As folks toil away in their jobs, every so often they have a good idea for a product or service that meets an unmet need.
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Jean Newell used an idea as a parachute to a new life as an entrepreneur after the real estate industry collapsed.
We asked Jean to tell us how the transition from real estate agent to entrepreneur transpired and how it's going so far.
Jean, let's start with the basics. What type of work were you doing before you became an entrepreneur?
I had a 35-year career in real estate in Central Florida and then the entire industry all but disappeared.
There were no jobs available for professionals with a strong real estate resume.
Because my area also has a large percentage of engineers and highly skilled professionals, even those with Masters Degrees were applying for truck driver positions.
You've got your own company now, right? What is it and what do you do there?
About a year before the real estate bubble burst, I found I needed a way to carry my small (easily misplaced) electronic devices in one bag or accessory. Realtors were carrying up to 5 electronic items like cell phone, palm pilot, blackberry, electronic lock box keys, digital cameras and that was in addition to the low tech items like car keys, pen, paper, glasses etc.
Because of the mobility of our profession I found I was constantly laying one of these gadgets down and later trying to find it. What I needed one "professional tool belt" to carry everything. I soon discovered other Realtors and sales professionals were having the same problem.
I spearheaded the search for the "perfect" accessory both men and women could use. We found there just wasn't such a thing. So I created the PUP (personal utility pouch) bag for our needs.
I founded Newco Enterprises, LLC as a marketing and distribution company. By the way I had no formal education in finance, business, or the invention process.
Wow, talk about learning on the job! Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur instead of simply looking for another job?
There were no jobs available in the real estate industry. Sometimes I think my startup company found me as the timing was ideal and it was a fairly easy transition.
Just two months after the PUP's debut I was fortunate enough to get my product noticed by QVC. It went though their testing and evaluation process and then I was asked to appear on-air. I flew up and back from Orlando to the QVC studios outside of Philadelphia, on over 70 planes in 18 months appearing on QVC as the guest inventor. The PUP sold over 1.5 million dollars in sales at QVC.
My business resulted from the need of a product. At the time, I had no plans on starting a business it was just "a means to an end".
My Real Estate career was going strong and I started my business as side venture for the PUP bags which originally were intenned for real estate agents. When the real estate market collapsed, I focused my energy into my side venture as an inventor.
Owning a business is very different from working as an employee. What are some of the biggest differences you've noticed?
Because I worked strictly commission as a Realtor, I didn't find a great difference between being an independent contractor and a CEO of my own company.
The one big plus is that I am in total control of my destiny.
That's a great feeling to have. So, what advice would you give to somebody who is leaving the life of working for a company to go out on their own?
Line up all possible financing opportunities prior to leaving your current position.
In my case I had a need for a $20,000 loan to help sublimit an order for QVC. I would only need the funding for 120 days yet 9 banks rejected me. Every one of them wanted to know how long I had been in business. Four months was not the answer they were looking for.
You may need to qualify for an open loan while you're still employed. If that is not possible, then look at all the funding available to you including: private loans, credit cards, insurance and retirement funds. Analyze the loans based on the best and worst case scenarios.
Credit cards may seem to be a quick fix but the interest and payments may not be as desirable as an equity loan for example. It's best to know your financial options far in advance of your needs.
Anything else you'd care to share with us regarding the transition from being employed to starting a business?
Find something you enjoy doing. As a start up business you will be working more hours for less money. If you're not doing something that is of interest to you or you already have a passion for, instead of being a dream come true it will be your biggest nightmare.