Contrary to conventional wisdom, when I launched Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business where I teach women how to dress for their body types, I didn’t try to hide it from my daytime job. In fact, I asked the CEO of my day job at Nxtbook Media, Michael Biggerstaff, if he’d teach me how to build my business from the ground up.
Michael is a heavy-hitter in the publishing field. He’s won the Small Businessman of the Year Award, he’s been on the Inc. 500 list a few times and he, along with his partners, Roxanne Edwards, Jim Lewis and Spencer Ewald, created the Best Place to Work in Pennsylvania, an honor that they have won multiple times in a row.
The simple fact of the matter is, they know what they’re doing, but that said it wasn’t easy to muster up the courage to ask them for help. Why? I was a yellow-bellied chicken.
The first time I ever asked him for anything I stuttered and stammered and talked so fast my mouth dried out. Instead of teasing me, he just told me to slow down, take a deep breath and try again. I don’t even remember what I asked; I just learned that when you work yourself up in a frenzy waiting to spit out your words, the other side would never hear the message. Since then I’ve learned to chill out a little bit taking some risks. I’m beginning to learn to keep my composure. I’m learning that guts are just as important as finesse if I want to move an idea forward.
Since the time when I stuttered and stammered to try to blurt out a risky idea, Michael has become one of my mentors. He sat me down one time and said he’d like to teach the younger generation some of the wisdom he’s learned the past few years and asked if he could share that information with me. He asked me what I’d like to know. I blurted out, still not quite grasping the whole finesse idea, that I wanted him to teach me to build a business.
Fine. He’d be happy to do so.
These days I e-mail him on a pretty regular basis whenever I have a new business idea and I need help thinking it out. He doesn’t push. He always makes times and most importantly he asks intelligent questions. Have I thought about this…what about that detail…how would I handle this?
I was talking to one of my colleagues about how valuable the experience has become to have someone in the office not only running the show but also who is teaching you how to run your own show—even when they know it might lead you away from their company one day—teaching you the game. She said, “I wish I had that.”
So I just asked him.
“Michael, someone else in the company wants to learn from you. Think you could start a club for entrepreneurs or have open office hours or something?”
Within a month he started a formal Entrepreneur’s Club where all of his employees meet in house during lunch and learn from Michael, Rox and Jim the ins and outs of building a business from the ground up.
Michael, though, isn’t my only mentor. I’ve got a few college professors whom I e-mail on a regular basis where we toss around ideas and come up with new ways to help one another move forward. Then there’s my mentor through the American Corporate Partners program. Her name is Kimberly McClain and she’s with Accenture. Then there’s the Entrepreneurial Boot Camp for Veterans With Disabilities Family Program at Syracuse University. Since my husband is a 30 percent disabled veteran, we both had the honor of graduating from their program and now have access to free legal services through DLA Piper as well as access to their extensive network of business professionals, contacts, free design work and grant access.
So here’s what I’ve learned in business. When I just stop being chicken long enough to share my idea with someone, not only will that one person go above and beyond to ensure my success, but they’ll bring in an entire cavalcade of people who are all pushing for a tiny little idea to grow into a thriving business.
Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America, Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s 2011 ATHENA Award. She founded Ruby, Inc. a personalized styling business that helps women realize their worth is far above rubies by boosting their confidence, saving them time and money and teaching them how to dress for their body types.