Entrepreneurs share their decision to “take the leap,” offer advice for others

This paid piece is sponsored by Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship.

Is starting a business potentially part of your future?

Or maybe you’re already a business owner who finds value in hearing from other local entrepreneurs?

Four Sioux Falls business owners can relate, and on Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. they will share their experience behind “taking the leap” into entrepreneurship through an Innovative Insights event organized by Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship and sponsored by First Bank & Trust.

The highly demanded event is already sold out, but there will be a video stream available. 

The event will feature:

  • Trisha Dohn, founder of Well365, an independent corporate wellness company
  • Melissa Johnson, founder of Oh My Cupcakes and Oh My Word
  • Rebekah Scott, founder of Rebekah Scott Designs, creator of handmade purses and accessories
  • Sarah Werner, founder of The Write Now podcast and creator of the hit audio drama Girl in Space

“Events like these are a crucial element of a positive business ecosystem — entrepreneurs taking time to share stories and lessons learned in their journeys. That is the goal of this event and it is going to be a fun one!,” said Thadeus Giedd, Zeal client specialist.

“We’re excited to showcase these four entrepreneurs in the midst of growing themselves and their operations. They all have very different backgrounds and bring a lot of insight into how they took their knowledge and skillset and converted that into a new endeavor of their own.”

We caught up with each business owner for a glimpse into how she launched and where her business is headed.

How did you know?

Was it a single moment? An evolution? For each entrepreneur, the decision to “take the leap” comes together differently.

Here’s what our panelists say prompted them to launch their businesses.

Dohn: I had been thinking about other opportunities for over a year before I decided it was officially time to take the leap of faith.  At the time when deciding, I felt that I had a greater purpose and opportunity to step out on my own rather than staying where I was at. I wasn’t excited about getting up and going to work and I no longer felt valued in my position.  It was more of a risk for me to stay put than leave and start my own company!  I also had a very supportive husband, family and close friends who encouraged and believed in me to start my own company.  All of this is ultimately what drove me to take back control of my happiness and purpose to take the leap!

Johnson: In my case, I had already made one pretty major leap that didn’t work out, so my “leap” into business maybe looked a little different than most. Sometimes a leap looks like jumping off a cliff, but sometimes it looks more like lily pads, as we chase a dream or an idea. My point: Failure is only a failure if you allow it to be. For me, the initial thing I thought I was chasing led me instead to the bigger, better thing at Oh My Cupcakes!

Scott: For me, it was when we became debt-free and I knew I could cash flow better.  That was when it was time.

Werner: It’s funny — the decision to “take the leap” and the action of actually “taking the leap” were two very different instances. My leap into entrepreneurship was more of a slow and steady takeoff that happened over the course of a year and included building up my savings account, registering my LLC, looking into health insurance options, and more. However, deciding to take the leap happened when I realized that I was being limited and told “no” more and more consistently by my workplace. I had an intense need to cast my own vision, stretch my wings, and live up to my full potential, and it was clear that was not going to happen while I was working for someone else.

Expert advice

There’s nothing like talking to someone who has been there.

All our entrepreneurs are asked for advice from other prospective business owners.

The most common question Scott receives is: “How do you do it all?”

People wonder how to balance family, work and self-care, she said.

For Johnson, the most common question starts at the ground level of entrepreneurship.

“Where do I begin,” people ask her. “I have this idea, but how do I start the ball rolling?”

Dohn often hears uncertainty, comments like “I just don’t think I can ever do it” or, again, “How do you even know where to start?”

A lot of the hesitation is tied to the financial unknowns of starting a business, she acknowledged.

“I know financially it is very scary to step out on your own; however I know first-hand that it can be done.  You just have to do it,” she said.

She encourages others to meet with the SBA, as she did, and talk to other small business owners to gain confidence prior to taking the leap.

“You have to go into starting your business that there will be a lot of ups and downs. You will make mistakes. You won’t have all the answers. And you know what? It’s OK! If we never make a mistake, how are we ever going to learn,” she said.

