After high school graduation and working several different jobs in the community, Michelle, 32, started dreaming of having her own business. She wanted to do something creative and useful that would make people happy. Thanks to funding from Vocational Rehabilitation to start up her own business, Company M.E.A., Michelle can add “entrepreneur” to her resume.
Launched in January of 2014, Company M.E.A. specializes in hand-scanning photos, documents and scrapbook pages, and carries a small product line of items which can be personalized with photographs. As the owner of the company, Michelle is not only responsible for managing the work of scanning, but she is also responsible for growing her business. Although Company M.E.A. has a presence on Facebook and a company website, Michelle was having a difficult time finding a strong client base.
Michelle worked with Mary Breight, Community Skills Specialist with Life & Work Connections, who did some research and found a networking organization for small businesses and entrepreneurs called 1 Million Cups. Developed by the Kauffman Foundation, 1 Million Cups is a free, community-based program that meets once a week to hear presentations from entrepreneurs like Michelle. The presenters receive feedback from audience participants and local organizers in
Columbia. Michelle began attending 1 Million Cups events when her schedule would allow and she made some friends and connections in the business community. After attending a few of the presentations, Michelle decided she would like to present on Company M.E.A. so she could get advice on how to build her business.
“Every presenter is required to fill out an extensive application and Michelle worked on her application for three weeks,” said Mary. “Once she submitted her application, she was told it would be several months before she would present, but as luck would have it, a cancellation allowed Michelle an opportunity to present in June.”
“I’m nervous about talking in front of people,” said Michelle, a week before she was to present. “I’m worried they won’t understand me.” Mary assured her she would do well and reminded Michelle of all the hard work and time she spent preparing for her presentation. With assistance, Michelle put together her entire presentation in two weeks.
On June 10, Michelle spoke to the audience about her business objectives, client base and future goals. With assistance, she fielded questions from the audience and received helpful advice as well as different ideas and references on how to increase her client base.
“Michelle was very excited and nervous at the prospect of presenting in front of a crowd of professionals,” said Mary. “Once she started talking, it seemed that her nerves floated away. She spoke about her business with pride.”
“I learned a lot about how to grow my business and get more clients,” said Michelle. “I’m glad I went through with the presentation.”