Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sam Van Cook, Founder of Button Poetry, located in Minneapolis, MN, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Button Poetry is a new media publisher. We create written works across print and digital formats, including audio and video. Our customers are young, book-loving individuals with forward-thinking values.

Tell us about yourself

I worked as a teacher and performer for years myself. I realized that there was an audience but no support system for writers like me, and I decided to change that.
Small businesses run in my family, and I had run a few small personal businesses prior, so I decided to give it a go.

Our success was unprecedented, and the impact on our readers' lives has kept me at it for more than ten years.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

That is a hard one. Folks have our logo tattooed on their bodies. Folks have told us we've saved their lives. Our books are the only ones that get their students to read. You just can't argue with that kind of thing. For a more nuts-and-bolts business answer, you have to kind of push aside some of that stuff. Here are my big four:

  • We have paid out over $1M to artists.
  • We had a Goodreads finalist in 4/5 years.
  • We were the smallest press to have their books on target shelves.
  • I built the company to over 1M in annual revenue, selling exclusively poetry, with no outside support or startup debt whatsoever.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

The balancing act You have to deal with challenges that feel like frustrating minutiae and raging fires most days, all at the same time. Different situations require different tools and approaches, and it is easy to find yourself using the wrong "tools" for the job.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Start with the work. Figure out what work you love and are excited to do. Get used to doing it, and then, once you've got your feet wet, start worrying about all the other details.
  2. Make sure you know for sure if you are looking to build a business in a high- or low-competition field. The same goes for understanding if you want to work in a field with a lot of substitute goods or one where your product is unique.
  3. Don't make your first hire too early, and think carefully about hiring your friends. Both decisions can have real benefits, but they can also stop you in your tracks. There is no right answer here; it is just something you don't want to rush into without consideration.

Where can people find you and your business?



If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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