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Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow With Julie Worley

Q: “I wanted to start by asking; What do you call this whole youth entrepreneurship initiative you have going on?”

Worley: “So we tried several variations, we tried after school four nights a week, and that was sort of successful. We tried a Friday-Saturday, kind of successful. But what turned out to be most successful was a one-day camp. We’d go into the class, we’d start when the bell rang, and by afternoon, by evening, those kids will have come up with a business idea and committed it to a tri-fold board. And then we’d have kind of a parent, community showcase where they can come in and the kids could talk to them about their business plans. So we’ve kind of adopted the one-day, go into the classroom template as what works. And of course, whenever you get kids out of a class they’re tickled pink, y’know, and they want to do whatever you ask them to do. So it’s been very successful, and we’ve done several of those since 2015.”

“So we did the E-camps across… the 6 counties in Southeast [Colorado], Baca, Bent Crowley, Kiowa, Otero, and Prowers. There are 22 schools in the 6 counties, lots of homeschool kids, and we tried to get out and expose, or touch, or tell them about entrepreneurship.”

“The first E-fair was in May 2017 here at OJC, and… since then we’ve hosted ’17, ’18, and ’19 in May here at OJC, November of ’18 was our first one in Lamar, and we’re actually hosting the second one in Lamar in November of ’19. So I brought this to you, this is the successes that we’ve had. We’ve engaged between 250 and 300 young people in 5th-12th grade in the [22 schools in the 6] counties in southeast Colorado, as well as homeschool students and private school students (Pioneer Christian and GOAL Academy). We’ve showcased over 150 youth business ideas, …and we’ve awarded, as of …May 2019, over $12,000 in cash prizes. That has all been -and this is an important aspect- locally raised money. That’s been no grant money, really no big corporate money or anything like that. Just a little here, a little there from community people that believe in the Youth Entrepreneurship program. So now I’m working on getting the funding for the Lamar E-fair, and it’s the same way. When you tell them what you’ve done and the youth that you’ve touched, most business people are very eager to help with it and take a part in it.”

“We’ve also supported the …6 youth businesses now operating in Southeast Colorado. Some of them are pretty limited or on a seasonal basis, but there are two young men in Rocky Ford that I believe operate their [welding and fabrication business] full time.”

“So, that’s how it all got started. We’re continuing to grow the program. When we branched out and went over to Lamar in ’18 with the E-fair, we attracted a lot of the same kids, but a lot of different kids from the Holly [and] Grenada schools, and I’m getting more response this year from those schools too. It’s a pretty new concept for them. We have not done any E-camps over on that side of the six-county area. We’ve done E-camps in Baca county, of course we’ve done a lot in Otero county, up in Crowley county. So that will be our focus this year. “

“Our grant funding with the Daniel’s fund …was a five-year funding program, and it ran out in August, and we had to submit a final report of what we’d done. And they were impressed with our numbers. They like our program and they’re inviting us to apply again. But there’s this gap period in here when there’s nothing going on, and there’s no funding coming in. So that’s a little bit of a crunch, but it’ll work out.”

“So what we’re doing now is we’re continuing to work with the youth entrepreneurship, and …Manzanola is going to be the first school to have an e-club, an entrepreneurship club… I think it can be a really effective tool in schools. Down in Campo, …they do some really creative, innovative things with entrepreneurship. If you recall, the two E-fairs you were at there were always a lot of Campo kids that came, and a lot of Campo kids that won. That’s because they’re a smaller school and they take time out of the school day to do entrepreneurship. But we envision that if we can get …E-clubs started in the schools, the entrepreneurship endeavor will carry on. Because you only get grant funding for so long to do a project, and we don’t want it to fall through the cracks. We would love to get some schools involved with an entrepreneurship curriculum. There’s lots of them out there… We’ve connected with My Tech High, it’s an online entrepreneurship program out of Utah. It’ a school year curriculum… It’s a neat program, age appropriate for whatever grade you’re in, and it’s just like buying a textbook. So that could be an option for schools that want a curriculum.”

