Melinda Emerson, AKA SmallBizLady, is a leading expert on small business and becoming your own boss. We asked her about the current climate for entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses and any advice she had for those looking to forge their own path in the business world.
Now that COVID is pretty much in the rearview mirror, is this a good time for budding entrepreneurs to take the leap and start their own businesses?
I would caution anyone who thinks most small businesses have bounced back from COVID. There are many lingering business issues from COVID that are still with us, including how hard it is to find and keep workers, the high wages required for front-line workers, and tightening lines of credit and scarcely available business loans. Also, inflation, high gas prices, and the generally higher cost of doing business continue to put pressure on small businesses, especially micro-entrepreneurs.
Being so successful with your own marketing company, what made you want to start SmallBizLadyUniversity and help others?
During the pandemic, I was alarmed by how many small businesses were forced out of business largely because they didn’t have online marketing skills. I started SmallBizLadyUniversity.com to teach people how to sell and market online, how to use email marketing, and help develop social selling skills. We also redesigned my Become Your Own Boss online class to support those more than 10 million “quiet quitters” who decided to leave corporate America to become freelancers and entrepreneurs.
What drove you to make the change to become your own boss?
I decided as a sophomore in college that I wanted to be an entrepreneur at some point in my career. I was inspired by Oprah Winfrey when she created HARPO Studios in the early 90s. After five years of working in TV news, I recognized that I wasn’t cut out for corporate America. I have always worn my thoughts on my sleeves and I was not good at office politics, so I realized that I needed to call my own shots. I started my business, Quintessence Group, 24 years ago, and I have never looked back.
What’s one message you would want every small business owner or aspiring small business owner to hear?
It is important to serve your customers. Target a specific niche, have a unique value proposition, create an amazing customer experience, document your processes, take good care of your employees, and they’ll take good care of you and your customers. Don’t be afraid to pivot if your revenue model isn’t working.