News

MANSFIELD – It takes a great idea, willingness to take a gamble, hard work, some spending and flexibility to start a successful new business, area entrepreneurs say.Valerie Ashcraft helps run Ohio Dreams Action Sports Camp near Butler, a family business co-founded eight years ago with her husband, Chris, and his parents.She recently accepted a position as an instructor for the first Young Entrepreneurs Academy sponsored by the Chamber Foundation, a job she said she’ll relish because they likes working with young people.Ohio Dreams offers summer camp experiences for kids who enjoy solo sports such as skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, scooter riding and BMX freestyle.Though the Ashcrafts own a house in Lexington --about 25 minutes away from the sports complex near Butler -- when summer camp is in session, “we’re not home very often,” Valerie Ashcraft said.This summer, their daughter is spending time working as a lifeguard at Ohio Dreams, and “our son is here every day,” soaking in the sports camp experience, she said.Because it’s a small, family-run business, rather than a corporation, decisions can be made on the fly.“I don’t have to put in a memo,” she said, and that’s a plus.Though starting a business was harder work than either of the Ashcrafts ever expected, “it’s really cool” to be involved in a business that allows them to meet really great families year after year.“We don’t take it for granted,” she said.Some customers who previously attended the sports camp have returned as staff members.Chris Ashcraft works with sports programs, while Valerie Ashcraft keeps the office going, spending hours on the phone willingly answering parents’ questions about what the camp will involve for their kids.Though the Ashcrafts both enjoy running a summer camp, it’s a small business, not a glamor job. Entrepreneurs have to be willing to take care of some uninviting tasks that need done.“I still scrub toilets. I take out the trash,” she said.Outside of peak season, she works at Snow Trails and sells insurance part-time. The business is going well, but it’s good to have an income stream year-round, she said.Some people prefer a 9-to-5 job, “leaving that responsibility behind” at the office, Chris Ashcraft said.“I think it definitely takes a certain personality type” to start your own business, he said.The Ashcrafts said they listen closely if kids or parents express ideas about what they’d like at the camp.One thing they learned over time, he said, was that if they spend a little more hiring additional employees, staff was happy, campers were happy, and “our end product is better,” he said.Knowledge PostKnowledge Post co-founder Andrew Bennett grew up comfortable with the concept of founding his own business. His mother had run art galleries and a bead and jewelry making shop in the Cleveland area. His father had worked as a consultant, another example of how people could earn an income outside the 9-to-5 collect-a-paycheck world involved in working for others.While Bennett did fine in school, and went on to college, majoring in business marketing, he didn’t necessarily enjoy academics.Like many other entrepreneurs he knows, Bennett said, he preferred not to have his nose in a book but “wanted to be hands-on,” doing and trying things that interested him.He’s concerned that schools focus so much on traditional academics that some kids who would make wonderful entrepreneurs get shunted to the side as troublemakers. He’d like to see entrepreneur skills programs offered to young people.After college, Bennett worked for awhile advertising in New York, but found it wasn’t what he wanted, then moved back to Cleveland in 2008, where he worked as a marketing manager, then got involved in a young professionals group.Those experiences led to the company he co-founded with Evan Ishida. Knowledge Post functions “like a broker” between businesses or nonprofit organizations that want to find training programs that fit the needs of their workers, and the many businesses that provide those services.“I think the biggest hurdle, for most entrepreneurs, is to make sure they have a long enough runway to get up and running,” Bennett said. “If you only give yourself a year, that’s not enough. You don’t start generating revenue for a couple of years.”Starting a business can involve discomfort, such as having to figure out how to keep rent low while income is short, and perhaps moving back to live with parents. He and his partner split their time between an office at Braintree Business Development Center, the Mansfield-based business incubator, and Cleveland, where “we’re working out of my co-founder’s house,” Bennett said.Decisions like that are just a necessary step as a new company gets off the ground, he said.InfoGPS NetworksInfoGPS Networks offers software to businesses and government to secure their networks against data attacks.Co-founders Paul Hugenberg and Rick Iler are getting that business off the ground at Braintree. Their separate backgrounds in IT security and finance melded to meet the fledgling business’ needs, Braintree officials said.Hugenberg, who’d worked in the corporate world, said one key to starting a new business was knowing he had his wife’s support. Entrepreneurs have to ask family members questions like “How long are going you to give me to try this?” he said.“I had people tell me ‘What the hell are you doing?’” leaving a regular job, he said.Starting a business isn’t for the faint-hearted:Hugenberg said his biggest worry was whether he and his partner would run out of money before they got the business up and running.“The other is, you don’t know what you don’t know,” he said. “The third (concern), for me: ‘Is there anybody in the world that’s going to pay me for what I’m doing?’“You hope that these gambles work out, and some of them can be pretty big,” said. Jon Grimm, an IT specialist who works one on one with company owners housed at Braintree.Long hours can be a given.“You’re virtually on call (day and night),” Iler said. “Some of your best ideas come at 3 in the morning.”Hugenberg said he recently took a vacation and ending up spending about 15 hours during the week on issues involved in the business.When does an entrepreneur know his or her business is a success?“When I don’t have to ask for money anymore. The other is when somebody calls and says ‘Have you ever thought about selling?’” Hugenberg said.When a new business lands its first major customer account “that is huge,” Grimm said. But so is having that list of customers grow to 100, so that if that one big customer left, “it wouldn’t hurt you.”Braintree officials said entrepreneurs coming to the incubator for help as they get going frequently come from one of two backgrounds:Some of those starting business are mid-career workers who were forced out of their jobs by layoffs or a disruption in the industry.Others are young people who are fresh out of school with minimal family responsibilities, making it an opportune time to gamble on creating a business.“You have to have a good idea,” Braintree Director of Operations Bob Leach said. “You have to be an expert on what you’re trying to do. You have to have business sense. And you have to have the capital.”

Source: Entrepreneurs mix hard work and vision: KnowledgePost, InfoGPS do what it takes to become successful URL: http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/story/money/2015/08/15/entrepreneurs-start-new-businesses-mansfield-ohio/30930151/