“Our focus too, now, is to kind of segway into adult entrepreneurship. I don’t like to call it an adult E-fair, but that’s what it’ll be. You may not be aware, but Pueblo hosted adult E-fair[s], Canyon city up in Fremont county had one, so they’re becoming more… common? In fact I’ve talked to Mickie [Lewis-Gemici] about how we could get an adult entrepreneurship fair started here. Because I have people [come to the youth e-fair and] say ‘Hey, why don’t you do this for the adults?’ So it would be a little bit different in that, y’know if they won money, you gotta know that it’s going to their business. The 5th-8th graders, if they want to take their winnings and go buy pizza for their class, they can do that. We encourage high school kids to put your money back into your businesses, but there’s nothing that says you have to either. But with the adult one there’d have to be some guidelines. So we’re working on that, and getting some weekend workshops [and] accelerators to talk to the adults, because adults are no different than kids. They have the ideas, but they don’t know how to put the business piece together. So that’s what we want to help them with.”

“I just recently [connected] with a gentleman …from around Durango who is a venture capitalist, and they only want to invest in businesses in the rural areas…. We’ve begun communicating back and forth on how that could help get it started too. With a venture capitalist fund, they have lots of people that have money that, maybe they’d like to help you start your business, and so they come together and make a big pot of money. Plus, he has access to some other funding for that, so that’s a great resource. Hopefully through that and working with Mickie because she’s wanting to do it, we can maybe get an adult entrepreneurship program started too. “
“I just saw… someplace they just started, and I’m inclined to think it was in Chicago or one of those bigger cities, they just started an adult entrepreneurship class, and gosh they were giving $40,000 away, and I’m thinking ‘oh my sakes, what that wouldn’t do for a business.’ So, there is opportunity. I think entrepreneurship has come miles since we started promoting it back in 2015. Y’know you’d go in and you’d do the camp, and the kids would come to camp and [you would say] ‘Well do you know what entrepreneurship means?’ and they’d have the deer in the headlights look, and by the end of the day they knew what it meant. It’s becoming such a buzz word now. I love entrepreneurship, I’ve been involved in it ever since I was a kid. When you can work with your love, then you get very passionate about it, you would know that.”

“I want to keep it going because I think we’ve always said that entrepreneurship is about the only thing that’s going to keep our rural communities afloat. We’re not going to attract any businesses with 100 jobs, we’re going to attract those small little 10, 12, maybe only a mom and pop company that want to live here, have been raised here, and like it here. You’re not going to get the big companies here; we’re not close enough too an airport or a Starbucks. So that’s probably more information than you really needed, but that’s the information.”

Q: “So, what can one expect to find at an E-fair?”

Worley: “It’s a whole lot like a science fair, where the kids bring their ideas laid out on a tri-fold board, they can bring props if they want to, and they have to be ready to pitch their business to the judges. So it’s a room full of kids with these ideas, talking to the judges. Did you make it over to the one last year, here on campus?”

“No, I did not.”

Worley: “It was, contagious. I mean the energy, the excitement in the air, because, I believe it was Rocky Ford brought all of their 6th and 7th graders just to observe. They didn’t bring projects; they just came to see what was going on. I mean there were kids all over. There were parents all over. And it was just a real exciting, fun atmosphere. Then we had the keynote speaker, we had the panel of all the entrepreneurs that had graduated local schools y’know, and maybe started their businesses, and of course we had lunch, and then announced the winners. It was a full day, and people hung around.”

“That’s great!”

Worley: “The parents and everybody. It was just such an exciting atmosphere; it was like ‘this is what I always envisioned it would be.’ Y’know before, remember the first few years, parents would come and then they’d leave and then there were kind of lull times?”

“Yeah.”

Worley: “There was none of that this year.”

“That’s great.”

Worley: “Yeah. So, it’s growing. So, that’s kind of what you can expect if you come to an E-fair.”

“Well, thank you so much, Julie.”

Worley: “Yeah, thank you.”

“I’m so glad we had this time to talk.”

I encourage you to come out to the E-Fairs in 2020 and see the infectious excitement these kids have for entrepreneurship. These creative young people are the future of our rural communities.

