August 3, 2011
Is it ever considered okay to give up? When you’re launching a new startup, it could be the best thing you’ll ever do for your business in the long run. “I started laying the foundation for my own business as soon as I started working full-time …” said Serena Minott, the co-founder of a Miami based law firm.
“I saved 40% of every pay check, sacrificed a new car and shopping, so I could ultimately go out on my own.” Learn how Minott turned strategic short-term sacrifices into long-term success and why her toughest startup challenges turned out to be incredible opportunities in disguise.
Company: Minott Gore, P.A.
Founder, Age: Serena Minott, 32
Location: Miami, Florida
Startup Year: 2007
Startup Costs: $25,000
How I Got Started:
I knew from the day I landed my first “real” job at a law firm in Atlanta, that I would eventually go on to work for myself. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. On both sides of my family, everyone owns their own business. Based on this familiarity with entrepreneurship, I didn’t have the fear and trepidation that perhaps keeps most people from diving in.
I started laying the foundation for my own business as soon as I started working full-time as an associate after law school. I saved 40% of every pay check, sacrificed a new car and shopping, so I could ultimately go out on my own. I also invested in real estate. I purchased my first house at 25, which I would ultimately renovate and sell for a profit and utilize as a part of my seed money.
In 2007, I moved from Washington, D.C. to Miami to be closer to family and to start two businesses – a clothing store and a law practice.
Best Success Story:
When my co-founder and I first launched our firm in 2007, it was really challenging because my business partner is also my other half of almost ten years. We were both depending on the same revenue stream to maintain our household and operate the company.
About 6 months in, during a bout of despair over not having enough clients and not wanting to deplete my savings, I contacted several recruiters and headhunters to find a part-time or contract position.
I met with an attorney who was only looking to bring on something with a book of business over $100k. I thought to myself, if I had a book over $100k, I wouldn’t be here! I left that interview and called the recruiter to fill her in. Her response was “How long are you going to keep this up? Why don’t you just let me place you with a large firm, you have excellent credentials.” I was beyond consolation. I cried for hours, literally.
But I stuck with it. I took a part time position that allowed me to bring in extra income and time to work on building our client base. We landed our first big client in August of the same year and from there the rest is history.
That client referred a few others who referred their friends. When my part time contract finished, I had enough business to keep us both busy in our own practice and by the end of the next year, we met our goal of reaching $100,000.
Biggest Startup Challenge:
I’ve faced two start-up challenges. The first is being a woman of color in a profession traditionally dominated by Caucasian men. I’m located in South Florida, so the field is dominated by Latin American men. From being called “sweetheart” to being asked to bring the coffee … I saw it all when we first started.
After a year or so, I decided that instead of fighting for a place in the boys club, there was ample room – and business – for me among my peers, women. That has worked out much better.
We met the second challenge head on in late 2008 when we started offering trademark services through the Internet. While this contributed greatly to our success, it also presented another start up challenge.
The legal profession is not known for being innovative, so the idea of offering legal services through the Internet, and offering those services on a flat fee (rather than hourly) basis is something new that we’ve had to change people’s mind about.
Thankfully, there are a lot of entrepreneurs who are very tech savvy and comfortable with the Internet who don’t have reservations about doing virtual business with an attorney located thousands of miles away.
#1 Tip for New Entrepreneurs:
Figure out what you are offering, what makes it different and who you are offering it to. You have to be able to define your product or service and what makes it unique in 20 words or less.
Define your target customers. What do they do for fun? What do they read, where do they hangout, who do they spend their time with and what type of social media platforms do they use?
Learn how to delegate. Entrepreneurs can be controlling micro-managers, that’s a defining characteristic. When I learned how to delegate, it freed up a lot of time for me and my business partners to focus on what we each do best and maximize our productivity.
Value yourself and your services. It took a long time for me to learn how to properly value myself and my time. Once you determine your price point stick to it and be firm, otherwise clients get the idea you have price flexibility, which is nearly impossible to recover from. I’ve learned that the lowest price is definitely not the way to go.
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