Be willing to sacrifice — you cannot have your cake and eat it too. If your budget is limited, be willing to pass on purchasing toys or gifts for yourself. In due time you will be able to afford all those things, however if you are serious, you must set aside money to run your business. Most importantly, time is the most expensive commodity. If you do not have the time to sacrifice to start a business, then do not attempt it.
Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy startups with huge dreams and huge obstacles.
Yet we of course know that most startups don’t end up as success stories. What does a founder or a founding team need to know to create a highly successful startup?
In this series, called “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup” we are talking to experienced and successful founders and business leaders who can share stories from their experience about what it takes to create a highly successful startup.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jaschon Van Proctor who grew up in Detroit, Michigan. She started her career as a clinical therapist focusing on mental health and the disparities that are found in black and brown communities in 1997, however she found a niche to broaden her love of mental health to include business models that would touch all in the community. Dr. Proctor went on to earn a PHD in business which allowed her to focus on some of her best work. With the background of mental health, she was positioned to focus on a need in the medical industry that has allowed her to help thousands in the cancer community through her company, Artistic Prosthetics and DME.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
With the background of mental health, she was positioned to focus on a need in the medical industry that has allowed her to help thousands in the cancer community through her company, Artistic Prosthetics and DME. This durable medical equipment company focused on cancer-related durable medical products that were culturally diverse and safe for the black and brown community. Her 12 years in the retail trade allowed her to cross borders and facilitate products and services that were not available in the United States for cancer patients. With her success, she was much desired to partner with Michigan largest cancer center Karmanos in helping clients with education on products and services available while undergoing cancer treatments.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Honor First LLC is the newest of my companies that was developed a few years ago. My patient demographics were cancer patients who were often too sick to meet for a group therapy session of one-on-one counseling. I needed to find a way for them to get to their mental health visit. I recalled one of my clients’ younger children facetime with her friend. Even though facetime was popular back in 2016, I had no working knowledge of it. So, I thought, maybe I can facetime my patient for a mental health visit. After scheduling the very first Facetime health care visit, I was on the way to connect with my clients despite them coming into the office. In fact, the majority of our mental health visits were conducted during their Chemo treatment via Facetime. The “Aha Moment” was when I saw a 60% increase in patient visits that made me implement virtual healthcare visits as a new service for my patients. By the time the pandemic hit, we were already a successful virtual health company. This is what I would consider preparation meets opportunity. When we were sheltered in place, we expanded our practice nationally. We are so successful; we are currently opening a mental health retreat opening in the Fall at the Detroit International Airport area.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
My inspiration comes from an unlikely source, my first employer. I was the nanny of an Assistant District Attorney in Michigan. I was young with absolutely no direction in life. She took an interest in me. I was more than an employee to her; I was like her little sister. She motivated me to be whatever I want. Growing up poor, there are multiple obstacles for a person of poverty and color, however I do not fully understand this as a white woman. But for some reason, I did not need her to understand. She just told me to keep my head up and keep it moving. She paid for my books for college and co-signed me my first car, yes you heard it right. She cosigned me a car. I did want to let myself or her down. I finished college earning a PHD in business and from there never looked back. Developing a startup is my passion, because I can relate to obstacles, my life was full of them.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are a human company. We understand keeping an eye on the bottom line is important, however it is also essential to appreciate employees and have empathy. I have employees that have been with me since my first business venture. One of my faithful employees had to leave her position to take care of her elderly parents. I can relate, I am also a caregiver. She was allowed to make an Ideal schedule that would give her the flexibility in her schedule and life to take on more important things. As of today, she is one of my best employees.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As the founder of Leverage B2B, we have helped thousands with understanding how to succeed in business. We created a minority business platform that mentors and supports business owners. I have helped mom and pop businesses become profitable in turn maintaining the culture that makes our neighborhood’s history so profound. Culture is what we need in the world to help people of all backgrounds and races understand diversity.
You are a successful business leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Humility, I have made millions of mistakes, it is ok to admit it and become better. I remember simply taking the advice of a child, who told me how to do a task. It was humbling, how it worked. Mission accomplished.
- Motivation– if you do not get up and work, you are just a dreamer. I remember my first business took years to become profitable. I had to find my motivation to get up and keep the model fresh and exciting. I had to find that motivation. No one can give it to you. Resiliency, in business there are many failures before successes. When I started my first business nothing seemed to work. I was cash poor and everyone around me told me to just give up and get a job. I decided to stay on course despite the failures. When I sold the business in 2018, my company products were sold nationally and in Canada.
- Honesty– Transparency is so important in business. If you are honest about your intentions, people will work with you. When I first started my company, I told my first employees that I did not have much money on hand, and I did not have enough credit to get a business loan. I thought they would just run. Most of them stayed the course and are now an intricate part of the business.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let us reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you have received that you now wish you never followed?
