ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Is it your cup of lemonade?
Young entrepreneurs will say creating the job—being an entrepreneur—starts with a great idea and continues on with a followed passion. Seasoned entrepreneurs are adamant: it's really about the plan—getting it on paper, leaning on effective and efficient resources and the lessons you learned inside the classroom translated into the real-world.
The entrepreneurial spirit, as they call it, runs through Kevin Eismann's veins.
"It's really the desire to have control over your own destiny. To not walk in one day and lose your job," said Eismann, a 2003 graduate with a master's degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
Eismann is an Appleton-based attorney who owns his own law firm, Epiphany Law. He also owns a magazine and a property management company. Eismann, who began his law firm in 2004, attributes his success running his businesses to a few things. His master's degree from UW Oshkosh is one piece of the puzzle.
"I started Epiphany because I thought I could do it better. I'm a lawyer with an MBA, which helps you understand how your piece fits into the bigger circle of running the whole business," Eismann said.
He also leans on his peers in the industry, another key to his success. Neither lawyers nor other property managers, his peers are instead other entrepreneurs, he said. A group called Entrepreneurs Anonymous, which he started—is aimed at giving entrepreneurs an open, facilitated environment where they can learn, discuss best-practices and share knowledge and ideas.
"Small business owners are the second most-preyed-upon group after older people," Eismann said. "We don't always understand everything we need to do to run our businesses successfully."
Another UW Oshkosh alumnus, Craig Meyer '96 and '03 MBA, of Appleton, an entrepreneur who owns his own full-service financial management business called Watertax, turns to Entrepreneurs Anonymous, as well.
"As entrepreneurs, we don't really have peers, or even coworkers at first. Sometimes it's nice to talk to other business owners and realize we are all going through the same things," said Meyer, who also sits on the College of Business alumni chapter board.
The group has strict confidentiality rules to make discussion items valuable to attendees, Eismann said. About 300 people are formally involved with the group, which holds monthly meetings that generally include an educational component.
Eismann and Meyer agree, though, that some of their biggest lessons were really learned by working for other companies.
"Go out and work somewhere first. I wouldn't know what I do now if I hadn't worked in banking first," said Meyer, who spent more than a decade working in commercial banking.
Eismann agreed that previous experience is what helps lead the way as an entrepreneur.
"Make your mistakes at someone else's business first," he said. "Also, you have to have an unbreakable spirit. You are going to get kicked. You have to get up, you have to have self-belief. You really can learn the rest."
UW Oshkosh student Zack Pawlosky is, indeed, in the process of "learning the rest."
Pawlosky, a 21-year-old junior studying business marketing, recently started his own business. That business, Candeo Creative, is a social media marketing firm in Oshkosh that offers strategy, evaluation and execution on popular social networking platforms.
In about a year, Pawlosky has built a mostly local base with clients like the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce, Propel Oshkosh, the Winnebago Home Builders Association and downtown Oshkosh businesses like Caramel Crisp and Café and Miles Kimball. Already, Pawlosky has a handful of paid employees, a physical office location and more than enough optimism for future growth.
Pawlosky is humble, though. He under-stands his company is young; but that doesn't mean he lacks even an ounce of passion or excitement—two things he said are crucial in making it as an entrepreneur.
"It takes passion. That's the thing that gets you through. You have to be 110 percent living it," he said.
Pawlosky said he doesn't really like to consider himself "at the top" of Candeo Creative; he's still learning and growing every day, too.
"I know it's a young company. I learn something every single day," he said.
Candeo Creative was started in the Oshkosh community based on a need for the service; local businesses came to Pawlosky and began asking him to share his knowledge both in the form of speaking engagements and on a more customized level related to social media planning, strategy and execution.
"The cool thing is we never had to do a sales pitch, we just got calls," he said. "I never quite intended for this to happen."
These days, Pawlosky is wrapping his head around the much-needed plan seasoned entrepreneurs hang their hats on, he said. For him, phase two is developing the business plan and strategy, which is underway for the second year of operation.
Like Pawlosky, young entrepreneur and UW Oshkosh student Marc Busko also is chasing a passion. Busko, a junior studying small business management, began Marc Busko Speaking, with goals of making it big as a youth inspirational speaker; he dreams of helping young people discover their passions, as he has by speaking in front of large crowds.
"Entrepreneurship is one of the coolest things to talk and learn about," said Busko. "It's hard. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, but the fulfillment is worth every second. Students my age want to have a purpose, we don't necessarily want to work 9-to-5 jobs. A lot of us want to be entrepreneurs."
The same force that led Busko to starting his own business also pushes him to hold the top spot in the College Entrepreneurship Organization (CEO) Club, which, like Entrepreneurs Anonymous, has members who come together to learn and discuss.
"The CEO Club encompasses my overall passion and also allows me to impact students," he said.
John Muraski, a College of Business lecturer and CEO Club faculty adviser, said while it isn't his job to get in the way of what the club is doing, it is his job to make sure the club is funded and that it offers valuable learning experience.
"Everyone needs help getting to the next step after 'I have an idea,'" said Muraski, who also lived his pre-teaching life as an entrepreneur. "You can't just jump into a business without a plan. A good plan helps show you actually have a good idea or it forces you to go back to the drawing board."
Planning for successAnd the plan is exactly what Colleen Merrill will inspire UW Oshkosh students to focus on in her new role as Small Business Development Center director.
Merrill has great plans of her own for a new Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), including a student business design lab (SBDL). When launched, the SBDL will invest in University students interested in starting businesses by giving them the guidance and support of both the CEI and College of Business professionals.
Through the SBDL, students will be given 12 months of office space, board room access, use of equipment and $10,000 in business start-up funds. Business development and entrepreneur classes will be offered for students with interest; the classes will take students through the process of developing a sound business plan. Students ultimately will be selected through a pitch contest, Merrill said.
"My focus is on business development, growth and job creation. All three of these initiatives can be fostered through developing our students," Merrill said. "I think this project will really show the greater community how innovative and resourceful our students are."
UW Oshkosh alumnus Jeff Biechel '78, the owner of the Milwaukee-based Wing Capital for the past five years, speaks highly of the network he's been at the center of as he built his career as an entrepreneur. He doesn't believe any entrepreneur can be successful without having a strategic group selected to coach them.
"It's dangerous when entrepreneurs have good ideas but don't surround them-selves with good people like advisers, boards of directors and mentors. I think there is a high failure rate when people don't allow themselves to be coached," Biechel said.
Biechel said discipline and drive also help a start-up succeed.
"Entrepreneurs are optimists, believers in other people and ourselves. We think we can help and change something," Eismann said. "Successes are awesome, but just remember, there will also be failures."