Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Eric Strafel, founder and CEO of SUMMi7, located in Dallas, TX, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
At SUMMi7, we believe that by providing a combination of practical business education with foundational tools to run and grow a business, a network of resources, and a process to guide businesses through learning and growth, we can help more small and mid-sized businesses overcome the barriers to growth. By providing access to underserved communities and underrepresented businesses, we can create a more diverse, equitable, and sustainable economic landscape that better serves all members of society. Businesses are only successful if communities and society are successful for all people.
Tell us about yourself
After 25 years of leading businesses and teams, I wanted to find a way to leverage everything I had learned from all the people that invested in me and give back to others. SUMMi7 was launched as a side project while I was working full-time with a team of entrepreneurs who share my passion. As we started to get traction with our programs and see the impact we could make working side by side with business leaders, I made the jump in the spring of 2021 to focus on SUMMi7 full-time.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
After our beta program, our first full program was with a cohort of amazing women-led businesses. It was a hybrid program with a combination of virtual sessions, open office hours, and onsite collaboration. Halfway through the program, we brought five members of our SUMMi7 team together to co-lead a full-day workshop as part of the program. For the first time, I had a chance to step back while each member of our team jumped in head first to share their specific expertise and work on building growth strategies for each business. Seeing their passion and engagement, along with the impact they made as part of our program, was one of the most rewarding moments in our company so far for me.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Managing cash flow is one of the most difficult things to balance when starting and running a small company. As we look to invest in program development, marketing activities to reach out to companies, and the recurring costs of running the day-to-day business, the timing of cash coming in is critical to be able to pay the bills. I knew this going in, but it's every bit as challenging as I could have imagined when bootstrapping a business from scratch.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Make sure you know your ideal customer and what problem you're solving for them.
- Build your product or service roadmap around their needs. Continuously get feedback and iterate to add value in their eyes so you can keep improving and demonstrate that you're willing to listen to their feedback and act on it.
- Once you're up and running, stay focused on 2-3 growth strategies and stop everything else. Scaling happens one step at a time, and trying to do too much at once is a fast path to burnout and running out of cash.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Find people to join you that share your passion. Having the right skills is important, but people can learn different skills; passion can't be taught.
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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