In recent years, Chattanooga's entrepreneurial scene has grown. Local and national media outlets have told various stories of successful startup companies, but the arduous process of putting everything—money, time, sweat—into a risky endeavor is often glossed over.
Inc.com recently told the story of "The Phychological Price of Entreprenership" and another piece from the founder of a Ireland-based digital marketing company about "What It's Really LIke to Work in a Successful Startup."
The article from Inc.com highlights a man named Bradley Smith, who found success as a CEO of financial services company Rescue One Financial.
But, in 2008, he was secretly strung out and scared.
In that article, Toby Thomas, CEO of EnSite Solutions, likens running a business to riding a lion.
"People look at him and think, 'This guy's really got it together! He's brave!'" Thomas told Inc. "And the man riding the lion is thinking, 'How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?'"
According to Forbes.com, 7 out of 10 new employer firms survive at least two years, half survive at least five years and a third make it 10 years. A quarter of those stay in business more than 15 years.
Two local entrepreneurs recently told Nooga.com about their experiences in business and they shared advice based on what they have learned.
Ron Lowery, 69, is a local entrepreneur, photographer and pilot who has reinvented himself several times.
He's been a commercial photographer and had success with stock photography.
And, he said, the definition of an entrepreneur is someone who is trying something they never have before and taking on risk to do so.
In 1978, he started his own photography studio. He built up clients and took assignments from them, working with art directors, being told what to shoot and how to shoot it, and he did it for little compenstation, he said.
He soon got burnt out on that, he said.
In the '90s, he moved toward envisioning and creating art—using photos he shot from his plane—that he sold as stock art.
Now he's working to publish a book of photos called "Tennessee River: Sparkling Gem of the South."
Throughout the various phases of his career, he has taken risks. He said his family thinks he is cheating death every time he goes up in the planes he built himself. But, for him, that's easier than taking a financial risk.
"It's a matter of believing in yourself and betting on yourself," he said.
His advice to entrepreneurs: always be able to reinvent yourself and keep high standards.
"If you're going to deal with a customer, your standards have to be as good or higher than any customer who walks in the door," he said. "If not, the customer will find somebody better."
Another local businessman, David White, recently launched his own business called Develop CENTS, which is an information technology consulting firm for nonprofit organizations.
The business provides on-site technical support, network engineering and service administration, he said. It also provides web hosting and remote server administration.
But he ran into challenges that involved legal and accounting details, he said.
"I had no idea what I was doing, and had to figure it out, and that was annoying because there's so many moving parts," he said. "Even with the legal and business advice I got from various people, I still missed one of the state requirements."
And, as with many startups, money is often an issue.
White is paying himself just enough to live on, and because of that, his company is already in the black month-to-month, he said.
White spent three to five years thinking about his business, working on a business plan and talking to anyone who would sit at coffee with him, he said.
"My biggest advice for anyone starting out is to seek advice from anyone and everyone who is willing to drink coffee with you and offer their wisdom and experience," he said. "Seek wisdom from others. That's one thing I did well at and am very glad I did."
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