Christy Annis has been running her Atlanta, GA based organization, Peas for Prosperity since November 2009. Thanks for stopping by to chat Christy!
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Peas for Prosperity creates jobs for disadvantaged people in Atlanta who need a Second Chance by offering a unique line of products centered around the Black-eyed Pea and a collection of eco-friendly jewelry. The Black-eyed Pea is the South's most historic food – people are passionate about their Peas! We share the story of the Pea with our stylish, eco-friendly, bags of Black-eyed Peas which include a short history of the New Year's tradition and a recipe for Mom's Famous Peas. We have partnered with a local Atlanta non-profit that provides job training and enrichment skills to homeless men and women. We employ program participants to assist with the production and assembly of all of our products until they are able to secure full time employment.
Just as we give people a Second Chance, we also help give the Planet a Second Chance with our unique line of eco-friendly jewelry. Our jewelry is made from 100% recycled, upcycled, thrifted, or vintage materials and each piece is handcrafted and assembled in-house. At Peas for Prosperity, we make it easy to help people get their Second Chance.
That is such a great thing, Christy. When did you start the business?
November 2009. I started the business as a project in order to find a real job – it was supposed to be my own resume builder, a way to network in a new pond, show potential employers what I was capable of, and a way to raise money for charity. It was going to last 2 months and then I would have a job by January 2010. I'm still going and hope I never have to look for a real job again.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I'm a recovering attorney – practicing law was really never for me and through this process I've discovered by parents really wanted me go to law school. Even though I did amazingly well and graduated with honors, it wasn't right for me at the time I went. I spent 12 years trying to fit myself into a box that wasn't right for me and didn't really belong to me. It's been a very painful process.
Before I started Peas for Prosperity, I was a Project Manager in the Wireless Industry. I worked for a company that owned cell phone towers – I would work with the wireless carriers to get their equipment onto their towers. I would manage large projects. It was a very stressful job, I spent a lot of time travelling, we could never do things fast enough, and everything was always our fault. I never realized how unhappy I was. I received my freedom when I was fired in June 2009. The worst of times turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me. When I left that office, I didn't know what I was going to do, I just knew I wasn't going back to corporate. I set out on a mission to recreate my life. A new me emerged and eventually Peas for Prosperity was born.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Don't just talk about it – Do It. No matter how good your business or idea is, some people will never support you. Don't worry about those people.
That's pretty brave advice. How did you come up with your business idea?
I am an accidential entrepreneur – I never intended to start a business. I had lost my job and wanted to do something completely new with my life, something Outside the Box. I needed a resume builder for my new life so I decided to create my own project as a way to find a new job. The project would allow me to network in a new pond, show potential employers what I was capable of, raise money for charity, and in two months I would have a job. 8 months later, I'm still going, hoping I never have to look for another real job.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
I didn't write a business plan because I wasn't starting a business – I was only creating a short term project. I never had time to plan, much less write a business plan and still don't. I'm not a candidate for traditional bank financing so I'm not sure a business plan would help me a great deal.
Green business is all the rage right now. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?
I have adopted green business practices because I care for the environment but also as a way to save money. My motto is: "Let's work with what we got" - we recycle, upcycle, trade, and donate as many materials as possible. We even created an eco-friendly jewelry line using this principle.
Temporary labor can be a great asset to an entrepreneur. Have you ever hired temps or contractors? Would you suggest this as a strategy for new business owners?
I've hired additional temporary labor and this has been the most incredible part of my business. I created a partnership with a local Atlanta non-profit that provides job training and enrichment skills to homeless men and women. I employ pre-screened program participants on a contract basis to assist with the production and assembly of all of my products until they are able to secure full time employment. I have never encountered harder, more dedicated workers and due to the economy, I have a very large labor supply.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Only about a million things! One of my biggest frustrations has been finding quality people to hire for outside help – PR, email marketing, coaching, copy writing. I seem to be cursed. Ask for referrals and don't make snap decisions.
Thank you so much for your time Christy, and good luck with your organization!