For the last few months, we’ve been profiling Arkansas entrepreneurs like Kyle Tabor of Blue Sail Coffee, Ted Herget of Gearhead Outfitters, Inc., Ashton and Austin Samuelson of Tacos 4 Life and Ramsay Short of Ramsay’s Wood Shop. Whether their business focuses on food, drink, gear or custom pens, each entrepreneur has used their skills and smarts to get their doors open – and keep them there. They shared a little bit of those experiences with us. Here are 8 things we learned from these founders.
1. Find Your Niche
What service do you want to provide? What product do you want to sell? What’s your purpose? Whether you’re inspired to cultivate community through coffee, like Kyle, or interested in creating custom pens, like Ramsay Short, you’ll first need to find your thing.
2. Work Hard
Once you have your plan in place, don’t expect everything to magically fall in line. All entrepreneurs face obstacles; running your own business isn’t an easy task, Gearhead Outfitters Inc. owner and founder Ted Herget said.
“You have to know your threshold of pain,” he says “How deep are you willing to dig to achieve the goal you set for yourself? I’m 20 years in and the struggles are still real. The risk and competition are high and you have to have the drive the passion and the right people with you to keep going.”
3. Have Fun
You’re working hard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Short, our youngest featured entrepreneur, enjoys the time he spends making pens in his shop.
“It’s just fun, it’s relaxing,” he said. “Whenever I’m [working] I don’t think about anything else. You don’t have to really, really concentrate on it, but you just kind of do it. I just love working with my hands, saying, ‘I made this.’”
4. Hire the Right People
Herget pointed out the importance of hiring the right people to back you up. He said his company’s success “has been having good people who work hard.” His tip? “Hire people better than you.”
5. Find a Cause
Like Short and the Samuelsons, you may want to find a way to give back if your company is successful. Short donates some of the profits from his pens to River Valley Food for Kids, while Tacos 4 Life raises money for Feed My Starving Children.
6. You’re Never Too Young
One of our entrepreneurs is probably younger than most of our readers. 11-year-old Short turned his family’s garage in Russellville into Ramsay’s Wood Shop, his very own workspace. Since starting his business last year, he’s sold about 100 pens. Most sixth graders don’t have jobs, let alone their own businesses, but that didn’t stop him. Your age doesn’t have to stop you either.
7. Be Ready to Learn
Ashton and Austin Samuelson at Tacos 4 Life didn’t have any restaurant experience when they started Pitza 42, the forerunner of Tacos 4 Life. The two have learned a lot in recent years; they’re set to open their seventh Tacos 4 Life location this month. Short has had his fair share of learning experiences, too; he says he’s ruined a few woodblocks when making his product.
8. Be Flexible
Herget said he never planned to expand after opening his initial Gearhead location in Jonesboro. He ended up with locations in Little Rock; Shreveport, Louisiana; Rogers; Bentonville; Fayetteville and Springfield, Missouri.
“I’ve never had intentions of growing, but our team comes together and say we can do this, and we go for it. I know my team has the ability and drive to make it happen,” he said.