Posted by Susan Wilson Solovic, May 9, 2011
Millions of Americans are dreaming about starting their own small business. However, because starting a business is risky, a lot of people choose to play it safe and follow a traditional career path. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be all or nothing. Consider starting your business on a part-time basis to test the water before you jump.
You may find, as many people do, that your part-time business will grow and flourish and you’ll reach a decision point: Whether to stay with your current employer, keeping your business small enough to manage, or taking the big step and quitting your job to focus on the growth of your company. The following story is a great example of how to do it the right way.
Twin brothers, Randy and Jeff Vines, grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, but fell in love with the history, culture, diversity and even the quirkiness of the city of St. Louis at a very young age. On Saturday’s while most teenage suburbanites were hanging around the shopping malls, the Vines brothers would hop on a city buss and spend the day producing a local access television show on city life.
While away at college, the brothers wanted to display their civic pride and show-off the uniqueness of their beloved city, but the only apparel available was the typical tourist attire– not exactly what they had in mind. Back in St. Louis with traditional jobs, the Vines brothers still longed for edgy, trendy apparel depicting the colorfulness of St. Louis City, so they decided to create their own. Almost immediately, they knew they were onto something big.
“When we would wear own designs we’d be asked by strangers on the street where did you get that shirt,” remembers Jeff Vines. “So we did a small run and then signed up to have a booth at some downtown festivals and we always would sell-out quickly. We learned real quick what people wanted.”
That was the beginning of STL-Style. Mostly selling out of boxes in the back of their car, the Vines’ t-shirt creations became a big hit garnering extensive press coverage including an article in The New York Times. Soon people were ordering from around the world and it was difficult to keep up with demand. While continuing to work their “day jobs”, the two committed nights and weekends to their burgeoning business.
“There weren’t enough hours in the day. We had to hire our friends to help out part time and it became a matter of whether we are going to keep treading water and doing what we are doing or are we going to take this to the next level and get serious about it,” Jeff says.
After nine years of part-time operations, testing the marketing and developing new products, the Vines twins decided to turn their part-time passion into a full-time enterprise. A part-time business gives you the opportunity to develop your business model and learn from your mistakes. Randy and Jeff Vines waited until the business basically directed their decision for them. It had gone as far as it could go as a part-time endeavor. It’s a pivotal point many part-time businesses face, but if you decide to pursue the business full-time, you aren’t starting from ground zero. You already have history and experience from which to grow which minimizes your risk.