I first learned about Katie through a Google alert set up to find people talking about our Business Plan Pro software. I read through her blog and got interested in her story. Katie's journey is still in the beginning stages; she's currently searching for funding for her fashion consignment shop. I am certain there are more than a few of you who are either exactly in Katie's predicament or have been there with having a good business idea and going through all the right motions, but not going anywhere fast. I asked Katie if she'd be willing to share her story with the Business in General blog readers and she agreed. I'm excited to see the beginning of this story and hopefully we'll be able to post some continuations of her journey towards success.
Social Media Marketing Manager
Success Story in progress: Katie Conrad - fauxpasfashion blog
I didn't always know I wanted my own business, unlike many entrepreneurs out there. I didn’t even know I wanted my own business when I graduated from college two years ago. But I know the seed was planted while I was in college - for three years I worked at a trendy consignment store where I was surrounded by fashion, met new people everyday, and had a great boss. I knew how to run the store inside and out, but I was always curious about how she started the business. I remember always asking questions about how she got started, how she found her initial consignors, and where she found her store supplies, and I remember her telling me once that I should open my own store.
That thought remained in the back of my head as I finished college. I graduated from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and moved to Florida three months later. I was glad to finally have a degree in journalism, and while writing is something I do enjoy, it is not my passion. In a conversation last summer about careers and my love for my college job, I decided that I did want to open my own consignment shop. My vision for the store was simple - create a unique shopping environment that gives customers a fun and rewarding experience. The next step was finding someone who believed in my idea enough to take a chance on my business. I knew that a young woman such as myself wouldn’t be taken seriously without a business plan, so when I was introduced to Business Plan Pro, it was perfect for me. The sample plans were a great starting point for me, and the software allowed me to use specific sections that related to my business. Creating weekly sales goals allowed me to draft a realistic sales forecast for my first year in business. Completing my plan was very satisfying to me, and it got me one step closer to my goal: opening a shop of my own.
Business plan in hand, I first sought advice from my local SCORE chapter. I was disappointed in the lack of help - apparently the common task at my local chapter is helping entrepreneurs write their business plans, and since I already had one, they were unsure of what to say to me. I was told “I believe you have an excellent business plan and that you will succeed,” and even “are you single because my son is your age,” but they were not allowed to point me in the direction of lenders. So I began researching SBA lenders online. I researched several companies, and the one I chose to work with ended up being the single biggest mistake I’ve made so far in my journey. What started out as a shared interest - finding a reasonable loan for my business- ended with horrible communication and a complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau. Lesson learned - I am now focusing on nationally known banks with local branches where I am able to physically GO inside and communicate in person with potential lenders.
When attempting to get lines of credit or loans through my own 2 personal banks, I found they do lend money to small businesses but not to start-up's, typically only to existing businesses. I feel in general, that young entrepreneurs are not supported - every possible lender wants you to pledge money or real estate but if I had all that would I even be asking for a loan?
The best thing I did for myself in building my business was create my blog - Faux Pas Fashion - which chronicles my journey, including the daily happenings, helpful business blogs and ideas I have found, and my goals. Through my blog and my constant reading of other blogs, I have met some incredible people who have supplied me with advice, recommendations and most of all, inspiration. I have contacted numerous entrepreneurs across the country to introduce myself and to ask for advice, and the responses motivate me to keep going during rough patches.
The biggest struggle I’ve had thus far has been my search for funding. I have good days and bad days, which I imagine is typical for most entrepreneurs. There are days when I make ten phone calls and not a single one is returned, and there are days when I fear I won’t find an ideal location (I had found a perfect place a few months ago but it has since been leased, so I have resumed my search). But there are also days when I reach out to others - women business owners in the area, local consignment store owners, etc., and I am uplifted hearing their stories. The good news is, everyone I've talked to about my idea LOVES my business plan and honestly want to help. But the economy is faltering, I have no collateral to pledge and banks do not feel comfortable lending unsecured to me. I'm 2 years out of college and don't have any assets, a common problem for a young entrepreneur like me.
I am currently applying for loans through a (trusted) local bank, and I have no intention of giving up my quest for financing. I was never told that the entrepreneurial route is an easy one, and I’ve obviously encountered my share of setbacks, but I’ve never wanted to give up.
Since writing this, Katie has been turned down for another loan and is now looking to online solutions such as Virgin Money and Prosper.