(by PAIGE WESLASKI writing for The Journal Times)
Racine, Wisconsin — A new year brings new beginnings, whether physical, spiritual, emotional or professional. It’s crucial for those four avenues to balance; to find equilibrium in body, mind, spirit and work.
I meet countless people, however, who are almost complete. They feel great physically, they’re spiritually “in-tune,” they’re emotionally set, and … they hate their job. Their professional life drags down their well-being ratio, culminating into a life that feels half-hearted and incomplete.
According to The Washington Post, only 13 percent of people actually like going to work. That staggering statistic is a sad one, yet fixable (at least locally). Walking down Sixth Street the other day, I popped my head into Lornacopia, Rustic Soul, 3rd Coast Bicycles, Olde Madrid and Indian Motorcycles. I chatted with store owners/managers, and their stories all sounded similar. “I loved (insert product/passion here) so — poof — I opened a store!”
It’s no wonder why Sixth Street is becoming the “art district” of Racine — it’s full of creatives who have blended their professional and personal lives into a unity of inner fulfillment. We can and should follow suit to feel complete professionally.
They say it’s impossible to compete at the highest level of a particular industry unless we’re deeply passionate about what we do. With a 9-to-5 at a marketing agency, I have thoroughly studied the correct roadmap to opening and sustaining a successful business. I have seen what works and what fails, and because our area will soon become even more bustling than it is today (with Foxconn on the horizon) we can get a head start to building “Wiscon Valley” right here in Racine.
1. Find a void in the market. Creating a business that’s an exact copy of another business already succeeding in Racine (who has already built local trust) is much tougher than starting something fresh and different. A void in the market will lead to hungry customers.
2. Establish your identity early. Create a one-sentence mission statement, and develop a list of adjectives that describe your brand (for example: luxurious, laid back, professional, jolly, etc).
3. Make sure your employees embody your mission/adjectives. The other day, I went to a Racine grocery store and asked the middle-aged checker how his day was going, to which he responded with a groan saying “it’s OK.” Customer service is king, and I wasn’t impressed as I left with my cart.
4. Create a signature service. Instead of starting a business with many services, which can get confusing, start with a main focus. Don’t over-complicate things too early.
5. Define your market. Who is your target customer? Build all the branding and marketing around the target customer (age, economic status, gender, etc).
6. Foster brand loyalty at every opportunity — the majority of your sales will be repeat customers. Offer an incentive for customers to return through a punch card, a membership program or simply through getting to know them personally.
7. Be strategic about marketing prior to opening the doors.Create a Facebook page, logo, website and get the word out to create buzz. Chick-Fil-A on Washington Avenue, for example, did this so successfully that they had people camping outside before opening day.
8. Hold off on spending too much money. You need to make money to spend money. Do your research before overspending on one particular avenue, because it may not work.
9. Pick the brain of others “making it” in the industry from a different but similar location. For example, if you want to open a bookstore, find a successful bookstore in Rockford and interview the owner. You’ll get an honest opinion and learn from their mistakes.
10. Lastly, and most importantly, chase the vision and not the money. The money will end up following you if you’re passionate. Remember, passion can boost your business to the highest level.
I can’t wait to see what new businesses open in 2018.
Paige Weslaski, born and raised in Racine, is a Pepperdine University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in leadership. Paige, 25, has lived in New York, Los Angeles, Europe and Central America, and is now working as an account executive of a marketing company in Downtown Racine. She may be reached via email at Paige@ImageManagement.com.