Doin' Time

Suzanne George, Suzanne George Shoes

When Suzanne George, 34, launched her part-time, made-to-order shoe business in the summer of 1995, little did she know she'd end up becoming one of the busiest people in San Francisco. "In addition to running my business, I'm working full time as a project coordinator for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, I have a part-time job in a retail shoe business and I do an apprenticeship that I try to attend weekly to continue my training," she says. "Luckily, my other positions are flexible enough that I can squeeze in appointments for my own business when I need to."

George first got the idea to start making and selling custom-designed footwear when she was in her early 20s, but shied away from pursuing this career path for several years because she feared it wasn't a viable option. After studying at a reputable technical college in England that specializes in shoemaking, George returned to San Francisco, determined to make a go of it. She completed a six-month training course at a local business incubator on how to operate a profitable business, obtained her business license and devoted her attention--part-time--to her new sole proprietorship, Suzanne George Shoes.

"I wrote my business plan knowing that I would continue with other part-time work, because I couldn't support myself completely without that additional income," George says. "I had a part-time job for an educational publishing company that provided benefits, so it really made sense to keep that job so I could maintain my them and not have to try to afford a benefits package on my own. My plan, though, has always been to grow my business into a full-time operation."

Despite her busy schedule, George says she enjoys having multiple professional commitments in addition to running her own business, because it enables her to develop new skills and expand her knowledge. Take her part-time retail position selling shoes, for example. "I've maintained that position because there are learning aspects about it that I don't get through my apprenticeship or through my own business," George says. "I had never done sales before. I'm learning a lot about merchandising and price points, and the target population there is very similar to that of my own business.

"The other nice thing is that you're in totally different environments all the time," George says. Still, she admits that working such long hours at her own business and others'--both day and night--can become a bit exhausting. That's why she's trying to make the transition from part-time to full-time entrepreneur. "I'd really like my business to become full time," she says. "When I put my business plan together, I had a five-year plan for how I envisioned the business developing. I'm at the point right now where I want to keep everything on track." And making the transition to full time is a part of that track.

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This article was originally published in the October 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Doin' Time.

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