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Entrepreneurs discuss expectations, workers, mistakes at SEMO conference
Three people with different kinds of businesses shared their similar success stories with students Thursday as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week at Southeast Missouri State University.
Andy Schwartz of AJ Adhesives, Chris Edmonds of Element 74 and Laurie Everett of Annie Laurie's Antiques took part in a panel discussion about how they got started, how their businesses stay competitive and what they look for in employees.
"You create your own destiny, and if you want something bad enough, you can make it happen," Everett said. Her antique store on Broadway in Cape Girardeau has 7,000 square feet of antiques. Everett is also expanding her business to include interior design and home staging.
For those thinking of starting their own business, it's important to manage expectations, Schwartz said.
"A lot of people say they want to start their own business, when really, they just don't want to work for somebody else and they want to make a good income," he said. "You can't expect to have a private jet and have 30 people loving you every day when you walk in the door."
Schwartz graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1986. After selling industrial adhesives in Chicago, he moved back to St. Louis, where he grew up, and started AJ Adhesives. His company employs 32 people and has locations in Houston, Dallas, Tulsa, Okla., Seattle and Chicago.
For every entrepreneur there comes a time when they realize they can't continue to operate their business alone and must hire employees.
Edmonds said his wife told him he was doing too much. Edmonds' website and custom software development company Element 74 in Cape Girardeau has been in business for more than 10 years. Edmonds also attended Southeast and has hired Southeast students as interns and employees. He looks for people who have the right attitude and are disciplined.
"You don't have to be smart to be successful, but the better the attitude you have the more likely you'll be to succeed," Edmonds said.
All three entrepreneurs said they've made mistakes through the years but that the key to success is moving forward.
"You will fail. You will make a lot of mistakes. I made a mistake about five years ago that cost me $50,000. What is most important is how you handle that. It's either going to drive you to do better or make you sink back," Edmonds said.
"You learn from it, you move on from it and you grow," Everett said. "I always listen to other people's advice, but I trust my gut. Sometimes I've listened to things people told me to do and if I'd trusted my gut instead, the outcome wouldn't have been so negative."
Schwartz encouraged would-be entrepreneurs to focus on their strengths, "those things that give you energy, that you like doing. If you can identify that, you'll be very successful."
Global Entrepreneurship Week, sponsored by Southeast's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, will continue Saturday with the Women Inspiring eNtrepreneurship conference beginning at 7:45 a.m. in Dempster Hall. Brenda Warner, Author and philanthropist and wife of former quarterback Kurt Warner, will be the keynote speaker at the event, which will also include breakout sessions and networking opportunities. Preregistration is required. For more information, visit www.semo.edu/gew or call 651-2929.
One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO