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All The Help You Can Get in Running Your Small Business

Running a business, small or big, is often a challenge. It may look simple, even effortless for people on the outside looking in but the reality is that running a business takes more than guts, it takes a certain ruthlessness, lots of optimism and a certain bravado.

When Nic started this business in 1998, little did I know I’d be joining him. I was happily thinking of climbing the corporate ladder, ambitious old me. I was thinking, maybe a PA to the Chairman or even Head of Corp Comms would sound lovely on my business card.

Anyway, in the end, I quit my corporate job and joined Nic to run our small business. It’s been quite a journey but it is always a journey of thrills and spills, of strategizing and re-strategizing, of generating ideas, of planning the next step. It is sometimes stressful but I prefer this over a nine-to-five job.

I would be what you’d call the reluctant business person. I was thrown into this deep end of the pool because I got sick and tired of my corporate job. I could not see myself as a business person for ages because I felt one had to have a special talent for business in order to be in business.

But over the years, I’ve come to relish being a business person so much so I decided to start WomenBizSENSE with a good friend. WomenBizSENSE is a women entrepreneurs club to help other women who have just started their businesses. Of course, we’re still a small group but we have big dreams of reaching out to more and more women and assisting them in nurturing their businesses.

I came across this helpful resource recently for small business. SCORE is an American website with lots of helpful links, articles, resources, videos and more on starting and running a small business. It’s full of good business advice. And if you want more business stuff, there’s more over at AllBusiness.

Running a small business is no mean feat. That’s why you need all the help you can get.

An Incredible Opportunity for Young Entrepreneurs

I got to know Anna Campbell of Women Business Owners in mid 2004 back in the days when I was still working from home and I have been highly impressed with her work – she inspired me to set up my own businesswomen’s networking group, WomenBizSense in 2006.

Anna is the President and Founder of Women Business Owners (501c3 non profit organization) where the mission is to help women and youth build their current and future businesses with integrity, intelligence, and longevity.

Anna Campbell, the brain behind Junior Apprentice Program (US)

As an entrepreneur, Anna has owned a candle company, printing company, and an event coordination company. She’s an avid volunteer within her community, helping her local schools, community association, business groups, and other related organizations.

Anna has infectious energy, positive, warm and most of all, a giver. (I noticed that lots of successful people are givers in life. What you give, you receive.)

So it was with much excitement that I learnt early this year that Anna was starting an entrepreneurship adventure called Junior Apprentice US Program for budding American teenagers between the ages of 10 and 18 years.

Says Anna,” Ideas were forming in early March of 2008 about a program that Women Business Owners (WBO) could offer for the next generation. We wanted to figure out how we could make an impact on the lives of those interested in business ownership, before it was time for them to make the final decisions in adulthood.”

The logical option, notes Anna, would be to mentor and educate the young and provide them with the connections and tools necessary to build a strong base for future business ownerships. (What a great idea!)

Their plans include hosting the first annual Junior Apprentice US Summer Camps this summer.

With the theme “creating a foundation for future entrepreneurs”, I am happy to have had the chance to interview her. It’s fabulous to be able to pick her brains and understand more about this amazing program.

Personally I love the idea of mentoring youths especially teenagers who are open and excited about being entrepreneurs. As business owners ourselves, Nic and I always love the idea of supporting youth in achieving their dreams. We have met so many energetic and idea-driven youths recently but that’s totally another story for another day.

Krista: What gave you the idea to start this program?

Anna: We were trying to think of a way that we could get information and training to entrepreneurs earlier. So that the success rate would be higher and the reality of owning a business would be understood before starting a business.

Krista: What are your bigger aims & hopes for this program?

Anna: We are hoping that we will effectively reach the younger generations as soon as they start getting interested in business ideas, making an income, and working with others to form groups to raise funds. This way we can help build a stronger foundation for future entrepreneurs and create a structured environment for learning, sharing, and growing.

Krista: How will students be chosen for the program?

Anna: They will be asked to submit an application. We will try and accept all interested students into the summer camp program.

Krista: How will mentors be chosen?

Anna: Mentors will be asked to submit an application. Then each application will go through the board over the project, then interviews will be conducted with each potential mentor, and a background check will be done.

Krista: In what ways will the mentors help these students over the course of 1 year? What forms of communication will they use? Will they meet up? Will they check in on each other online? Will today’s social tools play a role in communication?

Anna: We are wanting to focus on hands on learning with a generation of electronic users. Running a business does still require some personal interaction between some owners, staff, and clients.

We will be utilizing online software for communication, however most of the mentoring will be done in person at the mentor’s place of business. This way the students really have a full perspective of business in and outs. Whether it is warehouse shopping, retail selling, creating a product, virtually shopping, shipping, and selling, or working with other businesses to promote online or through the media. The details of the program are being worked out during several planning meetings.

Krista: What happens after 1 year of mentoring?

Anna: The students re-evaluate if owning a business is what they really want, what type of business they are most interested in, and how they plan on making it a reality. Then they go through the summer camp experience again to learn on a higher level, and then are paired up with a mentor that is better suited for the type of business they are interested in owning and operating.

