"We all go to work every day to make money, right?" business owner Jacob Carlile rhetorically asked in a recent interview. "So my biggest fear was: am I going to be able to find the client base that will generate the revenue that will sustain my company? That will sustain me?"
In 2011 Jacob launched The Carlile Group, an architecture firm, after moving back home to the Kankakee area from Chicago.
He remembers well the fears that accompanied his decision to cease working for someone else and to be the guy in charge himself.
"Everything I learned in school taught me to be an architect," he said. "No one taught me how to run a business. But being an architect is only half of my job. Insurance, taxes, invoicing a client... Up until I started my own business, I had architecture knowledge, but no business management knowledge."
Parts of Jacob's story echo in the business recap of Jeffrey Rice, who started a local computer repair shop called GeekSpeak in 2011.
"The most intimidating part was putting ourselves out there," Jeffrey said, "risking that people wouldn't see our idea as being beneficial."
The idea was simple: Jeffrey and his associates can speak "geek" — that is, the language of IT — while most people cannot. "We think of ourselves as the interpreters," said Jeffrey.
But would other people catch on? Would they find the idea worthwhile?
Like any good entrepreneur, Jeffrey knew that at some point he had to swallow the fear of the risk — and take the first step. And that's where Enterprise University came in.
"It opened the door to us walking toward our dream," said Jeffrey. "It put us on the path."
Enterprise U is a local program and competition for new business owners or future business owners who may still be putting final touches on their dreams. Enterprise U helps entrepreneurs take an idea from conception to start-up, while fostering creativity, innovation, and networking.
Jeffrey with GeekSpeak participated in the very first Enterprise U in 2010. "The biggest draw for us was to have established business owners in the community look over our business plan."
When Jacob Carlile went through Enterprise U in 2012, he had already launched his new business. When he joined Enterprise U for networking purposes, he was shocked at how much there was to learn. "I remember thinking, 'Wow I have a lot to do. I didn't realize there was so much paperwork!'"
Jacob said he had done what most new business owners do: hit the ground running.
"I hadn't stopped to consider the long-term," he explained. "I wasn't in a position to control growth."
Enterprise U provided both Jacob and Jeffrey with knowledge, mentors, resources, and business plan guidance. "It's a very worthwhile adventure," says Jeffrey.
And Jacob didn't know that being a business owner would be quite as challenging as it is, but even so, he wouldn't go back. "I didn't anticipate the highs and lows," he said. "But at the end of the day, it's extremely gratifying."
Enterprise U is starting its sixth season THIS MONTH. Visit www.eu.kankakeecountychamber.com to learn more about the benefits of participating, deadlines, events, and the prizes for the top three winners.
Don't miss out!