You may have hated spending your days slaving away in a cubicle, but your employee days aren't all bad. You can use the expertise you gained working for someone else to start your own business, just as Lara Chabina-Crowe, founder of Global PM Group, did.
Chabina-Crowe had more than 20 years of travel industry experience when in 2004 she started Boca Raton, Florida-based Projects by Lara, providing project management services to tourism and airline companies. Soon she had a bevy of project managers working with her, and as her company's focus expanded, she rebranded as Global PM Group in 2007. "I was lucky because [while I was with my previous employer], I was exposed to all the airlines within its network, so my name got out there," says Chabina-Crowe, 39. "I definitely tapped into the contacts I had within the airline industry." She has since pushed sales to about $300,000.
Utilizing contacts from your previous job can smooth the transition to starting your own business within the same industry, says Jerry Acuff, CEO of sales consulting firm Delta Point and author of The Relationship Edge. Maintain those valuable connections with your old industry colleagues as you continue to form new relationships in your business. Says Acuff, "You can build your business with people who know you and know what you're capable of doing."
It's not only who you know, though, says Acuff. Your specialized skills and ambition are also important to your startup. Former casting director Erik DeSando had a passion for building the careers of young talent. With more than 15 years in the entertainment business, the Beverly Hills, California, entrepreneur decided he wanted to be a star-maker, and in 2006, he launched Be, a private membership club in entertainment that produces TV, films and brands. Aspiring actors pay a fee and get discounts on services such as acting courses and headshots and are cast in Be TV shows broadcast on networks including The CW and G4. "Be has elements of all the things I had done prior--all my years of experience working with talent," says DeSando, 38, who projects sales of $15 million in 2008. "If you want to do something, it needs to be part of your core. When I looked at all my jobs, they were always about discovery. I also loved sales, and I combined those two fundamental parts that I enjoyed and created the company that exists today."