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Client Spotlight: Advice From Small Business Owners

First Republic Bank
April 26, 2017

National Small Business Week reminds and encourages consumers to think small by showing patronage to the local businesses acting as staples in their communities. We sat down with five business owners about the importance of “shopping small,” their experiences as entrepreneurs and how consumers can support local entrepreneurs beyond the week.

Eric Dy, PhD, Co-Founder and CEO of Bloomlife, makers of a wearable device that enables pregnant women to track and monitor important prenatal vitals from home saw an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on how information is made available during pregnancy. “My co-founder Julien Penders' wife was pregnant. I was trying to have a child. All my friends were getting pregnant.  We realized this is a life-changing event that most of us will go through at some point and yet there are many, many unanswered questions for both moms and doctors.”

Eric emphasizes the value of a powerful narrative when launching a business. “Gaining support for your business, whether that is in the form of investment, hiring or building partnerships, should be grounded in storytelling.” He advises entrepreneurs to “take (people) on a journey so that by the time you ask something of them, they are already leaning in.”

With pregnancy being such an emotional event, it’s easy to understand why Eric is proud of building a team that cares as much about the company’s mission as he and his co-founder do. "Despite being a remote team with people in the U.S. and Europe, we are aligned on our mission to bring long-overdue innovation to improve the health of moms and babies.”

Bloomlife is a small business with big goals, and that’s the driver of how Eric views its success. “Our goal is to become a standard in prenatal healthcare and fully reimbursed so every mom has access to it.” He adds, “When moms of all walks of life are given our technology to answer key questions they have in pregnancy, have an extra set of eyes to identify earlier if anything is going awry, and doctors are regularly using data from our product to make decisions, we will have made it.”

Ashley Wyatt, President and CEO of LA-based A2E, a corporate promotions, event and creative services agency, attributes the inception for her business to an innate desire to be entrepreneurial. “I always thought it would be great to be my own boss. The idea for A2E came about because I found companies wanted someone reliable to handle all the tiny details in representing their brand — from VIP events to meetings to quality branded merchandise. I built A2E on the idea that whatever a client may need, we’ll figure out the best way possible to realize their needs and make something special… That’s why A2E stands for ‘anything to everything.’”

To keep the enterprise running smoothly, Ashley practices two mottos daily: “The first is, ‘Fast pay makes fast friends.’ The second is, ‘Work hard and be nice to people.’”

Ashley takes pride in mentoring her employees: “I’ve hired some of my team right out of college and they’ve grown into their positions at the company. I also love seeing my business grow. We started in my garage, and have already outgrown our first office.”

As A2E grows, small businesses remain a valuable part of the agency’s daily operations, because their “clients need the best quality for the best price and sourcing locally has led me to some great finds.” Ashley continues, “Outside of business, it’s important to be part of your community and as a local business owner, I want to show my support to others.”

For Bella Shen Garnett, DMD, MMSc, Orthodontist and owner of Bella Smile, founding her own practice was a way to come home. “I grew up in San Francisco and went to Harvard for dental school and residency. I was practicing in New York and really wanted to come back home. No orthodontist in the area was retiring soon and no one was hiring an associate with partnership potential so I decided to start my own practice from scratch.”

Bella’s father inspired her to take the road of entrepreneurship. “My father is a dentist who immigrated to San Francisco from China. Although he did not even speak English, he opened and ran five practices in his lifetime — all from scratch. He said that with my education, what I could possibly be afraid of. If you are good at what you do, business will come to you.”

Being good at what you do isn’t only about education, Bella believes. Her best piece of business advice brings this to life. “Learning does not end in school,” Bella says. “Learn from your experiences and take initiative to turn every negative into something productive and positive.”

Damian Walker, Owner and Coach of Palm Beach Squash Club, has his own approach to entrepreneurship. “I like to be first — I wanted to build the first-ever squash-specific club to service the Palm Beaches.” His competitive attitude contributes to his most proud accomplishment, “making a community that can enjoy and learn and play squash.”

When it comes to business advice, Damian has this to say: “The best advice I was ever given was by my parents, but it translates into good business practice: LISTEN.”

Supporting small businesses should be a continuing effort, according to Damian. “I do not limit my patronage to Small Business Week. As a small business owner, I find that other owners are super invested in their communities, and thus more likely in you as a customer.”

Jeremy Roberts and Mihal Freinquel, Co-Founders of made-to-order suit tailor Roberts, share a passion for craftsmanship, which has contributed to their success in Portland and beyond. “I spent years apprenticing and working in NYC as a tailor,” Jeremy says. “When Mihal and I moved to Portland a few years ago, I had the relentless urge to figure out a way to take the craftsmanship and process of tailored suiting and make it more accessible — not just physically more accessible but also conceptually.” He ends with a quote from his master tailor: “It's not about selling people on your suits. Build a strong connection with people, and anything that's meant to follow will.”

This contributed to Roberts’ growth and, in turn, allowed Jeremy and Mihal to accomplish new milestones. “We're really proud of the conceptualizing process that's gotten us to where we are now," Jeremy says. “We had a lot of ideas of how Roberts could function — and the process of iterating over and over, and getting feedback and iterating some more. We're proud of that fact that we are continuing to learn even after we've landed on a concept that we feel really good about.”

Jeremy and Mihal continue that iterative mindset when approaching other small businesses. “I think focusing on a few key components of your life — for example groceries, gift-giving and weekend activities — and trying to go with the local business option,” Mihal says. “You don't have to go big or go home — start small and see where it works for you to integrate the smaller guys, then work your way toward getting broader.”

The information in this article is presented as-is.

©2017 First Republic Bank