The Entrepreneurial Journey

By Mark Urban The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) At this week's "SOAR with SCORE" event entrepreneurs shared their entrepreneurial journeys (the good, bad and ugly) Heather Burson owner of "Third Coast Bakery" said the most important thing in the formation of her business was to NOT pretend she knew all the answers. #humility

TRAVERSE CITY

Knowing what you don't know is more important than knowing what you do.

That was the message "The Accidental Entrepreneur" Heather Burson delivered in the first of four BizChats at the inaugural SOAR with SCORE event Tuesday afternoon at the Hagerty Center.

Burson, the owner of Third Coast Bakery, never intended to go into the business world when she first started making food that her now husband, J.D. could tolerate as he dealt with treatments for brain cancer.

With a lot of help from SCORE, Burson eventually launched what she said is the only gluten-, soy-, dairy-free and vegan bakery and coffee house in Michigan -- and one of two in the country. Burson said the most important thing in the formation of the business was to not pretend she knew all the answers.

That just leads to an over-inflated ego and a business that under-delivers, she said.

"It's very difficult to come back from that," Burson said, adding that the three musts of business should be to: hire a good lawyer, a good accountant and "people who are smarter than you."

Burson's presentation on starting a business was followed by BizChats from Ed Girrbach, the CEO of Great Lakes Potato Chip Company; Paul Britten, the president of Britten, Inc. and Bill Marsh Jr., the co-owner of Marsh Auto Group.

Girrbach, whose company in 2019 celebrated its 10th year in business and is now a second-stage company, talked about marketing and cost control.

Girrbach said remaining visible has helped the family business grow into a company that has as many as 40 full-time employees and which processes 125,000 pounds of potatoes each week that are transformed into a product that flows through 20 distributors to nine U.S. states and Canada.

"We're a busy little factory," he said.

Girrbach said -- as did Burson before him -- that sampling their products and word-of-mouth advertising work best.

"We do everything we can to get a potato chip in someone's mouth," Girrbach said.

Another central message of the BizChats was that no good business idea came to fruition without hard work.

Britten, who just saw the Broadway production of Hamilton in New York City, talked about how Britten, Inc. began in the mid-1980s by filling a niche that didn't exist in the marketplace.

"Why wouldn't I take the shot?" Britten said, a reference to "My Shot" from the Hamilton production.

Burson said purpose is found at the intersection of passion and the needs of others.

"What gets you out of bed in the morning except debt?" Burson asked.

She later added that business owners should "do what makes you come alive, because that's what the world needs."

Networking opportunities came before, in between and after the discussions. Each speaker also donated a 30-minute business consultation. The winning business cards were drawn from a bowl after each BizChat.

Barbara Shellman, chair of the marketing committee for the Traverse City SCORE chapter, said the unofficial attendance count for the event was 150.

"Which is great for our inaugural event," Shellman said. "There was a lot of energy in the room and a lot of great networking." Shellman said a committee will meet to talk about the first Soar with SCORE -- but she expects the event to return in 2020.

"That's the plan right now," Shellman said. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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