by Loraine Kasprzak
Connections are important when you’re a business owner. As a marketing consultant, I enjoy helping other business owners connect and build their networks. Not too long ago I introduced the “two Debs” in my network to each other: Deb Palacio, managing partner for WebUndies.com, an Internet-based retailer of novelty loungewear and Deb Bailey, author, Internet radio host, and entrepreneur at DBC Communications.
This is one connection that definitely clicked. On her excellent Secrets of Success Women Entrepreneurs Radio program, Bailey interviewed Palacio about starting and growing an Internet-only business (listen to the interview). That radio discussion led to Palacio’s being included as an “entrepreneur mentor” in Bailey’s new book, Think like an Entrepreneur: What You Need to Consider before You Write a Business Plan.
Bailey wrote this book with the corporate employee (or ex-employee) in mind. “If you’ve spent most of your life working for someone else, you probably have no idea what it really takes to run a business – I certainly didn’t!” writes Bailey. The book gives an overview of things a prospective business owner should think about before planning and starting a business, and includes interviews with entrepreneur mentors who share their experiences.
In Palacio’s chapter, she candidly discusses how she got started and the challenges she faced. Before she started WebUndies, she had spent several years working for Nordstrom in the Lingerie and Women’s Active Wear departments. Palacio recounts how her passion was born, “One buyer in particular mentored me and invited me to accompany her on several buying trips… I will never forget the experience of walking into that first showroom. From that moment… I knew this was where my talent would blossom.”
One challenge she faced starting WebUndies was that suppliers didn’t want to deal with an unknown company with an unusual business model. They had difficulty “putting faith in a completely unknown, unrecognized company – and one that wanted to sell solely online, which [in the 1990s] was a completely new concept,” says Palacio.
The solution, says Palacio, “is to do your homework first and be well organized before reaching out to suppliers. You also need to believe in your venture and present it with the utmost conviction. This does help win over some of the tougher people.”
One piece of advice Palacio gives entrepreneurs is to “find what your areas of strength truly are. This will also help you to recognize your weaknesses. It is a vital step, and the sooner you can see where you need to ask for help from outside sources, the sooner you will be free to focus on developing the areas where you are most efficient.”
Now that’s connecting like an entrepreneur.
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