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By Roland Jones, NBC News on Your Biz
By "Your Business" anchor JJ Ramberg:
This week my father came to the taping of the show. He's an entrepreneur and an investor. My mother was an entrepreneur. Both of their fathers were entrepreneurs. My brother is one too. And so am I.
Clearly, there's something in our blood.
Having my father in the green room before the show sparked the conversation of why the desire to start a business gets passed down through the generations.
One of the panelists on this week's show, Divya Gugnani, said her father was an entrepreneur and she grew up thinking that she wanted nothing to do with starting her own company. The uncertainty of living with -- as she put it -- the wealth of the world one day and nothing the next seemed unappealing for her own career.
She said she remembers travelling around when everything was great with her dad's work, and then watching him use his credit cards to make payroll when it wasn't, and it was scary.
So instead of going the entrepreneur route she became an investor, joining a venture capital company. Cut to a few years later and, you guessed it, Divya had left her VC company and its steady paycheck to start her own company called "Behind the Burner."
She said she couldn't help it.
"There is a point when you wake up and all you want to do is work on your company, and so that's what I had to do," she told us.
All of the entrepreneurs in the room nodded in agreement.
Clearly, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. I have a good friend who left his high-profile advertising job to start a company and a mere six months later returned to the agency. As he joked, "Nobody told me I was going to have to take out my own trash."
As for Divya, her father thinks she's insane. She says, she is. She says you have to be. Who else but an insane person would take the risk? But if the passion is there you can't deny it, and she says she loves what she's doing.
What do you think?
What does it take to become an entrepreneur?
We're debuting a new segment in the show in a couple of weeks where we get small business owners' take on important questions from the floor of the nation's biggest trade shows.
Earlier this week I went to the 2009 Toy Fair at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. As the mother of two kids, I found it hard to walk through the show and not get distracted at every turn, but once I got my fill of testing out new toy trucks and pens that light up, I did get the chance to get to the task at hand: Getting a reading on how the companies at the show feel about their prospects in this economy.
I asked everyone I spoke with if they felt that the steps being taken in Washington, D.C., would help the company. Most people I spoke with didn't need credit. Most had never used the services of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and said they didn't plan to. Many said they're not in a position to take advantage of any tax breaks. Nobody I spoke to had a sense of how Washington's efforts would have a direct impact on their company. What they all cared about -- and if they were worried, what they were worried about -- was getting customers in the door. In general, I heard that they were not looking for something in particular from Washington; instead, they were just looking for something that boosts the economy as a whole and translates into more customers for them.
Interestingly, the most optimistic small business owners I spoke with were those who were just starting out -- a kite maker who launched eight months ago and a toy car maker who opened his doors within the last few months to name a few.
This makes sense. These people have not taken the psychological hit of seeing their revenue fall. On the contrary, they were able to prepare for a slow economy by keeping their start-up costs low and have been able to take advantage of a slow economy by paying less for what they need -- whether that's furniture for the office, or good employees.
I'd love to hear what you think. Do you think Washington's efforts will have a direct impact on your business?
Small Business Economic Outlook for 2009
William Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business, and Professor of Economics at The Fox School of Business at Temple University, and Patricia Greene, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Babson College, discuss the state of the economy and how it will affect small business owners in 2009.
Small biz: The next generation
When Marcia Ceppos inherited Tinsel Trading from her grandfather, she set out to change the way the classic Garment District trim shop was run. See how she revitalized her customer service, storefront, and collaborated with her customers to reinvent her busines and bring it into the 21st century.
--Greg Alexander, CEO of Sales Benchmark Index, a strategic advisory firm.
--Max Ramberg, serial entrepreneur and President of The Hummingbird Group, a real estate investment company.
--Phil Town, partner in the private equity firm Oracle Equity and author "Rule #1."
Family business retrospective:
We'll catch up with 3 family businesses profiled in earlier editions of Your Business.
Kelvin Washington, owner of a hair care product company in Cincinnati, Susan and Paul Flack, owners of Bridge Street Toys, and Tariq Farid, CEO of Edible Arrangements, each discuss how their businesses have grown since we last spoke with them.
"Weathering the Storm" -- the economic crisis is impacting businesses of all sizes, and there appears to be no end in sight. Some of the largest financial institutions in the country have crumbled, and small business owners are getting hit hard too. Find out from the experts how you can protect your small business during these volatile times.
--Sandy Baruah, Acting Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration
--Jeffrey Carr, Executive Director of the NYU Stern Berkley Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.
--Phil Town, investment advisor and author of "Rule #1: The Simple Strategy for Successful Investing in Only 15 Minutes a Week!"
How to Succeed in Small Business:
Brian Liu, Chairman of LegalZoom.com, a Web site that offers online legal document preparation services for estate planning, trademarks, and corporations, provides tips on how to launch a business and survive in the most difficult economic times.
Dori DeCarlo, Founder and President of S1 Safety First, makers of a full line of clear bags and backpacks designed to assist with the safety measures being implemented in schools, offices, airports, sports arenas, and other public venues. She is looking for capital to for corporate sponsorships to donate the bags and backpacks to disadvantaged schools.
"Your Business" travels to Washington to D.C. to cover Inc. Magazine's annual Inc. 500 / Inc. 5000 Conference, a gathering of executives from the fastest growing businesses in the country. Rod Kurtz, Senior Editor for Inc., moderates a panel discussion of questions from attendees. And the election is just weeks away, find out how both candidates plan to help small business owners if they are elected.
Doug Tatum, Founding Chairman of Tatum LLC., a national organization that provides executive-level CFO services to companies undergoing rapid and significant changes.
Greg Alexander, CEO of Sales Benchmark Index, a strategic advisory firm that helps executives understand how well their sales force is performing relative to other peer groups.
Learning From the Pros
Find out the secrets of success from the CEO's of the top 3 business on the Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing companies in the country. John Baackes, CEO for Senior Whole Health a Massachusetts-based health plan for low income people age 65 and older, Brian Eliason and David Eliason, co-founders of Eliason Inc., a Wisconsin based real estate investment sponsor, and Warren Wilson, CEO of The Snack Factory, makers of Pretzel Crisps, discuss the strategies that have helped them manage booming businesses.
Norm Brodsky, Inc. columnist and co-author of "The Knack: How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up," and Sam Horn, author of "POP! Stand Out in Any Crowd" take part in a special edition of the Elevator Pitch. Find out what they think about Dave Beckham's Conservative Café, an eating establishment in northwest Indiana that celebrates the values of hard working conservative Americans. He is looking for capital to develop a franchise model.