“I’ve always been fascinated by technology and excited by its ability to change lives. Engineering is a way of visualizing and thinking that made me look at the world differently,” says Alexandra Hudak, a recent graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.Continue Reading
It’s funny how life works. One second, you can be living in your hometown working a standard job, and the next, moving across the world to pursue your dream.Continue Reading
“I’ve always been fascinated by technology and excited by its ability to change lives. Engineering is a way of visualizing and thinking that made me look at the world differently,” says Alexandra Hudak, a recent graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. “Taking a risk by starting my own company put me outside of my comfort zone and forced me to learn how to self-motivate and adapt quickly.”
Her zeal for technology is what led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Chasing her passion anywhere she could, Alexandra applied for a Department of Defense (DOD) accelerator program. She was one of only 22 students from a handful of universities accepted into the arduous program. Each student invited to participate had a unique approach to their proposed models. For Alexandra, it was a business model formulated around an Air Force Research Lab patent involving machine learning technology.
When it comes to young tech entrepreneurs, there’s a perception of those early days that has become somewhat ubiquitous. “I have an idea for app,” the pitch so often starts to anyone that will listen. And who’s working to make that idea a reality? A handful of college-aged guys that, instead of studying for finals, are conceptualizing and programming something they’re convinced will change the world. But perceptions aren’t always right.
Revel wasn’t the result of friendly, late night collegiate conversations. In fact, the co-founders hardly knew each other when they decided to start down the business path together. Instead, Revel was the result of two strangers—Lisa Falzone and Chris Ciabarra—bonding over an Albert Einstein quote.
For most people, trying to create a business is no small feat, but Mike Bentzer—owner of Old 300 BBQ—might leave you with a different impression altogether. After building two software companies from the ground up, he began looking for a new challenge. He decided to jump into the restaurant business but quickly found that even though he faced different problems, there were some valuable lessons from his former life.
“Starting a small business is a huge endeavor. The only industry that has a higher failure rate than foodservice is tech. I had already conquered that by selling two software companies so I figured I’d start a restaurant and see what happens.”
Thanks to websites like Etsy and Society6, makers of all types have streamlined platforms to bring their work to the marketplace. But once you’ve established yourself as a vendor becoming consistently successful in the online market, it’s very common to dream of turning your part-time passion into a full-time reality. Opening your own shop where you can directly sell your goods, as well as host the wares of others you’ve met along the way, might sound too good to be true. But is it?
You’re good with people, you’ve got a keen eye for what they want, and ultimately, you believe that you could actually do it—and do it well. Turning your passion into a true entrepreneurial endeavor might be intimidating, but by breaking it into manageable parts, you can start to see the real potential shine through. When you’re ready to make that transition, here are five key things to focus on when you’re opening a retail store.
Have you ever felt you need to keep family tradition alive? Frédéric Soulies, owner of Pitchoun Bakery, comes from three generations of bakers, and it’s in his blood to bake. The entire concept behind his business is around memories with his grandparents. Soulies’ grandparents would always call him “Pitchoun,” which means “kiddo” in the south French dialect. And that’s where the name behind Pitchoun Bakery came from. It’s been a long journey for Soulies, from France to California, but it’s all been worth it to pursue his dream and keep the family tradition alive.
“Ever since I was two years old, I enjoyed drinking tea. It’s the last of the family traditions to stay with me—to have tea after every meal.” There’s a pause. “My mom always wanted to have her own tea shop, but she lived in China and opening a business back then was not really like it is now. The whole idea is still really new.”
There’s a subtle cheeriness in Jenna McCarthy’s voice when she talks about her childhood in China.
“My mom always had a lot of friends,” she continues. “It seemed like she knew everybody when I was growing up. Every time we had a visitor, my mom would ask me to go make tea. Everyone enjoyed just sitting around the table drinking tea and telling stories.”
Jordy’s story is the stuff of the American Dream. He never lost sight of his vision, enlisted the help of his family and friends, literally put his entire savings into barbecue, and luckily it’s all paid off. Jordy Jordan, owner of Big D Barbecue, just outside of downtown Dallas, Texas, quit his nine-to-five to open a spot featuring organic barbecue and craft beer. Big D Barbecue did eight-thousand dollars in sales in their first month. Two years later, they are projecting over a million in sales.
I was fortunate enough to talk with Jordy about how he grew his small, off-the-beaten-path restaurant into a profitable, beloved destination for delicious barbecue.
Knowing what you want to do early on is easier for some than others. For Sam Agolino, owner of Bar Pazzo in Pennsylvania, he knew what he wanted do since childhood. Growing up in a family restaurant, Agolino was inspired by his father and what he made for his family. At the age of 11, he begged his father to let him work and he ended up starting as a dishwasher. After getting his hands dirty in the restaurant business, his dream of starting his very own business one day only grew stronger throughout his teenage and adult years.
Do you ever feel stuck in your job, dreaming of what you really want to do with your life? Timothy Lee, now owner of Liquid Gold, gets it. He worked for numerous companies, jumping from job to job, before he took the first leap to pursue his dream of owning his own bar business. Lee always wanted to have a business of his own and he knew Liquid Gold was it. His love and passion for homebrewing and craft beer are endless, and he knew that’s where he wanted to take his career. He decided to ditch his comfortable and stable life for something more risky, but in return extremely more rewarding. Sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zones to make our dreams into a reality, and that’s exactly what Lee did.