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Weekenders

Work full time? Still want to start a business? You can make it work.
August 1, 2005
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/78796

Some say weekends are for relaxing, sleeping in or traveling. But if you're a full-time employee and you dream of entrepreneurship, weekends can be for that, too. Take those 48 weekend hours (and, let's be honest, those precious weekday evening hours, too), maximize your efficiency, and build your startup.

Brian Eddy and Chad Ronnebaum did that very thing when they built Q3 Innovations, a product design, development and distribution company that specializes in the personal safety market. These Eagan, Minnesota, entrepreneurs started in 1999 when both had full-time jobs--in fact, Eddy, 30, a lawyer, just recently left his law firm to work on the business full time, while Ronnebaum, 30, still works full time in the pharmaceutical industry. Friends since the sixth grade, the pair decided that even though they both had successful careers, they wanted to own a business and bring products like the Alcohawk, a digital breath alcohol screener, to consumers.

During their six-year startup phase, says Eddy, "We worked about 50 hours a week at our careers and about 40 to 50 hours a week at our business." A typical weekday for Eddy was getting up at 7 a.m., doing business activities until 8:30 or 9 a.m., then heading to the office. After getting off work at 6 p.m., he spent about an hour with family and went into entrepreneur mode for the evening and most of the weekend.

How can weekend entrepreneurs ensure startup success? "Make sure you're attending properly to your customers," says Eddy. "[For example,] we have independent contractors staffing our phone lines." If you can afford to hire an answering service while you're at work, do it, as having a human on the other end can be a boon for business, says Laura Harris of the Laura Harris Agency, a small-business consulting firm in Corpus Christi, Texas. Use technology to your advantage, too: A BlackBerry can help you keep track of and respond to incoming e-mails, and you can return phone calls on your cell phone during your lunch break. The goal is to break your tasks into moment-size nuggets.

Weekend entrepreneurs have such a high premium on their time that organization is paramount. "You don't have a lot of hours when you can contact people," Harris says. "Start with the list of things you have to do to make your business successful. If you can only call people [before] 8 p.m., do that first." Remember, she says, you can work on your balance sheet or marketing plan at any hour.

Still, you will have to cut some things out of your schedule if you're going to make your weekend entrepreneurial venture work. Harris suggests creating a minute-to-minute calendar that your nearest and dearest can access, planning non-negotiables into your schedule (Thursday dinner with the family at 7:30 p.m., for instance) and taking a bit of time each week to plan out the rest of your week. "It's the lack of control that freaks people out," she says. "[Your] calendar might be a busy one, but [it's OK] if you're controlling it."

Though busy definitely describes the founders of any weekend business, don't despair. When you become really successful, you can finally quit the daytime gig and focus on the business full time, like Eddy did. Though Ronnebaum hasn't yet left his day job, the pair is still pushing annual sales to more than $1 million. That sure beats the weekend job you had in high school.