Are You Ready For Business?

Are You Ready For Business?

In this podcast episode owner Jayne Simmons talks about Ventures non-profit. Ventures has mentored Jayne for over ten years, helping her build her business. We are big fans! Find out more... 











Sister Sage Podcast Transcript
Transcript: Ventures: A Non-Profit For Small Businesses!

Welcome To Sister Sage Herbs Roadside Herb Service with Jayne Simmons and Marc Fendel. Jayne is the owner of Sister Sage Herbs, a natural remedies company located in beautiful Seattle, Washington. We sell at Pike Place Market every day of the year, and online at

Ventures was formerly known as Washington C.A.S.H. (Washington Community Alliance For Self-Help). It is a free service. Their mission is as follows, from their website,:

"Building Businesses, Changing Lives: Ventures provides access to business training, capital, coaching and hands-on learning opportunities for entrepreneurs with limited resources and unlimited potential." (In addition, their Mission Statement is available on the website.)

Ventures, a non-profit organization, helps people who are in any early phase of a business. In fact, someone may be a sole proprietor, or even just have a job that they have created for themselves; Ventures helps turn that enterprise into a real business.

A lot of Ventures clients, like our own Sister Sage Herbs, had been working at their dream jobs in their off-hours while making ends meet at other related (or even unrelated) work. Many times in these kinds of "other work" jobs, a want-to-be entrepreneur sees better ways of doing things, but can feel like they aren't getting anywhere. Often such experiences lead someone to a dream of doing something they love. They may have a new twist or a great idea, and decide to take the first steps in establishing their business, and here is where Ventures comes in.

We like to think of Ventures as business owners group therapy! The reason for this is, questions will come up from the Ventures folks themselves, or from other clients, such as: What are you doing in this business that's causing you to not make you any money? Why can't you get past this "barrier" as you see it, or this part of your business? Why can't you ask for (help) (money) (advice) (etc.)? You are passionate about your idea or enterprise, but not so much about running the business that would create that career, so will you let Ventures help you to transform and maintain that passion into a viable business?

People who work at Ventures are entrepreneurs themselves; they either have or have had businesses. So they know how it is. They can relate to the situation you are now in.

In order to be accepted as a Ventures client, your first interview with them will let them know whether or not you have the enthusiasm necessary to be successful. If you are truly excited about what you are doing; if you can easily look them in the eye because you know that no one else is doing what you want to do the way you want to do it; if you have that burning desire to get it done; then it will shine through you in your presentation and explanation, and you are more likely to be a Ventures client, and to get help with funding your business. For information on funding/loan program, contact Ventures directly.

So how does Ventures do what they do? They have an eight-week program. There are twenty-five or thirty people in a classroom. The instructor makes sure everyone is on the same page with the elements of how to run a business. A computer, although helpful, is not even necessary if you are accepted as a Ventures client. The emphasis is on organization---yours and theirs---and what you need to think of through the entire establishment and maintenance of your business. For example, if you have a landscaping business and are spending twenty hours a week landscaping, don't forget that you also have to spend up to twenty hours a week doing billing, getting prepared, going to the dump, getting more clients, etc..

And so you begin to see why your previous (or current) boss was charging clients twice or three times your pay. So, you evaluate why the bosses do what they do because now you're the boss. A recipe for stagnation, or possibly even failure is: "Well, I can charge less than my old boss used to charge, and so I'll get these clients". That may get you by, but it doesn't get you to the next level.

