Becoming an entrepreneur is a dream that many aspire to achieve one day. With varying goals in mind, DECA works to help prepare its members to embark on that journey and achieve that goal. Some members have already started chasing that goal of owning their business, and I had the opportunity to ask some members who have become entrepreneurs themselves five questions.
Here are the responses from Jenna Burd with Butler University DECA in Indiana, Sophia Smith with Arizona State University DECA and Samer Youssouf with University of Nevada Las Vegas:
1. What is your Business? What do you do?
Jenna: I am the founder and CEO of Little Burd Marketing, a marketing agency that serves over ten clients in Indianapolis with social media administration, branding, SEO, paid advertising, market research and graphic design.
Sophia: I have a pet, house and babysitting business that I have been running since high school. I network with community members, earn certifications like CPR and AED training, and ensure direct and accurate communication with those who choose to use my business. It has grown to the point where I have other people who work directly for the clients who message my page.
Samer: I co-founded an organization called the Free Cyber Clinic back in October of 2021. The FCC is a student-led organization that strives to prepare the next foundation of cybersecurity professionals. We do this by training our students to assist them in getting certifications, completing projects, and understanding cybersecurity concepts. The other part is where we go out to local small businesses in Las Vegas, NV and provide free cybersecurity assessments.
2. How has your time in DECA helped with your entrepreneurial endeavors?
Jenna: Through the Entrepreneurship: Growing your Business Challenge, DECA has challenged me to be a life-long learner and innovate on my current business practices. I also have enjoyed attending numerous professional development workshops that our DECA chapter hosts because they have drastically improved my networking skills and made me more people-smart.
Sophia: My time in DECA has helped with my entrepreneurial endeavors by giving me the transferable skills and connections I need to run the business successfully. It is important always to be innovative and get consistent feedback.
Samer: Being in DECA for many years has helped me be fearless in leading different efforts within our organization. As I have worked with our officers through many obstacles when setting our foundation, I have seen some of the scenarios I have practiced in the case study competitions I have competed in. This has been similar to my work within my DECA/Collegiate DECA Officer team experiences but on a larger scale.
3. What’s something that you’ve done to help be successful?
Jenna: My success is derived from my desire to connect with people authentically. My client retention program includes personal details such as documenting everything from my client’s professional journey to what sports their kids play. This allows me to connect personally with clients and build their loyalty.
Sophia: Something that I have done to be successful is really learning how to manage my time. Being a dedicated DECA member and state president, a full-time student and working with clients are all priorities that I make consistent in my efforts.
Samer: One important thing I have done to help us be successful is reaching out to my network with any questions we have. We have had support from our professors, local businesses, non-profit organizations and more who have heard our cause and purpose. Many local individuals have guided us in the right direction, preventing us from making small mistakes. Thanks to DECA, I am more confident in public speaking at events and talking to people about our organization.
4. How do you overcome any roadblocks?
Jenna: I learned early on to never turn in work you aren’t proud of. Even if that means facing the embarrassment of asking for a deadline extension, it’s much better than turning in bad work that tarnishes your company’s reputation.
Sophia: A big way to overcome roadblocks is to practice problem-solving. Problem-solving is very important because it allows you to move around the roadblock and to a solution that works for everyone involved. A good way to practice problem-solving is to use ethical decision-making frameworks.
Samer: With any roadblock comes concern. The best way to solve these concerns is through communicating as an organization. Our organization believes transparency is essential for our members, clients and the public. Especially in cybersecurity, things can become dangerous very fast if we don't keep each other on the same page. Myself and our members also keep ourselves prepared if any urgent events or tasks arise so we can be as effective as possible.
5. Do you have any advice for other members who are interested in starting a business but are nervous about taking that first step?
Jenna: Now is a better time than ever to start a business. You have the safety net of your parents and not having a family to support, so go out and do it! Analyze your best skills and resources and mold a business that exercises what you do best.
Sophia: If you are nervous about starting a business, contact your connections with experience in the areas you are worried about and talk to them. I was not great at website design, and I reached out to get some advice about that, and now I feel my skills have significantly improved. Take it as a learning opportunity.
Samer: For those interested in starting their own organization/business, there are a couple of things to remember. First is to make sure you have a group of people passionate about the idea along with you. Second, understand that the foundation and starting phase is TOUGH! Things don't come easy, and you will deal with backlash at first. The best way is to take things one step at a time. Third, study your audience and see what people are looking for. How will it benefit your customers/community? Is the market saturated? Finally, always remember your reason and purpose for your organization/business. It can be easy to get carried away by all the great ideas, but losing sight of your goal is a way you may crumble eventually.
Regardless of your industry, endless opportunities are waiting for you and ways to experience the difference this year, and one of those ways is taking that first big step to start your own business.