The Faces of Small Business

Tangela Johnson, North Georgia Center for Educational Excellence 

johnson, tangelaWhy did you decide to start a business?
I wanted to nurture my creative business mind, and I also wanted to control my own destiny.

What has been your biggest challenge?
Not quitting . . .  when I felt like quitting.

What has been the biggest surprise?
How easy it is for someone who is entrepreneurially minded to be successful.

What advice would you give to someone who may be considering starting a business?
Make sure you understand your risk tolerance; have your personal financial house in order, do a lot of soul searching about your level of perseverance because there will be times when apprehension and fear will overwhelm you.  Be honest with yourself about your “number and financial sense”; you have to have a strong relationships with numbers to run a profitable business.

Finally, Consider worst and best case scenarios.  In other words, what’s the worst thing that could happen if the business didn’t work out?  If it won’t kill you, and you feel as if you will always wonder “what if” I stepped out on faith and tried . . .” then perhaps you should go for it!

Brandon Combs, State Farm
Brandon Combs


Why did you decide to start a business?
I think at some point everyone has a dream of starting their own business. Some will follow through and others will not for some reason or another. I was one that dreamed of owning my own business since about middle school. From a small child, I wanted to be veterinarian, a fire fighter, astronaut and then a business owner.  I was not sure what kind of business until later on, but I wanted to be a business owner. Fast forward to 2010 when an opportunity came along that I could not refuse. I had been working for my father since 2004 in his State Farm Insurance office here in Dalton when the opportunity to open my own Agency in no other place than Dalton came along. It was an opportunity that I had dreamed of for years, what I went to college for, a chance to follow in the footsteps of a family of entrepreneurs before me, and in the same business.  So after about 6 months of preparing, hiring, training, building etc… we opened our doors on January 3rd 2011.

What has been your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge is hard to pinpoint. We face so many challenges every day and I think that’s part of the fun and the stress of being a business owner. When you are the owner everyone looks to you because you are it. You have to have the answers or be able to get them and get them quickly. You have employees looking to you for support, guidance and more importantly a pay check. You have customers look to you for products and help. It’s a revolving door of challenges. But at the end of the day when you’re walking out the door, your worst day is still your best because you are the owner, you get to come back tomorrow and do it all over again.

What has been the biggest surprise?
Making it almost 5 years…..No I would say the biggest surprise is all the regulation in small business. We have to comply with many federal, state and local laws. I knew that you could not just open your doors and hang a sign up but I had no idea of the challenge of working to get through all the red tape. And it’s not a one-time process, it’s every year and multiple times throughout the year. Locally this experience hasn’t been bad, and I will say this, every time I have had to work with our local government it has been a pleasant experience.

What advice would you give to someone who may be considering starting a business?
I would tell them to not give up, when things are looking down or even looking up always remember things are done by God’s will. I do not flaunt my Christian beliefs but I do not hide them either. If you are married or have a significant other you need to make sure they are up for the challenge, you will have trying times financially and with your time.  Make sure you have thought of everything and then think some more. Always ask questions and never be afraid to tell someone you don’t know the answer but you will find out and let them know. Find a mentor early and use them. You will never know everything and don’t act like you do, I learn something new literally every day.

Jesus Fraire, Datz A Wrap

Jesus FraireWhy did you decide to start a business?
I began my first business at age 21, after I realized that I was never going to get ahead working for someone else. I always had a ceiling that stood between me and the next level up. After 3 years of trying to climb the ladder all I saw above me every time I looked up was a “big butt” sounds silly but it’s true. My superiors never wanted to teach me more because of fear that I would end up taking their position. I always had restrictions, and silly rules to adhere to (ie: when I could eat, when I could use the restroom, when I had to clock in/clock out, it felt a lot like grade school. So instead of climbing the ladder I decided to own the ladder and call my own shots. Whether they were good or bad decisions it didn’t matter because at the end of the day it was my choice. I liked the fact that I was responsible for the success or lack thereof.

What has been your biggest challenge?
There are many challenges that come with owning any type of business. In the beginning any little thing that came up would throw me for a loop, but eventually I began to understand that the troubles I faced would either make me quit or make me stronger and keep pushing forward. If I had to pick a tough challenge that I wasn’t expecting, it is the negativity I received.  The worst part is, that most of it came from family. I had to be stronger and stop listening to them and change my association and instead of fighting to prove the negative people “wrong”, I fought to prove the people that believed in me “right”.

What has been the biggest surprise?
My biggest surprise coming into business ownership was that despite all the challenges and the lack of financial security in the beginning, the small successes became my secret that kept me going when times got tough. Seeing how a simple act of kindness made our client’s day was inspiring. After several instances occurred I discovered quickly that it wasn’t about me anymore, I couldn’t afford to have a bad day because if I showed any signs of a bad attitude it would transpire into my employees and consequently into my customers, ultimately affecting my bottom line.  So the surprise was finding out I’m more motivated by people’s emotions rather than people’s wallets.

What advice would you give to someone who may be considering starting a business?
First would be to define your “why”! If you don’t know why you’re in business then it will be difficult to keep going when things get tough. Most of the time I discovered that challenges often brought a blessing. Also your why will give you a sense of purpose and when you know what you want and why you want it, it makes it easy to come up with a game plan to achieve it. You’re always happy when you’re experiencing forward progress. Don’t be afraid to fail, after all sometimes you win but sometimes you learn. Develop a culture of always growing and learning into your organization from your managers to your new hires.

Second is that no matter what level of competency you begin your business with, you must resolve to always strive to become better in all areas. Seek out mentorship, take part in personal growth programs and have a strong sense of self-worth because the product you sell may change but you will always be you and if people like who you are they will do business with you. Operate your business with integrity, develop a good work ethic, always have a good attitude and be appreciative of the ups and downs. Make sure to give credit where credit is due and for me that’s my personal Savior and Lord Jesus Christ!

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