By Kristen Dolle
You read about her in CONNECT's fall issue; now, get the online exclusive on entrepreneur extraordinaire, Beth Schoenfeldt. As co-founder and chief encouragement officer of Collective-E, a full-service agency for entrepreneurs, Beth spends every day making sure women succeed on their own terms. Read on for more about her experience with small businesses and big dreams.
Collective-E is an agency for entrepreneurs with a community twist. Is the focus on community stemming from the trendiness of social networking or is it actually meaningful?
Community is so important for entrepreneurs, especially for women, because women really build their businesses through connecting with others and through word of mouth. Most women entrepreneurs are also solo-preneurs and that can be really isolating. It’s nice to be in a community where you can connect, get advice, give support, work together and have friends that understand what you’re going through. Really, women are doing this anyway; we just provide the platform to make it easier and more effective.
Collective-E is made up of so many entrepreneurs. What do you find most inspiring about the women you work with?
I love hearing the stories of women that had a dream or an idea and brought it to life. I love their passion, their drive, their persistence, their success. For example, I have one client, Stephanie Cion, founder of WELLalarm, who, when diagnosed with a chronic illness, realized that the current medical alert wasn’t technologically advanced enough. So, she created her own company and now produces the most technologically advanced medical alert, that’s also really cool looking and has all these different uses. That to me is so inspiring — she has the best excuse to just sit back and do nothing, but she’s not.
What’s most important about entrepreneurship in the communications industries?
As everyone in communications knows, the whole playing field has been leveled and the entire media landscape is constantly changing and pretty much up for grabs in terms of monetizing and starting trends. That’s the most important aspect — the incredible democratization of power and technology. There’s a really low cost of entry and your potential is limitless. You can just start doing what you want to be doing at any time. Of course, this means the competition is high, but that’s the challenge and the fun — to stand out.
Okay, Beth, you’ve sold us on the excitement of entrepreneurship, but how risky is being on your own in a market still writhing with economic uncertainty?
These days, being in a corporate environment is just as risky as being on your own; the safe and secure corporate job is a myth. In a sense, everyone is an entrepreneur and it’s time to embrace that. Wouldn’t you rather have control over your own destiny and run your own show, rather than rely on somebody else to get ahead? For me, trusting some executive is actually a bigger risk than believing in yourself.
What should aspiring entrepreneurs start doing now?
This might sound strange, but I think that entrepreneurs should be very focused on revenue. Surprisingly, people can get very distracted by things that are never going to really make them money, so they waste a lot of time and resources. You need to build your business with a revenue model and know how to generate the revenue as soon as possible. It’s very important, especially if you want an investor — they will never look at you if you don’t have a proven revenue model in place. The other thing that can get in the way of entrepreneurship is too much planning. It is good to have a plan, but you have to understand that building a business is an organic process so at some point you have to stop the planning and start doing.
Totally inspired to strike out on your own? Get started at collective-e.com.