“I truly was overwhelmed with the amount of support I received early on and still today, there is a great entrepreneurial community who is there for you, you just need to welcome those resources with open arms!

Werner says she’s most often asked by other prospective entrepreneurs when they should take the leap.

“And my answer is to hold off taking the leap (i.e., quitting your day job) until you’ve built up a healthy runway that will let you take off safely (i.e., you’ve built up an amount of money that you can live on for a pre-determined number of months without constantly panicking),” she said. “You’ll also want to have multiple income streams so that all of your metaphorical eggs aren’t in one basket.”

What’s next for you? 

Our panelists also know what it means to take their own advice.

These entrepreneurs are far from done growing their businesses.

Werner’s business is still in its infancy, she said.

“It’s just me and my husband, and our biggest focus is twofold — we’re adding a product that will add a passive income stream to our other income streams, and evaluating and discerning a number of strategic partnerships,” she said.

While Dohn says she’s still learning every day, she doesn’t feel as much like her first days in business.

“I feel I am past the very new stages of being a business owner and I have a lot of my processes and implementation in place,” she said. “My focus now is how to take my business to the next level and how to scale it beyond where I am at now.”

Johnson is in a growth stage at Oh My Cupcakes, as she prepares to open a second location on the east side of Sioux Falls early next year.

Scott also is in a significant growth mode as she seeks to take her business national.

“We are at a growth phase and moving to the whole country in sales, not just the Midwest,” she said. “We’re focused on website development and customers’ needs to the Nth degree!”

Paying it forward

Events like Taking the Leap allow entrepreneurs such as these to leave participants with insight and potential direction for their own businesses.

The participants in Zeal’s Taking the Leap will reconvene early next year for a follow-up session to share updates on their own journey and create accountability.

In the meantime, we asked the panelists what thoughts or ideas they want their audience to take away from part one.

Dohn: I am a very self-driven person so I think you need to have that inner drive, that inner passion for what you are going to do.  One thing I learned is that nobody will ever care as much about your business as you, so it is up to you to set your goals, revise your goals as you go and keep moving forward.  You have to understand you will have “haters” — people who will want to see you fail and not succeed.  Use your passion, drive, determination and motivation to keep plugging forward one day at a time.

Johnson: I took the advice of my friend Rebekah Scott, who is also speaking at this event. She told me early on, “Do one thing every day that brings you closer to your dream.” Just one thing. It might be making a phone call. It might be taking a class. It might be reaching out and asking for advice from someone who has already walked the path down which you are just beginning. But, do something. Don’t lose momentum. The momentum will carry you. It will make your dream into more than a dream, but something you are actively doing. Action is the key, however small that action may be.

Scott: To help with accountability when I first started, I created a “vision board” and encourage others to do something similar. It’s a way to surround yourself with mentors and coaches guiding you. They hold you accountable!

Werner: I joined a Mastermind group and it was the best decision I could have made for my business. A Mastermind group is a small group of entrepreneurial-minded peers who co-mentor each other during weekly (or bi-weekly, or monthly) meetings. I was able to ask questions in a safe space, bounce ideas off of a group of peers I trusted, be held accountable for my goals, and get coaching through the uncertain times. They also asked me the tough questions that no one else was asking me, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

To learn more

You can connect with Taking the Leap on Dec. 4 by following Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship on Facebook, where the event will be streamed live.

To receive invitations to similar events and first access, consider an associate Zeal membership. You’ll become part of the Zeal community, receiving admittance to Zeal’s meeting and collaboration space, gigabit Internet service, and access to like-minded entrepreneurial leaders and the Zeal staff.

To learn more, visit www.realzeal.com/membership or www.fb.com/zealsiouxfalls.

Entrepreneurs share their decision to “take the leap,” offer advice for others

Talk about an entrepreneurial dream team. No surprise the chance to hear these business owners sold out, but we have a way you can still learn from their success.

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