It’s lonely in the sense that no two small businesses are the same. Every entrepreneur has to deal with a unique set of circumstances and factors that are specific to their business. On the other hand, it’s fraternal in the sense that small business owners stick together; there’s a lot of value in studying what others have done and are currently doing.
The communal nature of small business ownership is what keeps many entrepreneurs going when times get tough and the forecast begins to darken. It’s what encourages entrepreneurs to willingly share information with their peers, as opposed to selfishly safeguarding their principles of success. It’s the fire in the belly of ambitious business owners, who are never satisfied with sitting still and settling for average.
As a small business owner—or at least someone with an entrepreneurial mind who one day hopes to launch a business—there’s tremendous value in immersing yourself in the small business community and studying those who are experiencing positive results.
Let’s take a close look at four insightful small business success stories and some of the remarkable lessons they provide to those of us who are willing to learn from the key decisions and sacrifices others have made in order to grow their business.
1. Page One Consultants
In order to be recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), you have to be doing something right. Since Sheryl Page, president and CEO of Page One Consultants in Orlando, was recently named the SBA 2017 State of Florida Woman-Owned Small Business Person of the Year, a lot of people have started to look at what she’s doing and how her company has become so successful. Page, who runs an engineering and construction consulting firm, started the business back in 1993, but sort of trudged along for many years with moderate, yet respectable success. However, over the past two years, the company has tripled revenues, hired 30 new team members, acquired 13 new company vehicles, and almost doubled its square footage. It’s a massive growth spike for a company that’s been around for nearly 25 years and speaks to the hard work and commitment of Page and her team.
There were plenty of times when Page could have thrown in the towel, but she kept pushing through. Starting out in an industry dominated by male-owned businesses wasn’t easy, nor was the prospect of finding enough money to support the quality services she had to provide clients. Page used as many as 15 credit cards to help the company stay in business in the early-to-mid 1990s. Then, she received a $250,000 7(a) SBA guaranteed loan in 2001 to keep the company afloat after nearly a decade in business.
The gamble paid off and she was eventually able to attract a healthy clientele and repay the loan.
When asked what her biggest piece of advice to small business owners and entrepreneurs would be, Page says, “Keep your faith and be patient. Don’t give up…Don’t quit!” Those words have a tendency to sound cliché, but when they come from someone like Sheryl Page, who is living proof of the good that can come from being patient, they ring truer than ever. If you learn anything from her company’s success, it should be that growth is rarely immediate, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t coming.
It seems obvious now, but a decade ago, the massive health and beauty space that’s currently taking over the internet was just a blip on the radar. There was some momentum in the space, but trendy health companies weren’t yet popping up with the same ferocity as they are now. However, entrepreneurs Alexa Brue and Melisse Gelula—journalists at the time—saw an opportunity to launch their health and wellness media platform Well+Good.
Well+Good, which now attracts a monthly readership in excess of 5 million visitors, is an online publication that focuses on health, wellness, nutrition, exercise, beauty, travel, and related topics. It currently generates eight-figure annual revenues and has grown to a more than 40-person staff.
What is it that sets Well+Good apart, though? There are thousands of similar websites, blogs, and media platforms on the internet, yet most find it difficult to even break even. When you study what Brue and Gelula have done, it becomes obvious that—outside of delivering quality content to the audience—maintaining a strong company culture on the inside has been a key factor in this small business’ success.
You can’t expect to grow a small business without getting everyone to rally around consistent ideals. As Brue puts it, “Uniting everyone around why we do what we do is the most important thing. I think that people want to make a difference, so all of us feeling like we’re putting out information that’s making a difference and that our company conducts itself in a way that is demonstrative of our core values is really important. That sets a lot of cultural tone.”
3. Nic & Luc Jam
Most people start small and eventually work their way up to working with bigger, more prestigious companies. Leroy Bautista, founder of Nic & Luc, has seen his career take the opposite path—and he’s better for it.
Bautista, who worked in commercial kitchens, high-end restaurants, and successful catering companies for 25 years, was ultimately laid off from his job as a chef during the recent economic downturn. Instead of sulking or settling for less, he saw it as a chance to finally do what some of his co-workers and friends had been telling him to do: make his sauces and vinaigrettes and sell them at local markets. Thus, it was out of opportunistic necessity that Nic & Luc was born.
Originally selling just a few flavors, Nic & Luc has now expanded to include 17 flavors that can be found in local shops, markets, and online. What sets the them apart from some of the competition is they use no artificial ingredients and only local produce.
For many small businesses, the world “local” is thrown around as a way of garnering business or appearing trendy, but for Nic & Luc, it’s a core value. Bautista finds it important to support other local businesses like himself, saying, “We use locally grown ingredients like chili peppers. We’re a small local company and we support others like ourselves to help our local economy.”
While profitability is obviously a key objective of running a small business, don’t forget about the other small business owners in your community. The more you pour back into them, the more they’ll pour into you.
Founded in 1996 by Mark Soberman, NetPicks is an online trading platform that supplies users with both the education and tools they need to be successful with day trading and swing trading forex, futures, stocks, options, and ETFs. While the company has been around for more than 20 years, it’s really seen some significant growth recently.
Netpicks is an example of a small business that has evolved with the times, as opposed to stubbornly fighting them. When NetPicks first launched, there were no online trading rooms or real-time online communities. Today, they offer comprehensive online training, live webinars, and a variety of other services that didn’t exist in their early days.
It’s also interesting to note that, of the many trading experts and professionals on the NetPicks staff, all of them are actively involved in what they’re doing. They aren’t just providing clients with advice on what trades to make or which strategies to implement—they’re actually using the same information in their own daily trades. This adds a layer of authenticity.
Some entrepreneurs see an opportunity that is lucrative and jump on it, even without any experience or relevant skill sets. As a result, they usually end up floundering sooner rather than later. Successful entrepreneurs wait until they find a lucrative opportunity that matches up with their interests, experiences, and skillset. Mark Soberman and NetPicks is a good example of the latter—and it shows in how he runs the business.
“Having been exactly where our customers are now, we can relate in a special way to the challenges, obstacles and successes of the trading lifestyle,” Soberman explains. “And, we continue to never rest on our laurels, always looking to improve our abilities, systems, and training.”
Never Isolate Yourself
You can let your experience as a small business owner be a lonely or fraternal one. While there are times when you’ll undoubtedly feel alone, you have to find a way to tap into the large community that is small business ownership. What you’ll find is that there are plenty of entrepreneurs and innovators, just like you, who are willing and able to help you build your confidence, grow, and find the success that tends to feel so elusive at times.
When you study small business success stories like Page One Consultants, Well+Good, Nic & Luc, and NetPicks, you’ll inevitably pick up different lessons and principles that apply specifically to your company. However, when you zoom out and look at small businesses like these, it becomes clear that the biggest takeaway is to be adaptable and find what works for you.
There is no absolute formula for success—there are thousands of unique equations. When you study successful small businesses, you can pick up different elements here and there, but it’s ultimately up to you to piece them together and create a strategy that works for you.