Going Out on My Own

From Employee to Entrepreneur

Brent Ridge, in Sharon Springs, New York, saw the writing on the wall, as he watched the media company he worked for suffer in the down economy. He jumped ship...onto his own ship, a new startup that promotes a lifestyle brand that is cultivating a loyal following.

Here's some great advice from somebody who just left their company to start a business of their own.

Brent Ridge is doing some very interesting things right now, and we asked him how the transition from employee to entrepreneur has been.

Brent, what type of firm were you working at before you quit to start your own company?

I was working for a major media company that is suffering from the advertising downturn. I left the company completely this week (December 2008).

Tell us about your new venture.

I had been gradually developing a concept for my own lifestyle brand based around the idea of seasonal living -- enjoying each season for what it brings us and around the idea that even the average person like me can learn to grow their own food, etc.

I canned enough food this summer to reduce my current grocery bill to less than $10 a week

The website is www.beekman1802.com.

We celebrate the artisanal and the handmade, and since launching in April we cannot keep up with the demand for our primary product -- handmade goat milk soap.

In addition we have about 1,000 visitors to our website each day who just peruse our blogs.

Providing an experiential element, we believe, is essential to building our brand. People like to learn right along with us, and they can do so by reading our multiple blogs.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur instead of simply looking for another job?

Even though I am still relatively young and early in my career (34), I have been very fortunate to have been exposed to a lot of different businesses and to have worked in very entrepreneurial environments.

I've always had an entrepreneurial streak, and even won the NYU business plan competition when I was in the MBA program

Did you buy a business or start a business from scratch? Which do you think is the best approach?

I started the business from scratch. It's a lifestyle brand built around my personal experiences. I think the approach will differ based on the particular opportunity.

A good entrepreneur is one who can see untapped value and act on it. In some situations that means buying an underperforming business and it others it means finding an empty niche and staking your claim

How did you decide what kind of business to go into?

I wanted to create a business that allowed me to spend more time at my vacation home in upstate NY. At the same time, I wanted to find a way to create business opportunities for members of that community.

I'm sure owning a business is very different from working a day job. What are some of the biggest differences you've noticed? What do you miss?

In the traditional work environment, there is a constant opportunity to learn from your peers and colleagues. The transfer of intellectual capital is very easy and essentially free for the taking.

As an entrepreneur, you have to spend more time to get the same information.

What advice would you give to somebody who is heading down a similar path?

I think there is sufficient anecdotal evidence to suggest that if you are truly doing something you love, then you will be successful.

While this may sound like some self-help mantra that is easy to dismiss, take a minute to think about how many people you know who are REALLY doing something they love and are passionate about.

The dollar can't be the passion. The dollar comes as the result of the passion. After you have identified your passion, then put in the effort to develop the business plan

Anything else you'd care to share with us regarding the transition from working as an employee to starting a business?

Be very economical when starting out. There's almost always a way to get a service or supply cheaper. Always look for a way to barter.

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