I and two of my colleagues from Cookerly Public Relations recently attended the Wall Street Journal-sponsored “How I Built It” event at the St. Regis in Buckhead. Colleen DeBaise, the Journal’s small business reporter, moderated a panel of highly successful and well-known entrepreneurs. They included: Sara Blakely (Spanx); Jeff Pink (Orly); Jesse Itzler (Marquis Jets); Adam Bernhard (Hautelook.com); and Christiane Lemieux (Dwell Studio).
I left the event with renewed respect for entrepreneurs and the risks they take to pursue what they’re passionate about. In the case of this panel, their passions ran the gamut from jets to underwear. The stories they told about getting their business started – when they were trying to launch a product line with $5,000 or just generate buzz – corroborated the maxim: do what you love and the money will follow. For each panelist, the process of starting their business was satisfying in and of itself.
I’ve distilled the discussion into three major themes which represent traits these entrepreneurs had in common.
1.Confidence. Itzler warned that people shouldn’t start a business unless they are passionate about the concept and really believe it will work. The other panelists vigorously agreed. All of them had developed an idea for a business that they almost unwaveringly believed would work.
2.Resourcefulness. Lemieux spent years working at clothing and manufacturing companies so that she could better understand the industry before going out on her own. Blakely knew she needed a big public relations hit and sent a gift bag to Oprah long before she could afford a PR agency (Oprah featured the product on her show). For the entrepreneur, an obstacle is an opportunity to be creative and unconventional.
3.Persistence. None of the panelists had an easy time getting their business off the ground. Itzler was rejected when he first proposed the idea of selling access to private jets 25 hours at a time. He reworked his idea before going back to NetJets to try selling the idea again – that time, it worked.
The above traits are nearly universal among entrepreneurs – but also highly beneficial for the rest of us, whether or not we ever plan on starting our own business. I’m proud to say that my colleagues here at Cookerly Public Relations exhibit these qualities daily as we work on behalf of our clients.
If you are a small business owner and are looking for a public relations agency partner, think about what made you successful and look for those same qualities in your PR partner. If you do, I think you’ll end up calling us.