Celebrating Small Business


At the 3rd Annual WIBA Small Business Connect Event

Since I was a little red-headed girl, I’ve know what I wanted to be when I grew up – an entrepreneur. I wasn’t sure what that business would be, just that I wanted to be the boss. As a kid, I dabbled in lots of ways to make money around the neighborhood. We put on plays and carnivals in the backyard, sold “art,” and always had a lemonade stand anytime there was a garage sale on the block. I produced and sold a newsletter, The Kiddie Times, with articles about what was going on in the neighborhood, along with puzzles, riddles and jokes. Without the technology of today, everything had to be done by hand. Not many copies were available, but I always sold out!

As I got older, I started babysitting, which was hard work for less than $1 an hour, the going rate then. The worst time, was when I babysit for a family with five children. The baby had learned to make choking sounds to get some attention in this chaotic mess. The parents told me they’d be back in an hour. Five hours later, when the parents came home in the nick of time, I was ready to abandon ship and tell the kids “good luck!” Of course, I never went back.

Always fascinated by business, I took every business class I could in High School. At that time, business classes were mainly to teach young women to be secretaries. We practiced taking shorthand, and typing up letters for the “boss.” I always thought it was fun to play office at school, but knew that was not my destiny. I knew that someday I would have my own secretary, and office downtown. And now I do!

This year I’m celebrating my 20th year in business as an independent business development consultant and corporate trainer, under the company name Creative Solutions. (Here’s a recent story in the Eagle.) I’ve helped open iconic Wichita businesses, like Planet Hair, Tanya’s Soup Kitchen, Donut Whole, Beautiful Day Café, Songbird Juice Co, and most recently Perfect Plate. Beyond start-ups, I help existing businesses keep moving forward. I work with quintessential local businesses like Lucinda’s Old Town and Charisma – Inner Beauty Outward, and innovative nation-wide businesses like Optometric Billing Solutions. I work with companies and freelancers around Kansas, the United States and even as far away as Dubai! I am incredibly grateful to have made my living for the past two decades helping visionaries realize their dreams.

I love entrepreneurship so much, I teach Entrepreneurship in the Arts at Wichita State University in the fall semester. I get to warp young minds to discover that they can make a living doing what they love, if they are strategic, treat it like a business, and lose the starving artist mentality. We have such a great time and lively conversations. My favorite part is bringing in local creatives that make their living in the arts, so the students can talk to them about their experiences. I’m not sure the students even realize how lucky we are to have such amazing talent agree to speak to our class of around 15 students. Last semester alone, Reuben Saunders, Wade Hampton, Dustin Parker, Hannah Scott, Monte Wheeler, Kyle Vespestad, Jenny Wood, Wayne Bryan and others, bared their souls and bank accounts to give us practical advice from real-life lessons. It is profound. I’m excited to be teaching the class again this fall, and appreciate all help spreading the word to the art-repreneurs in your life! (Here’s a story that came out the first year I taught this class.)

I’ve learned a lot about how to do business since the days of putting on carnivals in the back yard. Here’s a taste.

Every day in business is an ethical dilemma.

I am faced everyday with decisions about how I’ll do business. I’ve turned down kickbacks and bribes to refer people to my clients, have kept BIG secrets, and tell people the truth, even when it’s hard to do so. I make decisions based on what I can live with and how I would feel about it in other shoes, even when the money is tempting.

Mother was right – your reputation is all you have.

I truly believe the reason I’ve been in business for 20 years is because I am conscious of keeping a reputation I can be proud of. I’m especially mindful of keeping up my end of the bargain, and doing what I say I’m going to do.

Treat the people around you with respect.

We leave a wake, like boats through the water, everywhere we go. That wake can be positive or toxic. I know which feels the best to me and what I want to leave behind. Besides, you never can tell when being kind is going to help you in the future, or bite you in the butt when you aren’t.

Business is about relationships.

People like to do business with people they like. It really is that simple, so be likeable! Before I refer someone to the people that are important to me, I vet them to make sure they’re worthy, in how they do business and their commitment to excellence. My people trust me to give them good advice and connections, and I value that.

If you don’t like what you do for a living – change it!

I give people this advice all the time, because there is nothing worse than being miserable working 40 plus hours a week doing something you hate. People may think they’re fooling people by acting like they care, but they aren’t. According to Gallup, only 32% of employees in the U.S. are engaged in their job. Don’t be a zombie for the money.

There is no such thing as failure.

All entrepreneurs that have made it, will tell you that it takes going down in flames, perhaps multiple times, before figuring out what works. There’s nothing like hitting the wall to help find the intestinal fortitude to ask yourself the hard questions.Like, “what the hell just happened? And the big one, “Why me?” Since there’s no time to get stuck there, we learn our lessons and move on to the next great “learning opportunity.”

Help me celebrate Small Business Week and my 20th anniversary in business by supporting small, local woman-owned businesses this week. It’s not easy being a woman in business, and we need to support each other. Talking to other women business owners this past week at the Wichita Independent Business Association (WIBA) Women’s Leadership Alliance meeting on Tuesday, and 3rd Annual WIBA Small Business Connect was a blast. It helps to business geek out with my sisters, and talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. We need all the support we can get!

Celebrate!

Headmistress Jill

First speaker of the day at 8:30 AM at the 3rd Annual WIBA Small Business Connect

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