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Business Owners’ Roundtable, Part 1

Today, we’re going to pose questions to business owners who are making their businesses work in this tough economy. It’s my hope that you’ll find not only inspiration, but also actionable information, in their words of wisdom. First, let’s introduce our business owners.

Amy Owens is owner and operator of Hydrogroom, a mobile pet washing and grooming service in Thomasville, North Carolina. Amy came up with her business idea by combining her love for animals with her own desire for convenience as a pet owner.

Deanna Mayberry is a licensed Occupational Therapist with many years of experience working for nationally recognized healthcare providers. Deanna recently launched her own company, InterAct Pediatric Therapy Services in Greensboro, North Carolina. Deanna and her team of therapists bring their services directly into the client’s home, adding a personal touch of comfort for special-needs children who may be intimidated by a hospital or rehab setting.

Sherry Lawson is a personal trainer and fitness expert in Archdale, North Carolina, who one day realized she could make a good living doing what she loved. Even better, it fit perfectly with her personal schedule as a mom. Sherry worked out a contract with local gyms in which she pays a percentage of her earnings for use of the facilities.

Joey Hoover is founder of Clean Guys Incorporated. Joey and his team (yes, they’re all guys) offer residential and commercial cleaning and handyman services all over the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina. They’re obviously not the typical home cleaning crew, but Joey has found that most people are drawn to his all-male team of cleaning expertise.

Now that you’ve met our panel of “in the trenches” experts, let’s pick their brains for a little wisdom.

Startup Costs

Research shows that startup costs are one of the biggest barriers to people opening their own business. Some businesses require less start up costs than others, and savvy business owners can often find creative ways of getting their business of the ground. When queried about start-up costs, here’s what our business owners had to say:

Deanna (Occupational Therapist): “I began my business out of my house, so there were virtually no start-up costs. Maybe a few minor office supplies. I already had my own computer, Internet, those kinds of things. Over the years of being a therapist, I had slowly acquired most of my therapy tools. I do occasionally have to purchase new therapy equipment. But overall, my startup costs were minimal.”

Sherry (personal trainer): “Insurance was my biggest investment. I have to carry my own liability insurance so that fitness centers will let me come in and teach classes and work with clients. I have to pay it in full every year. But once you get over the initial hurdle and start making some money, it sort of pays for itself. Just make sure you check rates. Don’t go with the first quote. Do your research and find the best deal.”

Joey (cleaning/handyman): “Equipment was a big investment. After doing my own research, I found out that some things were actually cheaper to rent than purchase. To this day, I still rent my professional-grade carpet cleaning machines. It just doesn’t make sense to buy one right now.”

Best Marketing Tip

Different marketing techniques work for different types of businesses. Here’s what our entrepreneurs have found works well for them:

Amy (pet groomer): “The best marketing decision I ever made was having my Hydrogroom van detailed and wrapped with my logo. I drive all over town and everyone sees my van on the road. It’s like having a billboard on wheels. Much better than the yellow pages, for sure.”

Deanna (therapist): “Because I work so closely with doctors and health care professionals, it is very important that they know who I am.  Better yet, they need to know what I offer. They won’t recommend me to their patients if they don’t know I exist. So, I spend a good deal of my ‘free’ time visiting with doctors, other therapists, and networking in the health care community.”

Sherry (personal trainer):

“Most of my new clients find me by picking up a card at the local sports store. I drop off cards at several stores that cater to the health and fitness group of people. But most of my success comes from the sporting goods store. They’ll call to see if I offer personal training, or if I can help coach their kid in a certain sport. It’s been good for me.”

Next week I’ll bring you Part Two with our panel of “in the trenches” experts. They’ll share some of their biggest money wasters plus give you their best piece of advice.

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