Today’s entrepreneurial world is more exciting than it has ever been. Experts are just a few clicks away; the world is accessible from your favorite device. But, with so much at your fingertips, it still can be frightening to give up the comforts of a regular paycheck and strike out to create your own business.
Why take such a risk? Are the potential payoffs really worth the stress, the loneliness, and the nagging fear of failure?
As serial entrepreneurs with more than 75 years combined, Marcia Reece and Diana French, co-founders of StayWell Copper, continue to say “Yes!” to starting yet another business when many women their ages are content to play with their grandchildren.
“We both come from small Midwestern towns with one stop-light on main street. Our humble beginnings coming from small towns during a time where there weren’t a whole lot of female entrepreneurs to serve as role models have bonded us and given us a shared passion for leading the way for other women who want to become entrepreneurs,” says Diana French.
“It’s in our blood, and our past successes have given us a little dose of confidence we can do it again. There’s also the very real understanding of just how risky what we are undertaking may be,” says Marcia Reece. Marcia has started, grown, and successfully sold five companies along with working for national and international consumer product companies during her business career. While working within a corporate structure provides safety, it has always been constraining for this seasoned entrepreneur.
So what are her tips to help other women take the leap into entrepreneurship?
First and foremost, be attentive to all the details. Sometimes, it may seem overwhelming to look at her to-do list, but she attacks her list the same way she would eat an elephant…one bite at a time. Keep an ongoing list of tasks that will lead you to your end goal. Stay focused on all of the needs your new business will have. You don’t have to be perfect to start, but you have to start to have a chance to end up successful.
“When I started my toy company, my banker, my lawyer, and my CPA became my ‘kitchen cabinet.’ They provided a wealth of guidance, and I learned to listen to them and trust them. It’s critical to be attentive to the legal and regulatory requirements for your business.
“Build a banking relationship very early on. Bankers aren’t very interested in talking to you when you are starting a new venture; even with my proven track record, bankers have been tough to win over. Look into other ways to fund your business, especially if it takes off faster than you had anticipated, and your cash needs threaten to drown you.
“Always have a backup plan! Spend every dollar carefully when you start your business; you will be surprised how fast your nest egg can disappear if you aren’t careful. Diana has diligently searched to find smart, economical ways to achieve our goals; she’s always willing to look at a problem from different angles until we find the best, most cost-efficient ways.
“You may have heard ‘your health is your wealth.’ That’s truer than you can possibly imagine as you navigate the entrepreneurial waters. Without a team of coworkers to fall back on, it’s all on your shoulders to keep your dream alive. Plan to spend 50-70 hours a week getting your idea off the ground.
“Get as much sleep as your body requires. This sounds simple, but when you are starting and growing a company, the demands on your time will be huge. Learn to say ‘No’ to things that don’t move you towards your end goal. Guard your time and your health; both are essential to your new venture.
“Eat the right foods, and stay away from junk foods! Even if you have to go through the drive-through, make healthy choices. Be careful about what you drink. In the 1980s, I used diet cola as my form of quick caffeinated pick-me-up energy. It was a hard habit to break, but one I’m very glad I did. Choose water over soda every time!
“Remember to say thank you and find unique, meaningful ways to thank all those who have helped you on your journey. I don’t mean a quick thank-you email or text; those just don’t cut it if you truly want to stand out from the crowd.
“A thank-you should reflect your thoughtfulness, your ability to think creatively. I often get a phone call from the recipient, and that call just extends that mental health boost I get from sending it and makes me happy all over again.
“Capitalize on ways to creatively say thank you, and use them over and over. I have often sent carwash coupons from a favorite carwash. Everyone has a car, and everyone likes to have a clean car. These coupons were easy to mail and were always appreciated. Freshly baked cookies have been another favorite way to deliver thanks in person, plus my family got some too!
“When I wrote Secrets of the Marriage Mouse, which became a #1 bestseller, I had notecards printed using the art from the book. Those cards with matching envelope seals became a unique way to say thank you.
“When I was growing my toy company, we had lots of media coverage. In each article or show, we would thank Walmart for believing in us. Walmart was our first big customer to begin carrying our kids Sidewalk Chalk when they had only 66 stores. Each time we received news coverage, I would send the clipping, the article, and the VHS tape to Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton.
“My efforts were rewarded when I received a call from Mr. Walton in September 1989. He said: “I’d like to spend the day with the person who has never forgotten to say “Thank You.”‘
“Sam flew me to Bentonville, and we spent the day together. He said, ‘You are not my largest vendor by far, but you are, without question, the one who has never ever forgotten to thank us.’ In the corner of his office were hundreds of our company’s yellow envelopes I had sent him over the years. It was hard to believe he had actually received AND KEPT all those thank-you notes!”
Diana French, a successful product inventor of the Class Case and many other successful products, says, “I had an article and photo published in the Denver newspaper about the company I had started and my experience selling to Walmart. You can imagine the phone calls I received from people who read the article and needed help with their inventions and business dreams.
“My husband could not understand why I did not charge the people a consulting fee for the hours on the phone.
“My answer was simple. Someone had generously helped me along the way with ideas and encouragement. This was a perfect time to both give back and pay it forward.
“My networking was definitely the backbone that got my business going. So I want to pay my learnings forward and say:
- Never, never, never give up.
- Be a good listener.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Remain positive.”
Solid advice from two seasoned successful serial entrepreneurs who both wish you the best of success. It’s a fun, wild ride, so enjoy every step along the way.
Marcia Reece and Diana French have launched staywellcopper.com, a company providing antimicrobial copper products that kill germs on contact from frequently used, and very germy, everyday items. They are passionate about keeping your friends and family germ-free naturally without using chemicals or hand sanitizers.