Adrian Dayton isn’t a stranger to setbacks; he knows that when you start your own business, they come with the territory.
In 2009, Dayton launched the first social media consultancy for the legal industry to help them increase profitability through effective use of digital media. He spoke to thousands of lawyers throughout the world and published two books. But he soon realized that lawyers weren’t sharing their content through social media channels, so he established ClearView Social, a social marketing and sharing tool.
Although Dayton’s business is web-based, his knowledge of coding was limited. As a result, he made some mistakes that derailed him, including choosing the wrong code. He also learned that he had to “hire slowly and fire quickly,” even when it came to friends. “It’s not the easiest lesson to learn,” he says, “but it is an incredibly important one.”
Despite the setbacks, Dayton’s company currently grosses $1.4 million in revenue annually and someday, he hopes to sell it.
“It is my goal to build a scalable company that will be portable,” he says, “meaning another company or firm could come along and the systems would be in place to run it indefinitely.”
Anita Sanders and her husband are also entrepreneurs who have faced challenges along the way.
Both were police officers nearing retirement when they decided to use their experience to establish Trace Assets Protection Services, LLC, a security guard and private investigation company, in 2012. As their list of contracts grew, the couple began hiring additional employees, resulting in increased payroll that Sanders and her husband initially paid for through their personal savings. They then began looking for a funding source, she says, borrowing from family before eventually applying for and receiving a loan from the Excelsior Growth Fund.
As a small business, it’s vital to know how to manage your own finances, Sanders adds, and notes that classes at Buffalo State and through the Excelsior Growth Fund have helped her keep track of her company’s financial growth. Today, the company has a client base in Buffalo, including the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, and in Syracuse. Sanders hopes to expand to New York City as well. She is also planning to offer security guard training, now that she has been recently certified to teach.
While working as a hair stylist at several salons in Buffalo, Kenchata Carter saw that there were no professionally run full-service salons that catered to a predominantly African-American clientele. So in 2009, she opened Salon Soar on Kensington Avenue. The shop offers a full range of services to a diverse customer base, including hair, nails, facials, massages, full-body waxing, and makeup. It also sells products, clothing, and accessories.
Carter started her entrepreneurial journey as a one-woman operation, and quickly saw that she needed to find a location to set up shop and hire employees if she wanted her business to grow. But what she didn’t realize was that without the capital for marketing or signage, it was a challenge to attract new customers. “I wish I had surrounded myself with others and networked more instead of staying to myself,” she says, “because that is how you can share your testimonies and learn from each other.”
Today, Carter wants to help other aspiring entrepreneurs learn from her experience. “My plan is to give back and share my blueprint and testimony with others by providing classes and seminars,” she says.
Despite the obstacles they faced, these entrepreneurs were able to make their business plans a reality, and all are positioned for continued growth, thanks to their ability to overcome the challenges and persevere to meet their goals.
“You own 100% of your success as a startup,” Dayton says. “Nobody is going to give you a ribbon and say ‘you are a success.’ When you’re an entrepreneur, the proof of your success is how well your business is running.”