Do you ever wonder how people become successful business owners and how you can do it, too? Having built and sold a number of businesses, if I could give you any advice about starting a successful business and keeping it alive, one of my biggest tips would be to solve problems and stay relevant! This is how I got my start and how I continue to grow businesses today. Let me share with you my story and how you can apply what I’ve learned to share your message and make a living doing something you’re truly passionate about, too.
Starting My First Business
I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. My dad was always starting new businesses, which was great, and I learned a ton from him! But because of this, money was tight. No one on either side of my family had gone to college and when the time came to think about my education, I had to figure out a way to pay for it. Thus began my passion for entrepreneurism!
I had a love for cars, so at the age of 13, I started buying used vehicles from the State of Michigan, fixing them up, and selling them for a small profit. The first state owned vehicle I bought was a bright orange, beat up El Camino! Do you remember those? I took that orange El Camino down to Earl Scheib and got it painted black for $99. I cleaned it up and sold it for $1000. My first business was born!
Once I started flipping enough vehicles to pay my way through college at Michigan State University, I realized that selling cars was becoming a pain! I had to meet people I didn’t know, negotiate with them, and deal with all the paperwork to transfer the title. For a young girl, this was a little scary and dangerous. And it became very time-consuming when I was constantly going to meet people who didn’t show up. I had to figure out a solution to this problem.
Simplifying the Process
My solution was the All-Michigan Auto Swap Meet. I rented a plot of land from the State of Michigan. People who were selling their vehicles came and rented a space from me on Saturdays. I advertised the event to people who were in the market to buy used vehicles and then took a cut of each sale. This business generated enough profit to get me through college!
The Auto Swap Meet was one of the first times I took something that was a good idea and also a bit of a burden, and I simplified it. Not only did I solve a problem for myself and a lot of other people, but I increased my profits, too! This was just the beginning…
Solving Problems Creates Businesses
In 1997, I found myself working my way through law school, teaching fitness classes for $13/hour, and training clients before and after work. On top of this, I spent hours upon hours finding music and creating choreography to prepare for my classes. While I absolutely loved teaching exercise classes, I thought, “There’s got to be an easier way!”
So, I looked at the Jazzercise format, tweaked it, and made it my own. Soon, my husband Bret and I began selling videos and music for fitness instructors that had the entire class pre-formatted to deliver a great workout and save instructors tons of time! The videos were a huge success and before we knew it, we had certified over 70,000 fitness professionals in 28 different countries!
Consequently, this was around the same time that infomercials for fitness programs were really taking off. I had a giant book of before and after pictures from students who had done my fitness program in gyms all over the world. That book of before and after pictures turned out to be a golden opportunity! Word of the book got out, and we ended up signing a deal with a company to create and sell this workout program for people to do in their homes via TV infomercials. We quickly had the #1 infomercial in the nation!
Staying Relevant in a Changing Industry
I later went on to create more programs to help people get in shape at home. You would think with the success of our first infomercial that these new programs would be an instant hit! Well, the infomercials for my new programs hit #1, but only for a short period of time. It wasn’t that the product couldn’t help people or that they didn’t need it. It was the fact that the infomercial world was changing. At this point, I started to pay attention. What was happening with the infomercial business?
I looked at my own behaviors and realized that people weren’t channel surfing anymore. With the introduction of DVR, consumers were recording their shows and watching them at a later time. It became clear that I had to figure out a new way to reach people in the marketplace. And we did! This is why I always tell people to pay attention, be first, and make adjustments when you feel that your industry is beginning to shift. This is critical to your business being successful and staying relevant!
Finding Your Purpose
As much as I loved cars and fitness, I found through my experiences as an entrepreneur that what I’m really passionate about is helping people, and my gift and purpose is simplifying! I love helping people make their lives easier, happier, and more balanced by simplifying things that would otherwise be complicated. Whether that was helping people sell their vehicles, create fitness classes, or get in shape at home, it didn’t matter. My purpose was simplifying!
I since began teaching people my systems for simplifying their life. I’ve created a business doing what I love — simplifying and teaching – and I feel like I’m living my purpose and a very fulfilling life.
So what about you? Deep down, what is your purpose and passion? How can you apply that to where you are in your life now? How can you share what you know and help other people? How can you apply that to your business? And what shifts and changes are occurring in your industry that you need to stay on top of? While this might be a little overwhelming, and you might not know exactly where to start, the opportunities available to us today with the Internet have made it possible to build a successful business a thousand times faster than I did! It’s your turn! All you have to do is discover your passion and purpose, solve problems, and be aware of what’s going on around you!
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