Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Traci Bakenhaster, founder, and CEO of Raising the Next Gen, located in Pickerington, OH, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am unique in the sense that I have a business and am also the founder of a nonprofit. Let's start with the business, Raising the Next Gen LLC! I created this business to help teens and young adults be ready for the next steps in life. We work with students of all backgrounds in two capacities, our one-on-one services and in our Adulting University. Our one-on-one services work directly with a teen or young adults to help them find their direction, create the plan to get there, and if they choose to go to college, help them through the entire process from start to finish!
Currently, our Adulting University is a month-to-month subscription to an online curriculum, a community of peers, resources, experts, private groups for parents & students, and so much more! It is a one-stop-shop preparing students for adulthood. We cover everything from career, college to life skills, even basic car maintenance! Later this year, we will be piloting an Adulting Series Subscription Box within Adulting University to continue adding value to students!
Our nonprofit Adulting 101 is an afterschool program for foster care and at-risk teens. We meet with them after school every week for an entire year to give them all of the tools, resources, knowledge, and support they need to break the statistics and overcome barriers! This program is completely free for students, but we rely on donations from our community and sponsorship from local businesses to make it happen. Our goal is to grow and scale this program to help the thousands of students in this situation and to bring it full circle by employing those young adults who found themselves in the system during their teen years! Learn more about this program at adulting101afterschool.org
Tell us about yourself
I know first-hand what it feels like to fall and fall hard. I was a single mom at 21 years old, on the system, in poverty, and knew nothing about finances, my purpose, etc. I enrolled in college, took out over $85,000 in student debt, maxed-out credit cards, worked three jobs and was barely holding on. When I finally got the guidance, education, and tools, I was able to turn things around. However, as I got further into my career, where I was working a lot with students, I saw a pattern. They were heading down the same path as I did! Not knowing what to do, not having direction, not knowing about money, or how to be a "grown-up." That's when I decided to start my own business to help and prepare the next generations. Since then, I haven't looked back. I have dedicated my entire life to helping teens, from being a youth group leader, serving on boards for nonprofits, starting my own nonprofit, and volunteering my time with youth.
My motivation is seeing the potential each, and every student has; they are so amazing and bring so much to the table. I want to see them reach their full potential and not get de-railed or weighed down by life when they don't do it right. Seeing the change in the students I work with, seeing their confidence get bigger, seeing their self-awareness get stronger, seeing their hope... that's why I do what I do.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I believe my biggest accomplishment is just stepping into something that doesn't exist. What I do is unique, and I think just stepping into the fear and the worry, and even the doubt and saying "I'm going to do this anyway" because I knew it was what I was meant to do. The partnerships I've been able to make with schools, community organizations, families, and more have been truly amazing, and something so many said would be difficult or impossible in this space. And although it has been difficult, it has been beyond rewarding!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I think the biggest challenge as a business owner is consistency in revenue, follow-up, and just marketing the business. Especially as a start-up, getting brand awareness and sales can be a challenge, especially in the beginning.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Do your homework. Make sure that the business idea is viable and something people will actually want to buy. Sometimes even if they need it, it doesn't mean they will buy it.
- Have a plan and be organized. If you can build out your vision and take the time to build out your business plan and work through those basics up front will make all the difference in the world. But know that it will change, you will pivot, and it will be a lot of trial and error.
- Get started and don't give up. Don't get stuck in analysis paralysis; eventually, you just need to take the step to put yourself out there and actually bring the business to life. Don't spend all of your time planning but not doing. And don't give up; it is hard, there will be ups and downs, there will be frustrations, and times you want to quit, but keep going. It takes at least 2-3 years to start to see things happen, to start to see profit, so don't give up too early.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.