Tricks Of The Trade

Suzanne George, Suzanne George Shoes

Before Suzanne George, 34, went into the business of hand-making custom shoes in the summer of 1995, her formal training had been in communications and psychology, not handicrafts or business. So learning to run her San Francisco shoemaking business involved two distinct types of preparation.

First, George needed to learn to create custom-made shoes by hand. She enrolled in a reputable technical college in England specializing in shoemaking. "They teach you everything involved in the construction of shoes, from start to finish," George says. She also worked as an apprentice to learn more about sizing before returning to San Francisco.

Next, George enrolled in a six-month training course at the San Francisco Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, a business incubator and community economic development program, on how to operate a profitable small business. "I wanted to create a business plan, and I didn't know how to do that myself," she says. "I also realized that the thought of running my own business was starting to feel a little scary; I kept wondering if I could pull it off. Enrolling in the course took me to the next phase of formalizing my business and understanding what it would take.

"The course was challenging because it was so short-term and really packed with information," George says. She found the experience so valuable that she's retained ties with the Center to help other entrepreneurs. "I review business plans for other people now."

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This article was originally published in the September 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Tricks Of The Trade.

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