Longboards and the entrepreneurial spirit
August 30, 2010
During a recent Free Ride bus loop through Warriors Mark in Breckenridge, I overheard two 20-something snowboarders talking about how they were going to start a longboard manufacturing and distribution company. (For us older folks, a longboard is a souped-up skateboard.)
Their excitement was contagious as they talked about their new design, the detailing of the board and how they would set up manufacturing in a friend’s garage. Immediately, my past life as a corporate operations executive kicked in, with questions like: What are your unit costs? Who are your competitors? What are your distribution channels? What will be your cash requirements?
All these questions are critical to be asked and answered before starting a business. But not wanting to dampen their enthusiasm with details, I just said goodbye as they got off at their stop.
These two budding entrepreneurs are a growing group of young and old alike who want to live their dreams and take their financial destiny into their own hands. Kathleen R. Allen, in her book “Launching New Ventures,” debunks a number of myths about entrepreneurs.
Myth 1: Entrepreneurs start businesses solely to make money. The reality is that entrepreneurs start businesses for many reasons, but the number one reason appears to be their need for independence and to create something new.
Myth 2: It takes a lot of money to start a business. Nothing can be further from the truth. Every year Inc. magazine profiles numerous entrepreneurs who have started businesses with less than $1,000.
Myth 3: Entrepreneurship is for the young and reckless. Ray Kroc was 52 when he started McDonald’s. Colonel Sanders was 60 when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken. Research shows that 45- to 64-year-olds account for 36 percent of the entrepreneurial activity in the United States.
Myth 4: Entrepreneurship cannot be taught. There is a lot about entrepreneurship that can be taught, including specific skills and behaviors. What cannot be taught is the “fire in the belly,” the passion to achieve.
While being an entrepreneur can be exhilarating and fulfilling, creating a new business can be very risky. Not only can one lose his or her home, but also the many friends and family who typically invest in the start-up idea. Studies have shown that two-thirds of all new small businesses make it to two years, less than half make it to four, and only a third make it to 10.
It’s critical that the aspiring entrepreneur research, evaluate and bench test their idea before going to market. This typically takes the form of a well-thought-out and comprehensive business plan. The document at a minimum should contain an analysis of the business concept, an industry/market evaluation, operations and marketing plan, and the all-important set of financial projections.
Summit County is fortunate to have a number of free or low-cost resources to help entrepreneurs and even seasoned business owners test their ideas for feasibility. The Colorado Mountain College entrepreneurial/business studies program offers a number of courses that provide the skills necessary to start and operate a new business. In addition, the college, in partnership with the state of Colorado, hosts a Small Business Development Center that provides free counseling to new and existing businesses. All of these services are geared to helping new and existing businesses thrive locally here in the high country.
So whether you’re longboarding or walking the entrepreneurial path, make sure you are well prepared for the twists, turns and bumps along the way.
Vince White-Petteruti is a retired corporate executive, the co-founder of Domus Pacis Family Respite and an adjunct professor in Colorado Mountain College’s entrepreneurial program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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