The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce's Entrepreneur Task Force has a new program that brings potential and established entrepreneurs together to discuss the positives and perils of being a business owner.
Molly Johnk, a business banker at U.S. Bank, and Jeff Gokie, an agent with C.S. Nelson Real Estate and owner of Big Apple Bagels in Grand Island, outlined the program Monday night during Mayor Mike Moser's monthly roundtable discussion.
The goal, according to Johnk, the task force's chairwoman, is to establish relaxed and conversational forums where current entrepreneurs can share their successes, struggles and other stories with area residents looking to start their own businesses or who have already taken this step but could use some advice.
Gokie, who is also a task force member, said the program is aimed at individuals interested in taking control of their lives from a business perspective and will give them a better understanding of what it takes to get a business going.
"There's a lot of people in our community who have done an amazing job of being entrepreneurs," he said, and the task force program will make them available to the public.
The first forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 23 on the third floor of the Evans House, 2204 14th St., and will include Connie Hellbusch from Duo-Lift Mfg. Co., Kim Wolfe from Midwest Medical Transport and Tom Goc of Goc's Photography.
"They have great stories to tell," said Gokie. "They have great input."
The Entrepreneur Task Force, which has been around for about 10 years and includes eight to 10 members, has held seminars on topics such as accounting and succession planning in the past, but this new project is the first focused strictly on providing first-hand knowledge on a vast array of areas that make up a successful business.
"When you're looking at starting a business, a lot of times it's hard to leave the safety net of a regular job," said Gokie.
But, encouragement from those who have gone down this road can make the prospect of leaving behind a regular paycheck and company-supplied benefits to gain more flexibility and control more enticing.
Moser, who owns Columbus Music Co. with his wife Jan, said new business owners need to have the drive to work long hours and a sufficient knowledge base to succeed.
Although many people have the passion to run their own business, he said, most who fail do so because they lacked expertise.
"The reason that they don't succeed is that they don't have the kind of experience and the kind of information that your group has to offer," the mayor told the task force members.
Gokie said now is a good time for those interested in becoming entrepreneurs, not only because of the upcoming forums, but because the market for purchasing businesses is solid and interest rates are low.
Another positive of the task force program is it provides potential entrepreneurs with information on local resources and individuals who are willing to invest in business start-ups, Gokie said.
If the first entrepreneurship forum is successful, the task force plans to schedule more in the near future.
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