"Luckily, I have a lot of good friends who own their own businesses to whom I can turn for support," explains Suzanne George, 34, who launched a made-to-order shoe business in the summer of 1995.
While enrolled in a six-month training course on how to operate a profitable business, George was encouraged by instructors to map out a list of people with different skills who'd be willing to provide occasional advice during the start-up and growth phases of her venture. "While assembling my business plan, I was expected to put together my own advisory board--approximately five people with varying specialties who would be willing to answer questions or provide other assistance when I encountered unexpected situations or concerns," she says. "I built that into my business plan in a very formal way, and those names have certainly come in handy since."
George feels remarkably fortunate to receive extensive support from her advisory board and numerous other friends and acquaintances. "For example," she says, "one time when I was doing some fashion-show work, I encountered a variety of legal issues and concerns that needed to be dealt with. I have a friend who's an attorney, and she took care of everything for me, pro bono. Other times, I've simply picked up the phone and gotten immediate answers to my questions from friends who work in marketing and public relations."
In addition, George finds that she is constantly learning from and sharing ideas with other entrepreneurs in various nonwork settings. "I really like to maintain a balance between my work life and my social life, but a lot of times, at dinner with friends who own small businesses, we'll end up talking about work during our relaxation time, too," she says. "I think that's because, when you own your own business, it just blends into everything you do. It's always there; it becomes a part of you."
Suzanne George Shoes, 526 Seventh Ave., #3, San Francisco, CA 94118