News Column

Forum Assists Would-be Entrepreneurs

Oct. 25, 2012

Rosetta Jantzen has been working as an energy therapist and health coach for five years, but hasn't been able to realize her dream of becoming an entrepreneur.

Jantzen moved to Columbus in July to be closer to family. She brought with her an interest in helping others better themselves and enhance their well-being through her business.

"I want to simplify their lives," she said. "I have an interest in helping people."

Addressing Jantzen during a forum on entrepreneurship Tuesday night, Duo-Lift Manufacturing Company co-owner Connie Hellbusch said the gap between Jantzen's ideas and a business may be bridged by finding a way to talk about her services.

"How would you identify your product?" Hellbusch asked Jantzen. "Maybe that would be a place to start. People first of all need to understand what you do and who should do it."

Tom Goc, owner of Goc's Photography, suggested that referrals might be a preferred way for Jantzen to capitalize on past success with clients.

Goc and Hellbusch joined Midwest Medical Transport CEO and owner Kim Wolfe during an open discussion on the challenges of creating a business held at the Evans House, 2204 14th St.

Tuesday's forum was organized by the Entrepreneur Task Force. The group has held conferences and promoted educational opportunities for business planning during the approximately 10 years it has been active in Columbus.

During a roundtable discussion with Mayor Mike Moser last month, the group spelled out a new direction for the effort focusing on connecting aspiring business owners with the first-hand knowledge they need to take advantage of a market currently favorable to entrepreneurs.

The trio shared stories of failures, successes, tips and anecdotes like Goc's tale of selling a prized classic car to fund his nascent business, one that he didn't know if he could start again had he been honest with himself about the risks.

Or Wolfe's story of how his ambulance drivers used to pride themselves on being faster than air emergency transport -- that is, until Midwest Medical Transport bought its own helicopter.

The group also talked about funding the small business venture and available programs such as Small Business Administration loans.

City Administrator Joe Mangiamelli talked briefly about a loan program created through Columbus' economic development plan. He said the city sets aside a portion of sales tax revenues, up to $300,000, specifically for small business growth through this program.

The entrepreneurs fielded a question from someone on the fence about starting a new business. The prospect of working for himself hadn't quite overtaken the fear of playing a losing hand. He asked what ultimately made them take the jump.

"Stupidity," Wolfe said.

Pausing for laughter, he continued explaining, "I think everyone avoids leaving that comfort zone. I was a paid fireman; Jill (Wolfe) was a dietitian by trade. For me, it was starting out small."

Hellbusch said those on the fence should look at what their exact needs will be and acquire no more resources than that.

Beyond that, she said it comes down to raw nerves.

"We are crazy. We are risk-takers," she said. "(Wolfe's) comment about stupidity -- not too far off."

Goc added that the easiest way to get on the other side of that fence is to just do it.

"I can get a job someplace and work for someone all my life, be safe and have benefits," Goc said. "That's actually starting to sound kind of good."

He concluded the forum by noting that not everyone has it in themselves to blaze the entrepreneur's trail, which includes time lost with family and missed social outings. Goc warned any aspiring entrepreneurs that they'd still be working even after 5 p.m.

"Everybody dreams, but not everyone's a doer," he said.

The Entrepreneur Task Force plans to host more informal conversations at the Evans House the second Thursday of every month at 5 p.m.

Source: (c)2012 the Columbus Telegram (Columbus, Neb.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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