Being a successful small business owner means adding value to the community and not being afraid to bootstrap.
The best jobs are the ones that don’t feel like a job.
This is something you’ll hear from entrepreneurs who are driven by a passion rather than a paycheck.
In a way, that’s how Stacy Tuschl, owner of The Academy of Performing Arts (APA) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, got started. A dancer throughout high school, Tuschl took the practical route and studied business in college. Because she was so passionate about dance, she decided to give free dance lessons to children in her parents' backyard during the summers.
She was clearly doing something right. In just three years, she went from having 17 students to over 100.
In 2005, at just 21 years old, Tuschl opened the first APA location. Twelve years later, she has two locations of students and has a successful business consulting career on the side. For Tuschl, turning her hobby into a full-fledged business came naturally. Here is her advice for anyone looking to do the same.
Provide value and cultivate word-of-mouth advertising.
Opening a business is about giving value to customers and members of your community. Giving value is a strong way you establish yourself in the community and generate that vital component to success: word-of-mouth advertising.
For Tuschl, this is what transformed her summer-camp hobby into a successful business. By being involved in the community, more people could learn about APA and the value that APA provided. This helped bolster the reputation of the business and bring in more customers.
Don’t be afraid to bootstrap.
What if you’re like Tuschl, and have a good reputation and a hobby that you’ve been thinking about monetizing? How do you move forward?
“I think money can be a huge factor in holding you back because sometimes you’re uneducated on how much something will cost. You don’t know there are banks who are willing to give you loans or see that vision and are willing to invest with you,” says Tuschl. “The best thing you can do is know that there are a lot of things you can bootstrap. I started out in my parents' backyard, not with a million-dollar building I wanted to buy.”
Even the biggest ambitions and dreams have small beginnings.
Treat your hobby like a business.
“My business really took off when I actually started treating it like a business and answered the phone with my studio name and stuff like that,” says Tuschl. “There comes a time when the hobby stops and the business starts, and there needs to be that transition.”
Be knowledgeable and hire experts.
Though this might be a largely personal decision, would-be entrepreneurs need to reach out to others in the community to build a solid team. This means finding people who have more experience/expertise in a certain area of the business than you. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and find experts to fill out those areas where you may not excel.
“Make sure you (as the business owner) are not the smartest person in the room!” says Tuschl. “Make sure to have a working knowledge of each facet of the business, but also understand that surrounding yourself with experts will help your business grow and reach that next level of success.”
Build a leadership team.
Tuschl has created and implemented a full leadership team of people who know and understand the vision of the business and help drive success. Many of APA’s leaders are former students and teachers who feel ownership and feel like they're growing the business together.
“I really encourage my staff to come to us with ideas and we implement them. I think that’s different because I’m letting other people be creative in the business. It doesn’t just have to come from me. We truly have a leadership team and we’re growing this business together,” says Tuschl. “As the owner, we’re a lot of times control freaks and we don’t want to give up that control; however, if you want your business to grow, that’s something you have to do. You have to trust and learn to let others lead with you.”
There’s no single formula for how to turn your hobby into a successful business. As Tuschl’s experience shows, the key factors involve forming a relationship with others in the community and those who can help grow and lead your business.
In short, though it’s your business and your passion, a successful business is much larger than any one person.
For more resources and information on how to successfully manage your small business, visit usbank.com/smallbusiness.