STEUBENVILLE - From technology to start-up financing, six of the area's best known entrepreneurs shared insights Wednesday into the sometimes bumpy road to success.
The 70-minute discussion was part of Project Bootstraps, an opportunity for the entrepreneurial community to help would-be business owners understand what lies ahead.
Guest panelists at Wednesday's seminar were Bob Chapman of Choice Brands of Ohio; Tracy McManamon of One Source Benefits; Arieh Ordronneau of Anytime Fitness; Nino Scaffidi of Scaffidi's Pasta; Philip Rook of Professional Lawn & Landscape; and Rob Runkel of Rehab Plus.
BOOTSTRAPS — Mike Strean, left, president of Valley Ventures, talked business with Tracy McManamon of One Source Benefits during Wednesday’s Project Bootstraps, an opportunity for would-be business owners to learn from some of the area’s most successful entrepreneurs. The event was held on the campus of Franciscan University of Steubenville.
-- Linda Harris
"You have to be able to change," said Bob Chapman, president and chief operating officer of KMC Corp., the holding company of Choice Brands of Ohio and Iron City Distributing Co., and senior vice president of Beverage Marketing Corp.
"If you're looking to go into business and you're not going to be flexible, you shouldn't go into business. You have to look for trends. ... It's a changing world. If you're going to get in the game, be ready to change and move quick."
Rook told the budding entrepreneurs understanding the financial end of business is just as important as delivering good service.
"I started my landscape supply business when I was in college," he said. "My brother had the money, another guy had the equipment. I had the time and a plan. I had to work really hard, but it's worked out OK. Just make sure you have enough money (to get started)."
Ordronneau, preparing to open his second Anytime Fitness location in Weirton, said the key to getting financing is to start with a clean slate.
"If you can get a bank to talk to you, you're probably going to need at least 20 percent down," he said. "If you're burdened by debt nobody's going to touch you. Stay away from credit card debt, pay cash for your cars ... you're going to need to sell yourself, sell your services. If you're not good with that, it's going to be very difficult."
Ordronneau told the crowd he sees himself as a businessman, not an entrepreneur. He said operating a franchise successfully is a lot like following a recipe: Follow the directions and the end result will be exactly what you expect.
Runkel said even though his is an insurance-driven business, in a tough economy he's found some of his rehab patients need flexibility when it comes to paying their co-pays. And when it comes to advertising, "keep your target audience in mind."
McManamon said if he had it to do again, "I would have started my own business a long time ago."
"And another thing, I realized early on I couldn't be a Facebook person, I couldn't be a Twitter person ... so I hire people to do it for me - but I hire somebody to do it for me who knows what Google does every day. You have to understand the power of Google."
Scaffidi advised the crowd to be realistic.
"I was hesitant at first because the economy was down," he said. "But I knew if we got the right location we could grow our business, but I didn't want to start too big. We found a location, one small enough that if, God forbid, it failed, we could make it up."
But failure wasn't in the cards, he said. Scaffidi's recently moved into much larger quarters, "and in this economy, that's unheard of," he said.
The event was sponsored by Franciscan University's Students in Free Enterprise group, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, Progress Alliance, the Community Foundation of Jefferson County, the Herald-Star and Valley Ventures Inc.
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)