Entrepreneurship celebrated on National Entrepreneurs Day | VTx

While not their original idea, Bishop, like Daniels, played a direct role in the creation of the product – in this case, gelato. During her career at Ukrops Super Markets (and Ukrops Homestyle Foods when Ahold bought the retail stores) she led product development and worked with two chefs – one responsible for chilled ready meals and the other for baked goods.

Monette had already received an order from a third party company to make the ice cream, but that company had never done this before. So Bishop and Monette agreed on a short term contract that would have Bishop work on some samples without any knowledge of ice cream making.

“I went to Williams-Sonoma and bought the nicest ice machine they had and I spent the summer working the bases,” Bishop said. “Well, there’s a base, and then you flavor it. We finished the white base and the chocolate base and then just worked on the flavors.

“I had my family as the first tasters. Your family is always very honest, isn’t it? They won’t tell you they like something if they don’t. We had talked about the guard rails, what ingredients she wanted so I had parameters to work on. So all the initial development work was done on my kitchen counter.”

Bishop spent the entire summer of 2017 working on ice cream essentials — all plant-based and dairy-free. Monette liked what Bishop came up with and offered her three options: stop working for her, extend her employment agreement, or join her as a co-founder of O’MY! Dairy Free Gelato.

Bishop did not hesitate.

“I was so excited because I’ve always wanted to work in a startup and never thought I’d get the chance to live in Richmond,” she said. “It didn’t look like it was ever going to get in my way. Obviously I had put a lot of work and effort into what we had and felt responsible for it from the start and I was overjoyed when the opportunity presented itself.”

Entrepreneurship requires risk

Maggard believes that all entrepreneurs share common qualities – selling the idea, telling the story of where that idea leads, a relentless work ethic, and not being afraid of failure.

The last of these is perhaps the most important. According to Forbes, 90 percent of startups fail.

“Entrepreneurs are okay if something doesn’t go their way because they can recover,” Maggard said. “You can overcome what might not go right the first time. A lot of people can’t deal with that.”

Bart Butler knows all about risk and failure. A native of Washington, DC, he graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in finance within the Pamplin College of Business in 1984 and now resides in Baltimore County, Maryland, held several jobs before building a thriving real estate business. He later branched out into construction, and he and his wife grew their business to the point where they owned three homes and traveled worldwide.

This lifestyle lasted until 2008-09 when the real estate market plummeted.

“We lived life and we knew there was going to be a correction, but what happened wasn’t a correction,” Butler said. “The country pretty much fell off a cliff.”

The Butler family basically lost everything. They moved eight times in eight years to have a roof over their heads.

That didn’t deter Butler, however. He returned to his entrepreneurial ways and gradually built new businesses.

Today, he and his wife own six businesses, including My Real Estate Mart, a one-stop shop for real estate services, and Baltimore Urban Renewal, which rehabilitates distressed real estate in urban communities.

“When we lost everything, it was like, ‘OK, back to square one. We’re just starting over,’” Butler said. “It’s not like I was born with a silver spoon. I had work to do so I just went back to grinding it out and that has always been a guiding principle, just never give up. That was my mantra.

“For most entrepreneurs, you don’t define your mistakes. They just give you one more chance to be successful. That’s how I approached it and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to start their own business because it’s not easy.”

Of course, accepting the risks can be difficult, especially when the personality tends to be risk-averse. Like Butler, Bishop and Daniels both have children, so the decision to go after an unknown has wider ramifications.

“You hear the stats on how many businesses fail, and it’s like, ‘OK, this is our only time and it can’t fail,'” Bishop said. “I have two children. You [Monette] has two children. We collect money. I can’t tell any of my people that I know who invested, ‘Sorry, you’re losing your money.’ That’s just not an option.”

Plan the jump

However, there are ways to mitigate the risk. Many economic experts recommend doing extensive research and planning in detail instead of taking the plunge.

Daniels used friends and colleagues as “test cases” for his granola bar idea before doing anything rash. He scoured the internet looking for companies doing the same thing with spent grain and only found one in San Francisco.

He thought long and hard about his idea before quitting his job and starting his own business. Research was essential to him as he lacked both a business and culinary background.

“I didn’t jump in,” he said. “It was a year or two discussion with my wife about how I would try to make it work. … We both approached it cautiously. None of us are big risk takers anyway.”

Bishop felt a little more confident in her decision because of her professional experience and learning from her father, who was an entrepreneur and had built several companies. Her partner Monette also understood the business.

Bishop and Monette had the experience. For them, their risk focused primarily on whether the market liked their product.

“I had 25 years of experience and she had worked for almost 20 years,” Bishop said. “So we weren’t 25-year-olds trying to try something.

“I think you need to do some research. From a business perspective, you need to make sure it’s profitable. Sometimes you don’t always know that because it’s something new and innovative, but when you do your research and know your customers – it was important for us to know our customers.

“And then it’s persistence. There are always setbacks and bumps along the way, but getting through them is so important when trying to build a business.”

No template for success

Entrepreneurs largely define success in terms of profits, but the business model for success can be different for each entrepreneur.

Butler, for example, took a more web-based approach with his first venture after the real estate market crash in 2008-09. Instead of taking on various roles in the construction and real estate industries, he now connects clients looking for real estate services with providers of those services.

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