Ventures helps you to avoid such mistakes and helps you to work ON your business instead of just IN your business. Returning to the questions from the instructor and classmates, remember that these are questions that will help you succeed, such as: What's your "elevator speech"?  An elevator speech or elevator pitch is a 30-second speech in which (from the Ventures website) "you communicate the benefits of your business to your target customer in the best way possible"---i.e., the time it takes you to ride an elevator! Another question: What can we at Ventures do for you? 
Returning to our landscaping example, let's say you know you need to look at more gardens to give you ideas and to enhance your expertise. Well, here are twenty-five people in your class who will be noticing gardens too! Plus, these twenty-five folks know you're in the landscaping business, so their antennae will be out: their friends or relatives may need landscaping, and they know just the person---you!! Or let's say one of us at Sister Sage Herbs meets a friend either by plan or by coincidence---in line at the grocery store, at a coffee shop, wherever...they may know that we sell our products every day at Pike Place Market, or they may know that we have begun a wholesale business as well as retail, so when they ask, "how's it going at Sister Sage?", what they may not know (for example) is that you are looking for a good employee, but maybe only eight hours per week. They may say, "Wow! My daughter would love that and would be perfect for you!" Suddenly you have what you needed---a referral for an employee who doesn't need to live off her work. Perhaps you instead need a full time employee, such as a graphic designer; the principles can still apply. Speaking of Pike Place Market, there is actually a Ventures Retail Store there!

Ventures has labs, coaches and even volunteers; we had a volunteer who came to our warehouse to look over our entire process, and she's going to write up a report regarding what we can do to improve our business. That's incredible! And what coaches! For example, I can call up Erin Williamson, the Business and Bookkeeping Specialist (who offers a tax class during tax season) and ask if she can look over my taxes, profit-and-loss, projections for next year based on last year's growth, etc.---and I learn; thanks to Ventures I can now do things that I used to think I would have needed an MBA for! But now I can do it: I can go back to my previous work flow / cash flow and put in actual numbers from last year; such issues are things that as a business owner, you would have felt intimidated by...but no longer! Help is available not only from the instructor, but many times, also from students, one or more of whom may have learned exactly what you need, and more often it's far easier than you made it out to be. In short, elements are provided to help you not just break even, but to do well. You learn how to devise the steps to answer the question, What's your doing-well-plan?

One beautiful thing is the group of students: there are so many people helping each other. You learn how to be precise, direct and informative in your elevator speech, and the way you present your product or service. Other students can---and will---point out to you one or more things in your presentation that need to be absolutely clear.

Ventures has helped me so much! I went from, yeah, I have these products and I'll learn how to sell them later, to developing an actual plan. There are so many questions, and the staff is right there to answer them for you. Literally, I could call them up right now, and within ten minutes, some coach would call me back with the answer. So amazing!

Let's say you have learned how to do your paperwork and you have a plan. They will stick with you. Six months down the road you may realize you've been lax in some area (filling out paperwork; figuring cash flow and/or taxes; etc.) and you realize you need to go back and do it. They will help you with things like your projections vs. the actual numbers; and things that might seem like an emergency to you actually have bona fide solutions that are teaching-learning moments. You find that you progress into being the CEO of your business in addition to a name you've nebulously tagged yourself, even such as "owner".

It's awesome. I can't recommend it enough. Ventures has mentored me and Sister Sage Herbs for eight or nine years, and even did so while I was working other jobs! They have moved me towards actually building a business that is focused on my passion. And I see the same process with the other Ventures-aided entrepreneurs as well. The reasons why you want to enroll in the Ventures program and follow their guidelines and advice, are to build a business that you love, to derive the pleasure of serving others, to find fulfillment, and to be your own boss. It's a process that requires a lot of patience, but the reward is so worth it if you can stick it out---and you learn that you can! Ventures has been there for us the whole time, and that's amazing, too.

We could give a shout-out to so many people there! At the risk of leaving lots of great folks out, we'll mention Beto Yarce, Betsy Earl, Jen Hughes, Laura Fletcher, and Myra Gomez whom we have known for years as a wonderful neighbor of three houses away---we often saw Mayra when she walked her little dogs---and then found out she's on the staff at Ventures---and now she's one of our mentors! 
Please check out this fabulous organization and their great website---which by the way is also en español! Not only that, but (as their website states), "Since 2008, Ventures launched the first Spanish language microbusiness program in the region." Yes, Ventures is bilingual!
THANK YOU, Ventures!


And remember that Ventures is a non-profit organization that depends on donations, so if you or someone you know is in a position to donate to this beautiful group of people who have helped so many, please do so! Amazing things will happen: Not only are you supporting Ventures, but you'll also really be helping some fabulous businesses to thrive, that are so passionate and that want to be part of the community; and another great consequence is that you'll be helping to keep things local.
Check them out. You'll be so glad you did!


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