Krista: How is evaluation done to determine key students?

Anna: Workshop leaders will be observing the students they are teaching and providing a survey about the interaction, interest level, and ability they were aware of. Interviews will be conducted following the summer sessions to get a final idea of the seriousness of each student. Then those that score highest will be asked to attend the final camp session.

Krista: Do you have plans for a global program of this nature?

Anna: Yes. We plan on starting small and building the foundation, then creating programs throughout the world and bring this type of awareness and empowerment to children everywhere.

Krista: Will there be exercises and lessons incorporated into the mentoring program?

Anna: Yes, we will be including accounting, networking, marketings, sales, and product/service critiques throughout the annual program.

Krista: Who is in your planning committee?

Anna: We are inviting interested entrepreneurs, superintendents, community leaders, and political leaders to participate in the forming of this program.

Discover more about Anna Campbell’s Junior Apprentice Program at www.jrapprenticeus.org

Thanks to Anna and her team for this endeavour! I wish her all the success and hope we can start something similar here too.

What a Weekend!

Our weekends are generally quite relaxed unless we have a pile of events to attend.

Usually this means anything that is outside of work.

Seafood Dinner That’s So NOT Worth It

Friday, we headed off for a seafood buffet dinner at Cititel downtown but let me tell you, it’s not worth it (RM60 nett per person). Yes, they had an array of seafood but the taste and quality was average. I would be really mad to go back to Cititel again for their buffet. (Note, I am not talking about the Japanese restaurant. This buffet is offered by the Main Street Cafe of the hotel.) Still, we managed to eat some fresh oysters, raw tuna and salmon and then some.

Saturday was a long day for both of us.

We had a Malay wedding lunch to attend at the nearby school hall before we rushed off to help organise a public talk on getting scholarships. I wished I had my camera because it’s been a long time since I attended a Malay wedding kenduri.

Scholarship Talk by Chen Chow

Nic’s a committee member of Malaysia Mensa (Penang chapter) and one of those responsibilities he takes on is organising talks which benefit the community. Other committee members take on tasks like organising durian feasts when the durian season rolls around, organising bowling tournaments, getting together to have a party, things like that. It’s a small committee but one that’s close-knit.

The speaker this time was Chen Chow who volunteered to speak for the Penang chapter as he is the head interviewer for Cornell University (one of the Ivy League universities in the USA) in Malaysia. He is also a former recipient of the JPA scholarship and a former Cornell student. He’s also incredibly humble and patient!

Right now, Chen Chow is working for Jobstreet where he deals with campus students as he does quite a bit of roadshows on the college circuit. As he still works closely with campus students and has a soft spot for helping others, he was the right person to talk about scholarships (both local and overseas), what to do in an interview, what not to write in application essays, what TOEFL and SAT are all about, tips on filling up scholarship applications and more.

I’m not even interested in getting scholarships (I’ve past the school-going age already anyway) and I’ve listened to Chen Chow twice now but even I found his talk highly engaging, funny and full of amazing tips and pointers. The 40 or so parents and their teenagers were glued to Chen Chow and some even refused to leave when the talk was over, preferring to have some private chat with Chen Chow. (As an aside, what is it with freeloaders? Attendees to the talk paid RM10 per person to cover the costs of renting the hall and refreshments but one old guy refused to pay even though he happily munched on curry puffs and took his tea!)

I didn’t take any photos of the talk as my camera battery died on me! I will have to wait for Fintan’s photos once he downloads them from his camera.

Penang Government – One Year in Governance

Nic and I had debated if we should continue going for the Pakatan Rakyat’s one-year anniversary celebration that evening at the Esplanade. It was already 6.30pm and we were already tired after a day of ‘work’.

I’m glad in a way that we went because I heard a number of them speak – Jeff Ooi, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and of course, fearless lawyer Karpal Singh. 8 March last year was the day the Pakatan Rakyat wrestled Penang state from Barisan Nasional so it has been a year of being in power. 8 March is also International Women’s Day.

I believe that Penang is much better with the Pakatan Rakyat. Sure they have disagreements among themselves but better disagreements than fake camaraderie. And they do work, and they work damn hard too.

Of course I felt that some of the state exco could be improved; for instance, the guy who holds the state exco for tourism… his English definitely needs brushing up! Some of them have not grown out of their mindset as the former opposition and still keep talking about non-issues. Come on, let’s look ahead and see what needs to be done. One Malay chap kept talking about 100 days in power. Excuse me, sir, but it’s been a whole year, not 100 days in power. Did you recycle your speech?

Brickbats aside, I would call it an interesting day indeed! I was so tired out when we got home.

Next weekend’s another packed one, beginning with my WomenBizSense meeting on Friday, then my MNS Get Together (dinner and night walk at Botanical Garden) and then the Mensa Penang Annual General Meeting on Sunday (lunch, ice-breaker and AGM). It’ll be so much fun!