Gena Rotstein is an entrepreneur in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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She left her employer to start her own business, and we asked her a few questions about what she's learned along the way.
Gena, thanks for participating in our interview. So, what type of firm were you working at before you started a company? How long had you been there?
I was the Director of Resource Development for a non-profit management consulting firm and left in Jan. 2008. I left after three years when I felt I could no longer do my job creatively. I had hit burnout.
You've got your own company now, right? What is it and what do you do there?
Dexterity Consulting – I provide charitable advising services for individuals, families and small/medium sized businesses.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur instead of simply looking for another job?
I saw that there was a need in my sector for effective counsel on charitable giving and I also so that charities needed assistance in building up their donor stewardship programs.
So I am able to marry my skills as a fundraiser/business developer with my passion for community and my network.
Did you buy a business or start a business from scratch? Why did you do one instead of the other? Which do you think is the best approach?
I started this from scratch as there is nobody in my marketplace providing charitable advising services (there are consultants who provide CSR and community investment marketing strategies for businesses though).
I spent two years (overlapping while I was working for my previous employer) developing my business plan, pulling together my advisory committee and networking. I think the best thing I did was pull together a group of savvy business people and connected individuals to help guide me through the process of evolving my company
After one year I am moving into an office (instead of working from home), I have hired 2 part-time staff and have set up some strategic partnerships with other businesses to cross promote my services.
How did you decide what kind of business to go into?
It was easy – there was an obvious gap in the market and nobody seemed to be filling it. The timing was right (even with the stock market crashing).
Owning a business is very different from working as an employee. What are some of the biggest differences you've noticed? What do you miss? What don't you miss?
I miss having weekends. I seem to be working all the time. I love the fact though, that if I choose not to work, it is my choice.
I also like that I am home when I need to be home or can be at the office/coffee shop/client's office based on my schedule.
At first it was very solitary and I missed that. I found myself at coffee shops just to get the interaction with people, but of course that hit into my budget because I was spending money at those shops.
What advice would you give to somebody who is leaving the life of working for a company to go out on their own?
Have a plan and a strategy to manage that plan. Involve others who can provide you with guidance and advice. Estimate what it is going to cost and then double that.
Make sure you have a strong support network. Have fun and tell your story to as many people as possible. Breathe (this too shall pass), Smile and Laugh. Go for long walks. Ask questions.
If you are under 34 and Canadian, there are a lot of resources available for financing (CYBF was a blessing).