Clear Paths to Business Ownership Aren’t Always Marked
Every business owner has a unique path to entrepreneurship. For some it’s a passion, for some it’s intentional, and for some it is fate. Frances Gentile started her business eleven years ago when she was fired from her “miserable job”. She told us, “I remember it very clearly, it was a Tuesday and I had ridden my bike to work. On that ride home I thought of this business idea and the name.” Just a few weeks later she attended an Intro to GROW class and that’s how her story started.
Frances admits she’s never looked back on that job, the way it ended and admits that sometimes things happen for a reason.
One of the most rewarding part of business ownership can include a flexible schedule. While Frances can be done and home by 3:30, she does still sometimes work 7 days a week. One tip Frances shared on flexibility is making sure to set clear boundaries for your schedule and stick to them. While 7 days a week could sound like a lot to us, it doesn’t happen every week, and when it does, she credits wonderful appreciation from her clients, not to mention all the love from the dogs that keep her going.
When we asked about her least favorite part of the job, like most Michiganders it is walking in the icy or sleety weather. Especially when she’s walking past warm, inviting homes. Like all business owners, there are moments when she’s out walking dogs on the holiday, during crummy weather, or is working every day of the week. To that she says to herself, “You got yourself into this.” Still, she shared that she wouldn’t trade a thing because she has more flexibility for her leisure time like her passion for ice skating.
Trust is the backbone of her business.
Clients trust Frances to come into their homes and take care of their dogs. “Trustworthiness is the core of my business. The customers I work with let me in their homes, and I’m talking care of their dogs, which are big parts of their families.”
How did you hear of GROW?
“I stopped into the Women’s Resource Center a few days after getting canned, to ask what to do about my business idea, and they suggested taking the business classes at GROW.” Frances also shared that marketing classes through GROW were some of her favorites. Working on tag lines and the best ways to promote the business are a lot more enjoyable aspects of starting a company than some of the operational items. Still, while the math and financial classes were not as enjoyable, she admits how critical they were to creating her business plan. “The courses and guidance I received from GROW was, and still is one of the best investments I made in my business.”
Sharing Her Business Advice
- Don’t undersell yourself.
- Do not give friends and family a discount; they need to take you seriously as a business person.
- Do your research on competition and don’t set your prices below them. In fact, she credits GROW with this bit of advice. “Competition has already figured out what they can’t go below in terms of price, so why would you go below their amount? Be a business person.”
Frances recommends those going into business make time to go to the county building and create a DBA. While you can be in business without it, taking time to file a Doing Business As sets you apart from casual dog walkers on Craigslist. This should also include a separate checking account, debit card and phone line. Utilize resources like GROW can help you get the right information to ensure the proper set up for your business, create a business plan and much more.
If you’re out and about in the heart of Grand Rapids you may see Frances walking one of her dogs. Be sure to wave! Learn more about her at www.franceswalksyourdog.com