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Panel consensus: Entrepreneurship has its rewards

Entrepreneurship has its rewards, but it has its drawbacks, too. That was the consensus of a panel ofIMPACTjax6 29 005.small.1 successful Jacksonville-area entrepreneurs who participated in a discussion for young professionals in an ImpactJax workshop, co-sponsored by Advantage: The Resource for Small Business.

Panelists were Jason Sadler, founder of I Wear Your Shirt (, Lauren Little, owner of two Jacksonville Edible Arrangements franchises; Clint Drawdy, president of Hire Methods, Inc.; Teresa Meares, CEO of DGG Taser & Tactical Supply (; and Marco Fortini, owner and president of Optimum Spring Solutions ( Moderator of the panel was Brian Barquilla, founder and publisher of Advantage (

Although the reasons why each panelist opened his or her business varied, all agreed they were enticed by the allure of running their own business. Meares said getting into her business, tactical supply for law enforcement, was a natural progression for her, since she had been a police officer. “I saw the absolute potential for the business. There was no retail outlet [for tactical equipment]. I wanted to become a one-stop shop.”

Drawdy admitted that he and his friend, who became his partner, had been talking about starting their own recruitment business for a long time. One night they said, “Let’s do it!” And they did.

Getting started in a business is always difficult. Fortini said he and his wife went to SCORE for help and advice. He was fortunate in that he was matched up with someone with similar background in manufacturing, and he received great advice. Financing, though, was another issue. “Out of 20 lenders, only one was willing to finance us—at 40%. So, we turned to self-funding. Our family provided the funding.”

Meares said she was funded through a Small Business Administration loan. “If you can get through all the paperwork, it is well worth it,” she said.

Sadler said, “I bought 250 hangars at Target. I already had a camera.” He admitted, however, that his business is unique in having low start-up costs; he wears T-shirts of other companies and promotes the company whose T-shirt he is wearing through social media, including Web casts. He learned, however, that despite low start-up costs, becoming successful takes time. “I thought putting up a Web site would do it,” he said. “It didn’t. It takes a lot of time and hard work.”

Another challenge of small business owners is staying fresh. Barquilla asked how the panelists get new ideas to grow their businesses.

Meares offered a number of ways she gets ideas. “I dream about the legacy I want to leave my kids,” she said. I watch my competition and do the opposite so I can stand out. I listen to my customers. I try to offer solutions to their problems. And I think about what I’ve done that I can create a program, such as in offering personal self-defense to consumers.”

Drawdy said he and his partner intentionally spend time together each week to generate ideas. “We also talk with our employees. We have a dream management program. We want to know our employees’ dreams and our HR directors helps those dreams come true. We really engage our employees.”

Little said that because she is a franchise owner, a lot of ideas are pushed down from the corporation. But, she said, those ideas need a local touch. To her, it is in branding herself as the Jacksonville Edible Arrangements person. “I get out into the community … I’m active. It’s a branding process.”

Owning your own business has its benefits, said the panelists. “You can make decisions fast. You don’t have to go through a lot of red tape,” said Little.

Meares said, “I get to lead the way I always wanted to be led. I work for my employees. The biggest benefit to me is to see them grow.”

Despite its benefits, however, business ownership has its drawbacks. “The stress of having 24 people depend on me for a paycheck is a drawback,” said Meares. “So is cash flow.”

Sadler admitted that work-life balance was his biggest challenge. “I work 14 hours a day. During my first year, a relationship ended. I’ve lost touch with my friends. It’s a big issues about balancing.”

“There are a lot of tradeoffs,” said Drawdy. “Balance is one of them.”

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