ve spoken with them a few times about their business vision) in our fair town and most of them make up what we call the small business community. They are your neighbors and friends and the foundation of any quality community. We’ve been profiling many of them on the front page of our Money Monday section each week and each one has had a unique story with a common thread.
I was reminded of that entrepreneurial spirit after meeting a young man named Sam Gross. We were at a meeting at the Umpqua Business Center in Roseburg, where Sam offers help to those hoping to open their own businesses. It takes more than a dream to be successful and the business center’s purpose is to serve as kind of an incubator for those dreams.
Banks don’t loan money based on dreams alone. They actually want to see a plan that demonstrates a reasonable likelihood that they’ll get the loan repaid. A good business plan should include two fundamental elements: where to play (who are your customers?) and how to win (what differentiates you from your competitors?). Most businesses fail in their first three years because they missed one or both of those elements, or because they failed to deliver the goods. In fact, studies have shown that only two of every 10 new businesses survive five years.
Just because I like eating tacos doesn’t mean I’m qualified to open a Mexican restaurant. I saw a sign out front of a local eatery on Harvard that read something like: “HELP US STAY IN BUSINESS. PLEASE EAT HERE.”
Not sure desperation is the best way to attract consumers looking for a good meal.
I bumped into Sam a couple of days later at his new business, Loggers Tap House, over near the Roseburg Valley Mall. I was “testing” one of the 37 beers the Tap House has on tap. I “tested” two more just to make sure I was right.
Sam dispels the notion that small communities like ours can’t retain its bright, young minds. He graduated from Roseburg High School in 1997 and went on to graduate from the University of Oregon in 2004. He would eventually serve our country as an Army officer (he’s active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars) in Afghanistan and then earn an MBA before returning home.
He opened his original Loggers on Northeast Stephens Street in 2009. It was formerly home for Chief Cheezers & Fire Chief pizza and had, according to some, the best pizza in town. His new place — located right next door to a major pizza chain restaurant — has five times the room and appears to be a big hit, evidenced by the packed parking lot.
Sam spoke to a small community group the other day and described an entrepreneur this way: “It’s someone who works 80 hours a week so he doesn’t have to work 40.”
There’s a great book along those lines titled: “How To Turn A Million Dollars of Real Estate Into Five Dollars Cash.”
He also took some time to explain the benefits of the Umpqua Business Center and its business incubation program. Those benefits include:
• Access to experienced entrepreneurs (such as Sam)
• Access to market research, business plan/business pitch preparation coaching
• Marketing and public relations support
• Networking opportunities with peer groups, area professionals, Umpqua Community College faculty and support
• Educational programs.
The center also has some lease space available with shared services (receptionist, office equipment, conference and meeting rooms, etc.).
If I took a political profile test it would probably categorize me along the lines of a Libertarian. I don’t want much from my government beyond protection from all enemies foreign and domestic, smooth highways, toilets that flush and maybe a little help when I can no longer eat solid food.
I understand that the government cannot introduce a single penny into the economy that it doesn’t first take out of the economy and therefore is in no position to provide an economic boost. The best thing it can do for the entrepreneur is stay out of the way.
The only way to encourage employers to hire employees is to make it at least somewhat attractive to open and operate a business. This entrepreneur stuff is tough enough without having Uncle Sam waiting to pick your pockets.
Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.