For about 5.5 years, I co-founded and managed a flourishing small business in Erie, Pennsylvania. The small business was called Radius CoWork, and it was the first of its kind, in the Erie area. Small businesses are truly the backbone of the American Economy! I learned that first-hand as an owner and operator of Erie’s first coworking space.
We started the coworking space with nothing, besides some goodwill from the building owner, and our own spirit of determination. We sold every membership, we pounded every nail, and throughout my tenure at Radius CoWork, we never a took a dime of venture capital or debt-financing. We spent each day in the trenches providing customer service and support to our growing community of members.
Starting a small business can have an everlasting impact on a community and an economy. Many think, especially in economic development circles, that a small business offers inspiration or an example for a network of entrepreneurs and other small business owners. But there is something more important that a small business offers its local economy. “If you just try, you will succeed.”
This is a bold statement, especially in small business ownership and in many other disciplines, because this is not always seeming the case. Many people think that if you try, you have a percentage change of succeeding. I started Radius CoWork against all odds. The Erie Economy is consistently ranked as one of the poorest and most underperforming economies in the United States, and coworking was an unproven business model still seen as quite new for the area.
I never personally made a dime running Radius CoWork. I worked at the company for 5.5 years and many people thought that I did earn significant cash from the profits of the business. But launching a small business can be incredibly difficult. And despite Radius’ profitability, and consistent growth that outpaced everybody’s wildest expectations, the profits always went back into the business.
I have long asked myself was Radius CoWork as a venture successful?
During my work with Radius, which was more than full-time throughout its five year duration, just think about that, I also held other positions as a project-based consultant period, where I learned the inner workings of local politics and local economic development.
If I were evaluated and judged by an analyst from an investment bank, then while Radius would be valued high, a 10x on its annual would give a seven-figure valuation, the same analyst would likely grade my own investment as a waste of time. I know this because I hold an MBA from a top-tier business school, and we studied how to value these types of personal investments of time.
Despite what others might say, and despite never earning any money from the business, I felt like I had succeeded. “If you just try, you will succeed.”
Small business is a backbone of local economies because the entrepreneurs, owners, and proprietors involved, demonstrate to the rest of the citizens an unwillingness to accept defeat, even in the most trying of circumstances. This is a lesson that we can all take with us whether we are starting a business, creating a new piece of music or film, or going to work every day.