If Your Dreams Don't Scare You, They Aren't Big Enough
“I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur from the first time I had a lemonade stand as a child.”
This may seem like a bold statement, but the craziest ideas usually turn into the most rewarding experiences. The dream of owning and operating a business is not one for those who like to play it safe, but McKinzey Whitty was never one to back down from a challenge. Whitty knew with enough courage, enthusiasm and a leap of faith, she could turn her entrepreneurial dreams into a reality one day.
Whitty, a former North Dakota DECA vice president, understands how the willpower of an entrepreneur, coupled with the experience and skills gained through DECA, can drive an individual to achieve his or her dream.
Whitty was a member of Minot DECA in Minot, N.D., and credits her experience in DECA to fulfilling her entrepreneurial spirit.
“DECA confirmed my choice to be an entrepreneur,” Whitty stated. “I found all the lessons, events, presentations, conferences and seminars to be very beneficial.”
After graduating from high school, Whitty started working full-time as a photographer, and then later completed some accounting courses at Minot State University.
“Once I knew my passion and desire, I enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, Calif.,” Whitty said. There, she majored in fashion merchandising and marketing.
Then in January of 2007, Whitty embarked on her first entrepreneurial pursuit. She started her first retail business, Fiancée 2, a seasonal prom store in the Bismark, N.D., area.
However, Whitty didn’t jump right into stocking shelves and decorating the store.
“I started by gathering data about the area and researching to determine if the community could support a seasonal prom retailer,” Whitty explained. “I also wrote financial and business plans for operating the business.”
The store was a hit, but in order to maintain that success Whitty had to work for it. “Since the business is seasonal and only open January to April, I am there all day, everyday,” Whitty said.
However, the ability to create and watch your own business grow is worth all the effort for her.
“I love what I do and I love being at the store to make the business successful,” she said.
After the success of Fiancée 2, Whitty began to have another entrepreneurial itch. She wanted to continue her passion for the retail industry but with a new and exciting twist. In July 2013, she opened Koo Koo’s Nest, a mobile women’s clothing boutique—a shop on wheels.
Even with her experience with Fiancée 2, this new project was a whole new world for Whitty.
“[Koo Koo’s Nest] is a very unique and different business model and has its own set of obstacles,” Whitty said.
She spent many days researching and consulting with the city’s attorney to see if her mobile boutique business was even legal. However, her ambition and motivation always kept her going and she can now proudly say she is the owner of not one, but two successful businesses.
There are ups and downs to any job, but the job of an entrepreneur has its own highs and lows. Whitty can attest to this statement and said her biggest challenges were feeling intimidated and overwhelmed. There is also a level of time commitment required for an entrepreneur that would be hard to match up with any ordinary job.
“You are the business,” Whitty said, “so you need to understand that you are going to work, work, work and work some more. You can’t be lazy and own a business.”
So is the emotional roller coaster and crazy work hours worth it? To Whitty, the answer is, “Absolutely!”
“I love meeting new people in my industry and new clients or customers and being able to build a relationship with them,” she said. She also loves traveling to markets to find and buy new merchandise for her stores.
“The proudest moments I have had from either of my businesses are simply hearing positive feedback from the customers. I love hearing them excited to shop and experience something that I have created.” Whitty said.
Behind all of her successful entrepreneurial ventures, Whitty knows there is still a little piece of DECA there helping her along.
“So many of my skills from DECA have helped me in the entrepreneurial world such as networking, communication and organization,” Whitty said. “Utilize everything DECA has to offer you. The people sitting next to you at a conference could be helping you in your business one day.”
Whitty knows that the life of an entrepreneur can be scary. There are many unknowns when you set out to create your own income, but those fears can also be motivating.
“I did have doubts when I first considered opening my own business, but if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough,” she said.
Whitty’s dreams are clearly coming true and her experience can serve as a testament to what dedication, drive and DECA can help a person achieve.
Whitty’s advice for current DECA members hoping to follow in her footsteps of entrepreneurial success is pretty straightforward.
“If you have the ambition, drive, data, research and planning to support the risk you are about to take, you are ready,” she said. “Use other business owners to gain experience and knowledge and communicate with your city’s Chamber of Commerce, city office and other resources available to you.”
It may be hard to visualize your own entrepreneurial dreams coming true now, but the spirit and drive you possess is just the first step to an incredible journey. Whitty still knows her DECA experience only ignited a passion she had all along.
“I am so thankful for all of the opportunities DECA presented to me and I am thankful my advisors encouraged me to participate,” Whitty added.
So whether your dreams are to be the next Donald Trump or to own your own shop on wheels, keep your eyes open to the opportunities DECA has in store for you. Use Global Entrepreneurship Week to connect with those around you and in distant countries. Use others’ knowledge and your creativity to ignite your own entrepreneurial passion!
Follow Janelle Scudder @jjscudderdeca.