Getting Your Name Out There: Easy and Effective Marketing Strategies

Connect to Your Existing Customer Base.

Word of mouth is an invaluable tool when starting and growing a business. A recommendation from a friend will always be more highly considered than an add seen on Facebook. Make your customers feel valued. Consider sending customer surveys out through email to get an idea of what your customers value about your business. This is a great way to narrow down your niche market, which will help you focus your marketing time and budget on the right demographic.

Creating Engaging Content.

Whether it’s blogging or instructional videos, creating content is a great, free way to communicate with your audience. If you have a skill that directly relates to your business, such as repairing bicycles and you sell bike tires, posting instructional videos is a great way to stay in touch with the consumer while opening doors to new customers.

Eye Catching Business Cards.

Yes, I know this is not a new concept, but business cards are still a great way to promote your business. Even with all the newest technology, face to face advertising is still invaluable. And with many companies offering deals and simple to use templates, business cards are a quick and easy marketing tool.

Contests.

The price of running a contest is completely dependent on what prize you choose to offer. One option that can work very well is offering a free product or service that you already provide. For instance, having the prize be a free oil change if you own an auto repair shop. This gives the added bonus of showing off your skill to the winner. It’s important to remember, however, that the participation will reflect the prize. If the prize is a television, many more people will participate than if it were a dozen cupcakes. There are several ways you can set up a contest for marketing. Having it through social media will have the best participation and reach. Many businesses require a participant to follow their business page and share the contest post in order to be entered. Others use websites that manage the contest for you, but these generally charge a fee. If you want to do an in person contest, business card drawings are a great option. Once you’ve drawn the winner, you can send emails to the remaining participants inviting them to join your email list to get notifications about upcoming promotions.

Social Networking.

Create Business accounts on as many platforms as possible. Especially if your target demographic includes individuals between the ages of 13-30, social media is a must. In addition to giving you an easy way to stay in contact with your customers, social media serves as the perfect stage for any blogs or videos you create.

Customer Loyalty and Referral Perks.

Once you have customers, you want to make sure they feel valued so they continue to purchase your products or services. Loyalty programs are great for accomplishing this. Offering a “10th is free” type of reward works well without cutting into your profit much. To encourage word of mouth like we talked about above, consider offering referral bonuses to existing customers. For example, continuing with the auto repair shop idea, offering a free oil change for every five referrals.

Get One The Radio.

Especially if your target demographic is 40-years-old and above, your local radio station can be a wonderful tool. Depending on the station, this can be a free source of advertising.

Be Involved in Your Community.

One of the best ways to generate word of mouth is by diving into community activities. Sponsoring a rec sports team or donating to a community event is a great way to show everyone that you are invested in the community’s well-being and future. Good publicity is invaluable.

Ultimately, advertising is unique to your business. While these can be great starting points, having successful marketing is dependent on your creativity, knowledge, and enthusiasm. No one knows your business as well as you, so have confidence and let your target audience know your value!

Opportunity Recognition

While opportunity recognition is instrumental to starting a successful business, it can be utilized in every aspect of business. Looking to expand your market? Observe what competitors are lacking and consider incorporating it into your own business. Wanting to reach new customers? Consider what platform your target customer is most likely to use. After all, if you’re selling hearing aids, the radio probably won’t be the best choice.

Now, many business workshops or blogs will have you write a list of your interests or hobbies. And yes, having a passion for your business is instrumental in making it a success. However, not every idea will work in your community. Even if you are the most passionate baker, if there are four other bakeries on the street, you will be starting with a great disadvantage. Instead, find an idea that matches an interest with a community need. This is how you harness the power of opportunity recognition.

I’m going to leave you with a challenge. Take a look around you, around your neighborhood, your city. Look and consider what is there and what should be there. Maybe there are many dog owners but no dog parks, or cyclists with no bike lanes. What is a real need in your community? It’s this type of thinking that is the foundation for having an entrepreneurial mindset.

