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Launch Gloucester Entrepreneurs Go Back To Class

Business expert Margie Johnson leads group in entrepreneurial education.

Class is in session for the prospective entrepreneurs in the Launch Gloucester initiative who are hoping to fulfill their dream of starting a business on Main Street.

The classes are held weekly and were developed by Margie Johnson, whose 30-year career as an entrepreneur and business expert helps equip prospective business owners with the knowledge and skills to run successful businesses.

The first class included an introduction to entrepreneurship, including how to gather marketing data and industry research and developing a marketing strategy.

Other classes have focused on types of business entities and considerations for each as the business plan is developed, as well as selecting the right location for your business, retail space in Gloucester Court House, the look and design of the business, inventory management and product sourcing.

Still to come is a class session on operations planning and requirements, employee and staffing considerations and reviewing the business plan and the final stages of writing it. Independent study sessions are also included, covering a range of topics to include researching Virginia business resources and local requirements such as permits, zoning and licensing.

Other independent study topics include creating a draft of a business plan, starting work on “pitch points” for the entrepreneurs’ final presentations before Launch Gloucester judges and networking with business owners in respective fields or industries.

Goals for the class

Johnson said one of the goals of the classes she has developed is giving the group areas to focus on to be the most successful. Whether it’s marketing or business plans or bringing in speakers specializing in banking, accounting, or insurance, Johnson is preparing the entrepreneurs for launching a business even if they don’t succeed.

“Some may not win but they’ve all gone through a pretty big effort to start a business and going forward several may be looking to start a business but it just didn’t click in time,” Johnson said.

With the skills they are learning in the classes, the entrepreneurs can continue their dream and perhaps launch a business in the future, she said. Some essentials the group is being given include information about the state of respective markets and industries, different business plans and where to get information and the importance of verifying and validating information to ensure they know how to interpret it.

Included are requirements to do a personal financial statement and getting a credit report. It’s all part of Johnson’s “success planning” training. She can’t write their business plans, Johnson said, but also wants them to pose the question to themselves of whether they have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Pursuing a dream

“It’s very comprehensive,” she said. “Part of it is for many of them it’s getting them to make sure they are pursuing their dream and also pursue the practical steps for expanding or starting their business. Also, look at the risk and rewards of new businesses.”

Johnson said she is very teacher-oriented so she puts together a toolkit approach to give the class the education and materials — or tools — to make decisions. Asking the tough questions goes along with it.

“What are you doing to really screen you motivation?” Johnson said. “Do you have the personality for this? At no point have I downplayed that this is a serious endeavor and it requires a serious commitment. I want to make sure they are legally, financially and emotionally committed.”

Although the three winners of the Launch Gloucester program will receive a combined $95,000 in working capital to start their businesses on Main Street, it still involves plenty of hard work, Johnson said. “I need to make sure people understand that,” she said.

Johnson is complimentary of the group.

“You have to start with a vision and I think the vision is in place and there’s lots of energy,” she said. “You have to start with a vision and I think the vision is in place and there’s a lot of energy. They’re all winners. This is their dream and whether it’s now or in two years or four years they are each building a binder with resource information on lots of categories. They are going to have a great toolkit for now and in the future.”

Top 5 mindsets of entrepreneurs

Johnson said today’s successful entrepreneurs have a spirit and energy that are a winning combination, with the entrepreneurial spirit embodying successful characteristics of people who are positive thinkers, confident, students of change, risk takers and always willing to work hard. An eager entrepreneur’s passion for their endeavor is infectious.

Here’s Johnson’s five key mindsets of successful entrepreneurs:

—They are by their nature curious and always eager to learn. They look for opportunities so they might be able to apply their competencies. They keep an open mind to new ideas.

—While they are always seeking to learn, they also tend to view a failure or setback as a lesson to be celebrated not mistakes to be mourned.

—They are dreamers. They are great at visualizing “what their goals are” and what those goals should look like. They are excited to share their dreams and make no apologies for “thinking big” to the skeptics.

—They have a huge threshold for tolerating risk. While they are most often cautious in their approach and methodology, they so often will take big leaps of faith. They will put themselves and their reputation on the line.

—They understand the difference between success and failure is often how they react to “no” or “negative” reactions to their entrepreneurial plan. Successful entrepreneurs hear “no” but they do not always just accept it. They restate the question and recommit to doing what is necessary to get their desired outcome. They view rejection as a part of the learning curve despite how steep the learning curve may be.

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