Growing up, both of my parents ran their own businesses. This upbringing shaped my entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. So much so that it’s always amazing to me that so many people feel like they can’t run their own businesses, or are surprised to hear that not everyone works for a large corporation.
Upon graduating from college, I returned to San Francisco and began working for my mother’s high-end catering company. I did everything from washing dishes to driving trucks to basic food prep. While some of these tasks weren’t very glamorous, looking back they were great experiences in learning the inner workings of a business. However, after 3 years at the catering company, I decided it was time to develop a company of my own. I had been working on a few ideas, the most promising of which was building an e-commerce site selling hand-stitched needlepoint accessories.
With business idea in hand, I developed a product design and hopped on a plane to China to source the products. There was definitely a lot of educational value in this naivety! During my month long trip, I went to a number of trade shows and met with factories, agents, and importers. By the end of the trip I had found my production source and Tucker Blair was born. Tucker Blair now offers a line of 22 belts, along with flip flops, key fobs, and headbands. We are also launching three additional products before Christmas.
Next month will mark the two-year anniversary of that China trip, and it’s great to reflect back on how the business has evolved and the learning that resulted. First, starting a business is extremely challenging and you’re going to get knocked down along the way. But you have to believe in yourself and keep pushing towards success. Second, customer service is paramount. Without customers, Tucker Blair would just be a warehouse full of product! The customer is the lifeblood of any company, and if you go above and beyond for the customer they’ll repay you in spades. Finally, cash flow and funding is extremely important for a business, making it one of the functional learning areas I want to focus on during the Duke Cross Continent MBA program.
As I look at my abilities as a small-business owner, I realize that I have a lot of gaps that I need to address. The Duke MBA will allow me to broaden my skill set, help me create a larger network of like-minded people, and give credence to my entrepreneurial experience in future business opportunities.
Being able to travel around the world to some amazing locations is a nice fringe benefit as well!