This is part of The Recession is Bullhonkey series, where I share stories of those who have gotten hired and/or started their own businesses (or sometimes both!) since 2008. I think what I love most about Nikki’s story today is that she joined forces with her family to create the business that compliments all their strengths, skills and passions. You don’t have to do this alone, people!
First of all, let me just say that not only do I believe this recession is bullhonky, but in general I believe the idea that making money is hard, jobs are scarce and people occasionally have to “settle” instead of pursuing their passions are all equally in the bullhonky basket. Some people call me oblivious. I call me optimistic.
I also believe that my sheer stubbornness to acknowledge difficult times is why I’m doing what I’m doing now, which is starting a business.
Two and a half years ago, my mom came to me with one of her “shower ideas”. At the time she was working as a Consultant for a health related software company and she was logging more hours in her late fifties than most people can manage in their youthful twenties. She was burning out fast while her company continued to pile tasks on her plate. While taking a shower one day and trying, unsuccessfully, to relax, she came up with a business idea that seemed to be perfect for her skill set.
After hearing her plan, both my brother and I agreed that her product, a web-based system for Nursing and Allied Health schools, was a great idea and we began to hatch plans of our own.
Between the three of us we had:
My mom – A Registered Nurse, past Nursing Instructor and Founder of an extremely popular, free, Nursing website with over 30 years of work experience.
My brother – A software developer and programmer
Me – A do-it-all person with a background working in Marketing and Public Relations for non-profits and small companies.
We’d often joked that if only we could find a common project, we could take over the world with our combined skills.
And it was finally time to give it a try. Our company, EHR Tutor, was born.
We started with little funds and big dreams. In the past, I’ve been told that people need to spend money to make money. My mother and I find that statement laughable. We firmly believe that you only need to be willing to spend time to make money. So spend time we did.
At first, I kept my day job while working excessively long hours at night. I’d come home at 5 pm and submit press releases to tech websites, update our social media and try desperately to build a client base where there was none. I scoured websites for buyer information and emailed nearly 100 potential leads a night. While no one was getting paid, the idea that I could provide a future income for me and my husband while still having a flexible schedule kept me motivated.
Eventually the responses came in and we landed our first few sales. What started as an after work project, quickly turned into something much more. I was scheduling demos during my lunch, answering emails during coffee breaks and trying my best to start a company while still being an employee during the day.
It was insanity 24 hours a day and I loved it.
When comparing my energy for starting a company to my boredom during my day job, I came to the realization that what was once a great job, had slowly turned into a prison. I counted down the minutes every day until I could run to my phone to check emails or brainstorm additional marketing ideas.
I knew it was time to change when I was dragging my feet to work one morning and nearly got hit by a bicycle messenger. For a split second, disappointment crossed my mind – if only he’d broken my leg, I could spend the next few weeks at home working exclusively on our start-up.
Which is just plain crazy talk.
So I decided it was time to leave my job before I lost my mind. My day job had given me a great source of income while covering those early months of expenses and I’ll always be thankful for that. However, our new company had a few good customers already lined up with money set to arrive and it was time for me to make a change. Thanks to my limitless optimism I was confident I could always find another job if all else failed.
So I took the plunge.
Strangely, so did my mom. Without planning it, we quit our jobs on the same day, both with an informal agreement to work on a contractor basis with our previous companies. After all, neither one of us are the type of people who would turn down the opportunity for extra cash.
Now, two years later, our small software company is thriving. Quitting our jobs was the infusion of energy we needed to make our company work. We currently have clients actively using our site in schools across the country and have expanded our tiny software operation to include my dad, husband and brother as full-time employees.
That being said, I understand we were lucky because our family provided free labor as a fully formed workforce in the early days. However, the same process we used can be replicated by anyone looking to get an idea off the ground. Simply look for friends, acquaintances and family members who are either willing to barter or who love your idea so much they’ll put in the extra hours of work for an eventual payout.
Still, small expenses do exist. Which is why I’m a huge proponent of starting a business while employed elsewhere. Give yourself multiple options instead of forcing yourself to make a single path work for you. I find that this is one of the main reasons I never feel limited on options – I always give myself multiple paths to pursue. Lastly, don’t be afraid to take a risk. Change is scary, but I can promise you, from someone who has made that leap, it’s 100% worth it.
And anyone who says it’s not is stuffed full of bullhonky.
Wanna find your own personal spirit guide at work? Join me live in NYC this Wednesday for a special event! Discount tickets are here.