Employee to Entrepreneur

Recessions Create Great Entrepreneurs

The current recession may be the mother of all recessions. But previous recessions have generated their fare share of talented entrepreneurs. We caught up with Miriam Silverberg, owner of a New York PR firm, to hear her story about how she got started as an entrepreneur.

Miriam Silverberg Associates owns and runs a boutique publicity agency in New York, New York.

She volunteered to be downsized in her previous job and has been loving life as an entrepreneur ever since.

Miriam, tell me about your job before you became an entrepreneur. What were you doing?

For about eight years, I was a concierge at a large, multinational trading company. We had an office in every major city around the world and New York was the headquarters. This was during the 80's recession and I was voluntarily downsized.

But now you own a business, right?

I own a boutique publicity firm. As far as what I do, I do everything. It's my business. Nothing is too small or too big. It's me and I love it.

You had a choice back then. You could have just gotten a job. Instead, you decided to start a company. Why did you go that route?

I became an entrepreneur partly because it's part of my DNA. My father had always owned his own business and I wanted to, too.

Another reason is I don't like being told what to do. I like sinking or swimming on my own.

Fortunately, I had my father to lend moral and financial support. He told me, "you won't starve because I won't let you." Also, he told me the saddest words in the English language are "it might have been" and he didn't want me years later wondering what would have happened if I had gone out on my own.

Did you just start from scratch or did you buy an existing PR firm? I'm also curious about how you went from working as a concierge to being in the publicity business.

I started my own business.

If you really want to work without a net, I suppose a startup is best.

If you buy a successful business, then you can trade on the previous owner's success.

I decided to go into publicity because as a concierge I knew the city like the back of my hand. I knew everything and everyone. People would ask me for advice. Someone wrote a book but no one's buying it. What should he do? Someone opened in a cabaret but no one's coming. What do do? I finally decided I could make money at this so I quit my job and never looked back.

That's interesting. I hadn't really thought about the similarities between what a concierge does and what a PR firm does, but they are similar in many ways. So, how does owning a business compare to being an employee?

The differences between being an owner and an employee are enormous. As an employee, you don't lie awake nights worrying. On the other hand, neither do you walk on air because the company got a client an interview on television.

Entrepreneurs are born, not made. I don't miss a thing about being an employee, not even getting a steady paycheck.

Seems like you bring a lot of confidence to your business. What makes you confident that you will be successful as an entrepreneur?

To be flippant about it, it helps being an only child, as I was.

Only children are self-sufficient and have high self-esteem. As an entrepreneur no one is going to tell you how great you are but you.

What advice would you give to others who are setting out to become entrepreneurs right now?

Seriously, have enough money so you don't kill yourself if you don't make money right away.

Good advice. Anything else you'd like to add?

I just love being my own boss. On the one hand, every client is my "boss" but if I want to, I can fire that boss. I can just resign and look for another client I like better.

That's a great observation that customers are bosses. Some new entrepreneurs think they will work for themselves, but there's still a boss there in effect. Listen, thanks so much for doing this interview. Really appreciate it!

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We hope you enjoyed this interview with Miriam Silverberg, President of Miriam Silverberg Associates, on her path from employee to entrepreneur. We welcome your comments, tips and advice below. And, if you need a good PR firm in New York, get in touch with Miriam.

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