Issue 6 of RISBJ Featuring Far Sounder

FROM THE FOUNDER

As a small business owner, I’m often asked what my “average” day consists of. Anyone that owns a business knows that there is no such thing as an “average” day.

A few weeks back I was working late at my computer, catching up on the emails from the day that seem to pile up faster than I can reply. I received an email close to midnight from Startup America Community Evangelist, Erika Batey. Erika’s email offered an exclusive opportunity to attend a small business symposium organized by Travelers Institute in the Board Room of the New York Stock Exchange on July 17th. The opportunity was only available to the first 15 startups that RSVP’d. Sometimes it does pay to be checking email after midnight!

The morning of the symposium arrived and it was time to head to NYC I left at 4am to drive into New Haven to catch the train into the City. I had been sending emails along the way and as a force of habit was hitting the refresh button on my email feverishly like a teenager playing a video game. Was I really expecting a replay to my emails before 6am?

This was my first trip to NYSE, so it was a very exciting morning. I spent 45 minutes in a cab to go 4.5 miles form Grand Central. A very foreign concept to someone from Rhode Island. The cab dropped me off 2 blacks from the NYSE with 5 minutes to spare. I sprinted those two blocks in 90+ degree heat wearing a suit and carrying my laptop. I arrived just as Jay Fishman, he CEO of Travelers, was ringing the opening bell, which I was determined not to miss.

By 10am the symposium had started. There were roughly 100 executives in attendance, from small and medium sized businesses, private equity and financial institutions. After a brief welcome from Duncan Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext along with Jay Fishman, the attention was shifted to Karen Mills, Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration. Karen was the first of several very impressive speakers on the panel.

Mrs. Mills highlighted the optimism of the attendees, with over 73% feeling the economy would be the same of better in 2013. Although SBA lending was down from 2006-2010, 85% of business searching for capital fund in 2011. Through the SBIC program, the SBA has $2 billion dollars going into the hands of early stage companies; the companies that ultimately drive our economy. She then went on to talk about the trend of businesses self-funding now more than ever. The active use of technology was one of the key contributing factors, due to the opportunity for businesses to reach their target audience without needing to fund large marketing initiatives. She cited larger companies like Facebook and LinkedIN, both of which spent the least amount of their money during the startup phase and the most once they knew their companies were scalable. This same principle will work for companies of all sizes.

Also on the panel was Deirdre Quinn, Co-Founder and President of Lafayette 148 New York. Deirdre shared real life stories of her company that began in 1996 as a husband and wife team and is now a globally recognized brand with over 1,500 employees. By sharing her passion, vision and determination, Deirdre inspired the audience with her story.

The audience was also inspired by the amazing story of Chobani yogurt which started with a piece of mail that said, “Fully equipped yogurt factory for sale.” Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukayal threw it away but later went back to get it. Two years later the first product was launched and now Chobani is the 3rd largest yogurt brand, grossing over $250 million dollars per year.

Being surrounded by a room of people that share the same passion for small businesses as I do and hearing stories like these motivates me to go out every day and try to make a difference. I hope that each issue of RISBJ continues to make a difference as we continue to support and inspire the small business community in Rhode Island.

And for the record, I skipped the Taxi and took the subway back to the train station.

Until Next Month…

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