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Three job losses turn into 46 local jobsTracy Graziani, Correspondent | Posted: Monday, February 10, 2014 11:00 pmStarting a business is always a significant risk, statistics show that most new businesses fail. Thus, starting a business during an economic downturn seems counter intuitive. Three local entrepreneurs did just that. They started new businesses during this recession and have defied the odds by creating a total of 46 local jobs. They all started in the wake of a job loss.When Brad Konves was laid off for the second time in the span of just a few years he was fed up. He posted a status message on Facebook that said he was tired of being a statistic. Brad's cousin Bill called immediately, and before long the two had paired up to launch their venture.Neither cousin knew anything about the pizza business, but both knew business and they jumped into what some thought was a risky proposition. Two Cousin's Pizza now has 18 employees and just opened their third location in just as many years.Paul Smith had worked for the City of Mansfield for 19 years when he was laid off in 2008. He considered moving where there are better job prospects, but ultimately decided to stay in town and create his own luck.He explored several options from opening a storage facility or investing in a franchise, but all those business models involved paying 10 to 18 percent back to the corporation off the top. It became clear that creating something of his own would be more profitable. The Happy Grape just opened its second location in Ashland and has 22 employees between their two locations.As General Motors prepared to close their Ontario plant, employees were given the option to be transferred out of state. Matt Winemiller, however, felt conflicted about that possibility.The night before he had to decide whether to stay or go, he prayed, and in the late hours of that night he was comforted by a message he describes came from God, "I prayed and I said Lord, what should I do? I didn't hear it audibly, but I heard it loud in my spirit and it said God will provide a lamb, and when I heard that in my spirit peace just came over me," said Winemiller. "This one job might be leaving, but he's gonna provide something else."Stepping out on faith, Winemiller decided to turn his hobby of making hand-built and painted signs into a full time business. At times the road was rocky, but it was no small miracle when nine investors materialized in a span of eight days without Winemiller soliciting a single person. That influx of capital helped position Spazz Monkey to grow their business, which now holds multiple collegiate and professional team licenses and employs 6 people.None of these men fit the romanticized stereotype of the long-suffering entrepreneur. They did not arrive at successful businesses as a result of some lifelong dream or passion, it was a conscious choice in response to troubling times. They assessed their skills, their interests, the local market, and tested ideas until they arrived at a business model that fit. Then, they assumed the personal and financial risks of taking that business into the marketplace.According to Heather Tsavaris, Director of Strategy and Planning with Innovation Fund America, this is often referred to as the Economic Gardening Model. This approach to economic development grows the local economy from within rather than through efforts to attract outside business."It becomes less about a zero sum game and more about leveraging what we have and what local entrepreneurs are already doing. It's looking at what you have not as a liability, but as an asset," said Tsavaris.The three entrepreneurs all agreed about one perspective on risk. They believe depending on an employer for security is a risk."I just knew that I didn't want to work for anybody ever again. After my last experience, I put in 19 years, I did a good job, I enjoyed my job, but I was in a vulnerable position. So I just figured I'm not ever going to put myself in that position again. If I am out of work from this it's because I didn't do the job well, it'll be my own fault or my decision," said Smith of The Happy Grape.Barrett Thomas, Microfinance Administrator for Braintree Business Development Center, points out that even so, financing a startup is a big risk and for some and often a barrier to entrepreneurship."It takes money to make money. When you invest in a high capital startup like the wine bar or the pizza shop you have to eliminate a lot of the possible failure through customer discovery and business model development. In the case of Spazz Monkey, the customer proposition was already proven, but they needed funding to scale," noted Thomas.All the entrepreneurs hit some bumps in the road along the way, but over and over they point to the support of their loved ones, the community, and their customers as sources of support. Konves offered this advice, "The best advice I could give anybody is just hang in there, it's gonna get better. Sometimes you have to give up a little bit to get something, it's worth it in the end."

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