Sideline business like a trump card
By Patricia Kitchen
NEW YORK For about four months last year, Steve Willett was looking for a job. The laid-off project manager from Jericho, N.Y., sent resumes, made calls and attended networking events. Nary a nibble.
www.cubicle-cards.com, in December.
A self-described "accidental entrepreneur," he has joined the ranks of many in today's jobless recovery who are tired of knocking on doors that don't open. "If it wasn't for unemployment, I wouldn't even have come up with the idea," says Willett, 33, who hopes to recoup his investment within a year.
Surely some such entrepreneurs, by default, will find themselves back in the corporate world once the job market loosens up again. But others will discover a whole new work style and sense of security that come with running their own shops and stick with it.
Either way, you come out ahead, says Talane Miedaner, a career- and life-management coach in Manhattan. Just look at how you can leverage the experience even if you do opt back into another employee situation:
Employers like people with entrepreneurial spirits, she says. It shows you're an idea person who can spot trends and fill needs.
You learn a lot about your strengths. Because a business owner plays all roles at first, you'd see if your talents lie in administration, sales or technology.
So, how to get started? Willett took the self-education route. He read everything from how to write a business plan to how to launch a Web site. He enlisted the help of friends. He joined the Silicon Alley Entrepreneurs Club.
"It's a good thing I come from a project management background," says Willett, who has worked for barnesandnoble.com, Opus 360 and Cablevision.
If you're living at home with the folks, as Willett is, all the better, says Ritu Sen, a loan officer with ACCION New York (www.accionnewyork.org), a nonprofit agency that provides micro loans to startup entrepreneurs. Keep expenses down: "Don't go signing a lease for a storefront just yet," she says. And if you'll be looking for loans, find out your credit rating right now. If nothing else, she says, you'll develop "financial literacy."
What if Willett were invited to interview for an interesting job? "I would definitely talk to them," he says. "I'm always up for a conversation." But he also says of his new venture, "I'm committed to this first and foremost." He says he won't be accepting a job that would not allow him to keep his own business going.
That's just the advice that Miedaner would give. She encourages people in similar spots to keep the business as a side activity even if it means scaling it down or delegating. This way, you still have something in reserve if the new job doesn't work out. And if you can't handle both, you could sell it to some other newly unemployed person."