How to Define Your Niche Market

A niche market is a specific, targetable demographic within a broad market. You can have a niche defined by age, location, budget, religion, or any other factor you can imagine. For instance, if you’re a painter you could specialize in industrial buildings or homes and market towards new construction or remodels. While defining your niche does limit your target audience, it does so in a productive way that will maximize your marketing budget by only marketing to consumers that are likely to need your services or products. If you sell pet supplies, “all pet owners” would be a target market that many would pursue. However, what if someone with a potbelly pig comes to your store and you do not carry any products for pigs? This is why niche marketing is so important. A better market may be “dog and cat owners”.

While it can be hard in rural areas to move away from the “something for everyone” mentality, with a new business it is crucial to capitalize on your unique offerings to the area. Too much inventory or too many services will tie up all your finances. If you try to market to everyone, you will have to carry products and have equipment for services that may only be purchased very rarely. With a well-defined niche market, you can be guaranteed that every customer will purchase one of only a few products or services that you have to keep stocked and ready, making inventory or service preparation a simple task.

How do we narrow down a broad market to a niche? Begin by looking at the products or services you offer. What are your strong suits, and where are you lacking? What makes your business valuable? Most importantly, what area of your business do you have a passion for? What makes customers choose small businesses over large chains is the individualism and sincerity. When you have a passion for what you do, that excitement and confidence will be clear to your customers. If there are many businesses in the same market as you, look for an overlooked niche you fill. Maybe you run an auto repair shop, and your competitors don’t work on motorcycles. If you look closely enough, there are always demographics that are ignored.

Learn from your existing customer base! Your customers chose to patron your business for a reason. Look at what your customers value about your products or services and focus in on that. It’s okay to reduce your amount of services or products to define your niche. As you gain a firm grasp on your niche market, you can expand back out into related products once again. Consolidation does not mean you are confined to that narrow niche forever, it is merely a strategy to grow your business with limited risks.

I encourage you today to consider what your business could gain by focusing on niche marketing. Think of what demographics are overlooked in your industry. Do you have a service or product they need? You may be surprised by how many consumers are just waiting to be acknowledged.

Appealing to Investors

Prepare Your Finances.

The most crucial aspect of your pitch is the financial viability of your business. You are asking investors to place their faith in you, and they want to know their time and investment will be worthwhile. Before you even begin looking at prospective investors, prepare your finances. Limit all unnecessary spending and maximize your profit margin as much as possible. Make sure all your numbers add up and taxes have been handled. Show them their faith will be well placed.

Have a Well-Defined Niche Market.

Investors want to be assured your business is sustainable. Explaining the niche you fill and the advantages you have compared to your competitors will show your worth and business viability. This is also a great opportunity to explain your methods for continued growth.

Have a Great Team.

Your business is your baby, and it takes a village to raise a child. No business can be sustained and grown by just one individual. Having a great team with diverse skills and abundant knowledge is invaluable, to you and to investors.

Have an Optimistic Growth Plan.

Investors have to know they are going to get a return. Having a detailed strategy of how you plan to grow and expand your business is key. Be optimistic and enthusiastic, but be realistic as well. If your goal is 200% growth in 3 years, investors will disregard you immediately. Have an obtainable goal and many strategies to meet that goal outlined.

Be Honest About Where You See the Business Going.

Even after you have secured an investor, honesty is key. In your pitch be truthful about where you want your business to go. If you’re wanting to get off the bandwagon in 5 years, this is something you need to make clear to investors.

Be Passionate.

Many investors focus just as much on the person as the business. If you’re passionate about your business it shows them that you are committed to making it succeed. They are investing in you. No one knows your business as well as you do. Make sure you know every in and out so you can confidently answer any questions an investor might ask. Relax and know what you want to say. Practice your pitch. Nothing will put up a barrier as quickly as reading your speech. Just speak from the heart.

Be Patient.

Finally, remember that not every investor will be looking to invest in your industry. Obtaining funding can be hit and miss, but don’t let the rejections slow your momentum. From each dismissal learn what you can alter to be more appealing to the next investor.

Searching for investors can be stressful, but if you make sure to be prepared and patient, the process will go smoothly. Keep in mind that a rejection is not a reflection on you or your business, but is just a motivator to become better. The best of luck to you!

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