I was told as a black female businesswoman to go unnoticed and to the best of my ability be better than my white colleagues. This was advice I should have never followed. I am and have always been amazing at who I am and my accomplishments. In fact, I believe briefly following that advice staunch my growth as an entrepreneur.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
With my first company, the business model was niche, and it was hard to find companies that wanted to invest in my product line. For over two years, I could not pay myself. I was working for my employees so to speak. I could only afford payroll. It was so hard to continue with my vision, cash poor.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges?
I was a business consultant for one of the most profitable companies in the world. I saw the chaos behind the scenes and how hard it was to make things work, however if there is a process and you follow it, I have learned it will turn out well most of the time. I used that experience to drive me to weather the storm of business and follow through. In areas I feel that I am weak in, I would volunteer with companies that are stronger in that area and learn from them. It works every time.
The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
I have started quite a few companies. There were not all winners. In fact, sometimes right before I was ready to pack it up, here comes an opportunity that turns it all around. This was my mental health clinic whose demographics were with the cancer community. It was difficult to show compassion and empathy to patients that could not make appointments due to illness and still stay in business. I decided to get into their world, meet them at their Chemo visits or at home and become a friend. This is how I came upon the Idea of Facetime by noticing a client’s child Facetime. This experience made my company one of the most successful companies I have ever started.
Let’s imagine that a young founder comes to you and asks your advice about whether venture capital or bootstrapping is best for them? What would you advise them? Can you kindly share a few things a founder should look at to determine if fundraising or bootstrapping is the right choice?
I personally am not a fan of venture capital. I have started all my companies with personal funds or “bootstrapping”. I believe the added stress of investors may staunch the growth of a young founder. If you believe in your business and have mentorship to get it on the right road to success you will be successful in raising your own funds to back your business.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
1. Create a plan– Every business needs to start with a plan. I am providing a blueprint from thought to execution. These guidelines will help you in your goal of creating a successful business.
- Research the service or product you want to sell — Put your signature touch on it so it reflects your brand. Make it better. You do not have to re-create the wheel; however, every service or product has room for improvement that would make it even better.
- Give it a test run — Pitch your business to your friends or family. Be humble to accept constructive criticism.
- Map out your success and goals for your business — Start small and create benchmarks. This will ensure you will continue to grow in success as a new business owner. Make sure your goals are achievable.
- Do not be afraid of failure — The most successful businesses have had their share.
- Do not just be a dreamer, be a doer — If you do not have a plan of action, a true road map to achieving your business goals. It would just be a dream.
- Now go to work. Be persistent.
2. Learn from the best– Surround yourself by experts. You do not need cheerleaders to cheer you on; you need professionals that have been where you are and are now successful entrepreneurs that are willing to guide you to the way of success. This is priceless. A business mentor will save you time, money and major disappointments. Their wealth of knowledge will give your insight on the best way, based on experience to get you on the fast track to success. There are strategic business support companies that can serve as a resource such as Leverage B2B, an organization that is dedicated to supporting new and small businesses in building a successful company.
3. It should not cost a fortune to start your business. Make sure to create a small budget. Within your budget be realistic as to what you can afford to do. You may have to invest in sharpening your skills to learn how to create your own websites. Wix is an excellent do it yourself platform to learn for newbies. It will get the job done. Learn how to post your own social media messages. This will save on marketing. Get out from behind the computer and get engaged with people. Via phone or in person. Humanize your business. People need to know you are real.
4. Be willing to sacrifice — you cannot have your cake and eat it too. If your budget is limited, be willing to pass on purchasing toys or gifts for yourself. In due time you will be able to afford all those things, however if you are serious, you must set aside money to run your business. Most importantly, time is the most expensive commodity. If you do not have the time to sacrifice to start a business, then do not attempt it.
5. Have fun– although starting a business can be daunting and stressful, it could also be exciting and self-satisfying. Enjoy the process, enjoy the ride, be proud of every accomplishment.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Be careful not to over promise. Whatever your pitch is, do not forget you have to deliver. Make sure that you are clear about your business deliverables, so no one is disappointed. Your reputation means everything.
Startup founders often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a company?
Get plenty of sleep, the work will be staring at you tomorrow. Take time out to plan healthy meals, you will not survive on junk food. Get a hobby and do it. Step away from work to smell the flowers. The biggest mistake in starting a company is losing the passion it took to get you where you are. It will happen quickly if you burn out.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I feel every employer should offer free child daycare. With nearly 50% of the labor force female, this benefit is overdue.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Tyler Perry😊, because we have a lot in common.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Website: Leverageb2b.org (www.leverageb2bllc.org.)
Website: Queenshirleyfoundation.org (www.queeenshirleyfoundation.org)
Website: Honor1stsanctuary.com (www.honor1stsanctary.com)
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!