Entrepreneur Spotlight

Entrepreneur Spotlight #4

For my next spotlight feature, meet Seth Birky.  At age 24, he runs his own Taekwondo studio in Elkhart Indiana, Star Taekwondo.  I met him on a shoot recently and thought he would make a great addition to the series. Pictured behind him are all the medals and trophies he has won in the past seven years.  [tweetmeme source=”callielipkin” only_single=false] What kind of business are you in?

SB: I run a taekwondo-based martial arts school for children and families that trains over 300 students from the ages of 2 to 70.  We specialize in training kids with ADHD and behavioral struggles to be successful in school as well as in taekwondo classes; we also special in high-competition for students who strive to be State, National, and World Champions.

How long have you been in business?

SB: I've been a key employee at this location for eight years, but have owned the business for three and a half.

Where are you from - where did you grow up?

SB: I grew up in Goshen, IN- just about 8 miles from Elkhart where my studio is located.

Where did you go to college?

SB: I went to Goshen college where I studied Developmental Psychology and Elementary Education.   I've also

taken specialized training for the physical and business aspects of running a Taekwondo school through the ATA (American Taekwondo Association)

since I was sixteen.  Training is always ongoing and continuing education courses are a required part of certification.

What is your favorite thing about working for yourself?

SB: Setting your own rules and goals.

And your least favorite?

SB: Enforcing those rules and meeting those goals.

Entrepreneur Spotlight #3

Meet Josh Cooley, owner of Belmont Barbershop in Chicago.  A more than appropriate name for a guy who knows a thing or two about style. What kind of business are you in? JC: The timeless craft of barbering

How long have you been in business? JC: A little over 5 years.

What was your last job before starting your business? JC: I worked at a shop that was more of a "man salon" than a true barbershop.  I was frustrated with the atmosphere and mediocre haircuts that were given at that shop.  I decided that I only want to work with guys who've gone through the same barber training that I have.  It was a turning point and now I have an atmosphere and quality that I am proud of.

Where did you grow up? JC: I grew up in Northern Ohio.  I lived close to Oberlin College, Cleveland, and a lot of farms.  I am proud of it all.  I was exposed to a lot of culture, yet I was able to enjoy a simple life in the country.  I dream of a day when a Cleveland sports team will win a championship.

Where did you go to college? JC: I studied Art at a small liberal arts school in Kentucky called Asbury College.  I also attended The University of Cincinnati.  I ended up going to Allstate Barber College in Cleveland to get a diploma.  My college education was not necessary for my profession, but it enhances my life.

What is your favorite thing about working for yourself? JC: I think it's the adventure.  I like the control and the freedom to focus on what I care about.

What is your least favorite thing about working for yourself? JC: I never get to call in sick!

Entrepreneur Spotlight #2

Meet Teresa Ging of Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique in the Loop:

What kind of business are you in?

TG: Cupcakes! Yay!!

How long have you been in business?

TG: I have been in business for 3 years now.

What was your last job before starting your business?

TG: I was in finance for 6 years before I started Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique. For 2 years, I worked at Bear Stearns doing Investment banking, then I went to a private equity firm in Chicago for 2 years, and then I did equity research for Credit Suisse. My work experience definitely helped me start my business.

Where are you from - where did you grow up?

TG: I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, but have been in Chicago for almost 15 years.

Where did you go to college?

TG: I went to University of Chicago for Economics and Statistics, I know...completely different than what I am doing now, but I use what I learned in college, as well as my finance work experience everyday. It has come in very handy. I also went to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and received my Patisserie Certificate.

What is your favorite thing about working for yourself?

TG: Being able to set my own schedule.

What is your least favorite thing about working for yourself?

TG: Getting up early...unfortunately have to wake up at the crack of dawn to bake, but happy to serve happy customers once 8am rolls around.


Entrepreneur Spotlight #1

This is the first in a portrait series I am working on about small business owners.  Fellow entrepreneurs are a great inspiration for me on how to better run my own small business.  Meet Lynn Fosbender, owner and lead designer of Pollen, a floral design studio specializing in green weddings and eco-conscious events.

What did she study in college and where?

LF: I spent my first two years of college at the University of Wisconsin at Madison studying landscape architecture and horticulture. My junior year, I transferred to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where I took floral design classes while studying ornamental horticulture. I worked as a floral designer for a few years during and after college, then returned to school to study ecological restoration. After spending some time working in the field of environmental conservation, I returned to floral design, eventually starting up Pollen.

What did she do before opening up her own studio?

LF: I started Pollen in July 2009, after spending over ten years in various positions in the floral industry. Before starting Pollen, I worked as a floral designer for a flower shop in Champaign, managed a downtown flower shop, and freelanced as a floral designer for event design companies in Chicago.

What is her favorite thing about being her own boss?

LF: I like being able to follow things through from start to finish.

And her least favorite?

LF: Uncertainty. Making business decisions for a new idea is tricky when you first start out, since you have no real data to base them on. Let's face it, business projections are pretty much wild guesses! But you have to go with your gut and make your guesses as educated as possible.