Awaken the Entrepreneur Within with Help from Your Current Employer
Are you dreaming of starting a business while you're logging time at a corporate job? You don't have to count the days until you can leave -- make the most of your position. You can leverage your corporate experience to sharpen the skills you'll need to launch your own business.
For Twyler Jenkins, founder of Chicago-based Creative Event Solutions, opportunity came knocking when she was still at her corporate job. Someone had recommended Jenkins as a new vendor for a client who needed one ASAP. "I had six weeks to pull everything together, and this was my very first assignment on my own," Jenkins says.
So she left what she described as her dream job and took the plunge, becoming one of the thousands of African American women who own businesses today and comprise one of the fastest-growing segments among entrepreneurs, according to the Center for Women's Business Research.
Today Jenkins's company provides conference management services to clients such as Coca Cola, the city of Chicago, Indiana Black Expo, Hilton Publishing and others across the US.
What advice does Jenkins have for those who want to go from corporate worker to freewheeling entrepreneur? Here are ways to take advantage of where you are now:
- Start Planning Today: Put a business plan together while you have resources available. "Most companies have better research capabilities than you can afford to purchase on the open market," says Jenkins. "Use them." Just be sure you do your entrepreneurial research on your own time.
- Use Your Employee Perks: Take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs to shore up your knowledge in core areas of business, or try those free seminars the HR department has been telling you about. Both you and your company will benefit from your new skills.
"My big challenge was finding the right pricing model," says Jenkins. "I wish I had paid more attention to that while I was still in my job." Target your weak areas, and look for classes and programs that will help you address them before you make the leap.
- Look for Increased Responsibility: Seek out projects at work that will help build your credibility. "There's a difference when you can be specific about what you've done, for whom and what it did for them," she says.
- Live Below Your Means: Plan for entrepreneurship's financial challenges while you're still working full-time. "You're probably going to end up self-financing in the beginning," says Jenkins. "Eliminate your debt, and learn to live below your means. It's also a good idea to get your credit in order while you're still an employee."
- Build a Brain Trust: Find people who can be your advisors. "I have a network of people I go to for advice and support," explains Jenkins. "I'm not foolish enough to think I'm so smart I don't need input from others. My brain trust helps me see what I can't see, and they tell me the things I don't always want to hear but need to know."
Before you make the break to pursue your dream, nurture and develop your network. If you don't have them already, seek out company mentors; they may be a great resource for you in the future.
Jenkins says her strong corporate experience gave her a leg up. "I developed tough skin, a strong work ethic and a vision by looking at what I saw as a market need that just wasn't out there."
Would she do it again? Absolutely. "It's the best job I ever had -- and I'm the only one who can fire me," she says.
Articles in This Feature:
- Start Your Own Business home
- Are You Ready to Be Your Own Boss?
- Awaken the Entrepreneur Within with Help from Your Current Employer
- Test Your Business Idea
- Obtain Startup Capital for Your Business
- Can Entrepreneurship Equal Opportunity for Recent Graduates?
- The Rise of Mom Entrepreneurs
- Self-Employment at Any Age