How tech-savvy was Bobbi Govanus prior to launching her computer training company in 1995? "I knew how to turn [the computer] on," Govanus, 47, says, laughing. "And I knew you didn't put the mouse on the screen. I knew that much--but that was about it."
Not that Govanus was intimidated. Convinced of a growing demand for computer trainers, the stockbroker-turned-retail-manager invested $50,000 to boot up St. Paul, Minnesota-based For Your Instructors (FYI). "I was just learning as quickly as I could," explains Govanus of the two months she spent getting her company up and running. "It was an intense time."
It helped that her husband, Gary, 48, was well-versed in computer technology. It also helped that Govanus was (and is) a consummate salesperson. "I don't have to teach [the training classes]," she points out. "I just have to sell them."
Clearly, our homebased winner of the Office Depot/Entrepreneur Magazine 1998 Small Business Owner of the Year award is having no trouble selling FYI to a worldwide clientele. With sales projected to hit $4 million this year--not to mention some 1,000 FYI trainers who work as subcontractors--Govanus' 3-year-old company is generating the kind of success that needs no translation. And the company's biggest asset? A visionary founder who understands how difficult learning computer technology can be.
By Shara Lessley
Restricted by the time constraints of running a business, homebased entrepreneurs might find it difficult to take a refresher course on "Low-Cost Publicity" or "Power Thinking." But thanks to Raleigh, North Carolina-based Small Business University, all prospective students need is a desire to learn, $40 for a single workshop or $300 to enroll in the company's Advanced Business Certificate program, and telephone or Internet access.
An outgrowth of The Marketing Coach, a virtual training organization for marketing and advertising, Small Business University was created by advertising entrepreneur Leslie Speidel. Since the university's cyberspace debut in October 1997, more than 400 students from Australia to Hong Kong have signed up for weekly teleconference courses.
In addition to insight gained from Small Business University's 11-person staff, students benefit from peer correspondence and support. According to Speidel, the university fosters relationships for those who want to take their educations to the next level. "The easiest thing to do is provide their e-mail addresses [to each other] so they can network and perhaps form some kind of virtual partnership," Speidel says.
For details, visit Small Business University at http://www.SmallBusinessU.com
For Your Instructors, (800) 777-4026, http://www.fyitrainers.com