News Column

Small Business: Taking a Leap of Faith

April 1, 2013

John Luciew

Small-business owner (file photo)
Small-business owner (file photo)

It's the ultimate act of faith. In one's self. In the community. In the economy. In America.

And, most of all, in one's idea to sell a product or provide a service in an already-crowded and cut-throat market that collectively we call capitalism.

But given the long odds -- depending on what stats you believe, just one in ten small businesses survives past 10 years -- the would-be entrepreneur must have far more than faith on their side to make a go.

This is not just any Cumberland County power couple. They are a couple of full-bird colonels with nearly six decades in the Army National Guard between them.

The skills they honed serving their country read like a MBA prerequisite list: leadership qualities, strategic thinking abilities, exhaustive research skills, motivational oratory and a systematic approach to everything.

Tackling the treacle-drenched terrain of the fast-growing frozen yogurt field would be a walk in the park for these military veterans accustomed to more high-stakes missions, wouldn't it?

Think again.

John and Cindy Dwyer would have all that they could handle in trying to crack the code that is small business commerce. Their mission would be to plant their flag in the form of a frozen yogurt shop on the Carlisle Pike, the artery of capitalism coursing through Cumberland County.

It would prove an 18-month odyssey.

The Dwyers would cut no corners, either. Instead of opting in on a franchise opportunity for their frozen yogurt shop, they would build from scratch. This meant coming up with everything from their own logo to the color scheme of their Silver Creek Plaza shop.

They'd need to find their own yogurt supplier and write everything from the business plan to the employee handbook. The latter would be thick with ethics and conduct standards from their military background. And that's fitting, because their prime employee target would be teenagers. And the Dwyers believed they knew how to recruit.

To launch what they are calling their second act, they would have to give up much of the financial security they had earned from their first careers. They would stake their military retirements -- along with equity in the house -- on their vision for a civilian life as small business owners.

But even military officers can't just order up success. And this time, there were no institutions and resources to fall back on. Only what the military had taught them. What the Dwyers took with them.

Yet, as Cindy is quick to point out: "There's nothing about frozen yogurt in the U.S. Army."

All this week, PennLive will shine a spotlight on all the trials and tribulations of starting a small business by chronicling the Dwyers' journey from military retirees to frozen yogurt shop owners on the Carlisle Pike.

Look for the first post this afternoon, as John and Cindy Dwyer present their new Froyos frozen yogurt shop at 6391 Carlisle Pike to the world during a press conference later today.

Additional stories covering various aspects of the Dwyers' small business journey will appear each morning for the rest of the week. This, as Froyos opens to the public tomorrow and holds its grand opening this Saturday.

Source: (c)2013 The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pa.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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