What’s going on? It’s Jeff Rose again from goodfinancialcents.com where I’m typically giving you tips on personal finance and financial planning, but today I’ve got a special treat.
Today I’m going to be interviewing Cavanaugh Gray who is the director of business development for The Entrepreneur Café. I love entrepreneurs. I love hearing entrepreneur success stories. I love to hear people talk about their short term goals and their long term goals! I think it is so great to have Cavanaugh here that he can share some of his experience working with entrepreneurs and help them develop their businesses. He’s just a great resource to have.
JEFF: Today I want to say hello to Cavanaugh. Thanks for having me. I really want to kick off and first talk about your business and what you do, but I think most importantly, what has lead you down the path of having an extreme interest in entrepreneurs and getting them where they need to get to.
CAVANAUGH: Jeff, I think I fell into that category of being one of those odd kids that while other kids were playing and having a good time outside, I was doing a little bit of that, but I was always fascinated by the stories and the tales of the business owner who was willing to put their dreams and things on the line and take a risk. So if you read enough of those stories as a kid you begin to think that you can do some of those things because no one has told you that you couldn’t. I think I went down that path. I went to a lot of fairs in Chicago being born and raised in Chicago. Chicago is a great, blue collar kind of city so you get this strong can-do work ethic from the city. I think just being in that environment put me in situations where I felt that here is something I can do, I can try. Reading these stories and being in a city where I can go to fairs and sell books or pretty much play around with my own ideas, that’s where things, I think really started forming. Then, through high school those things carried over. Things got a little bit more sophisticated. By the time I got to college I was putting together organizations in the small business realm, one project being my own. That is where things started.
JEFF: At what point in your life did you have that realization that I’m an entrepreneur. This is in my blood. It’s in my DNA. It’s what I was born to do?
CAVANAUGH: I think one of the things that you really feel when you’re at that point is you wake up every day with this mind set of hitting the ground running. I think entrepreneurs that I bump into, they sleep very little. They are always thinking about what’s next or the next idea. I found myself in that category, but then I was always excited about my own dreams, my own ideas, just feeling in that place of feeling like you’re always in a risk taking mode. You’re always willing to step out and try something new. I think that is when you really know that you are now in that small business, entrepreneur mind set space.
JEFF: Can you share a story or an experience of one of your first entrepreneur activities that you would classify as a business venture?
CAVANAUGH: I think so. I think one of the ones that stands out the most, again, starting out as a kid running businesses and then in college, there was an organization. I was trying to combine my love of working with entrepreneurship and then giving back to the youth of Chicago. I got started in the nonprofit space, but I developed this organization called YEP, the Young Entrepreneurs Program. YEP dealt specifically with students 12-18 years of age trying to really introduce them to something that I hadn’t been exposed to which was financial literacy and entrepreneurship. It was how do I take things that I’ve learned over the years and then impart that to them. One day I got a call from a gentleman by the name of Jerry Fisher for Entrepreneur Magazine saying,
“We’ve seen what your trying to do. We have some ideas for you. Can we do a write up in Entrepreneur Magazine on this program?”
I just remember feeling like Wow, I’m in this space now. So that was a lot of fun for me and then seeing that connect with people around the world. Within the States and even around the world you would get emails at the time and even now from places as far as Africa saying I work for a school. We’re trying to do something similar. How can you help? That part is a lot of fun. That’s when I knew that I was hooked.
JEFF: Wow! That’s amazing, Entrepreneur Magazine. That’s big time. Now you have The Entrepreneur Café where you were telling me to give entrepreneurs more time, more money, more control, more happiness. How long has that been in business and what got you to that point?
CAVANAUGH: I think what’s interesting is at the time that I was doing YEP, the Young Entrepreneurs Program, I was at this fork in the road where I needed to make a choice. So even at the time I was doing that I was thinking 5-10 years ahead in terms of where I would like to be. The Entrepreneur Café may have had a different name a decade ago, but it was still floating around. It was just a matter of when. Before I made our last move, which was in 2003, I began putting the plans together for this small business development consulting firm that really worked with small companies, 3-4 employees or more, minimum 100,000 because they all have special issues, very unique issues. Those are dealing with management, marketing, financial issues, and finding resources. Being in that environment for most of my life, you get a chance to pin point what it is that entrepreneurs and small business people run into on a regular basis. That’s how things started. I’d say about 2003 is when the switch came for The Entrepreneur Café.
JEFF: Can you walk me through the process? Say I’m an entrepreneur and maybe I have an idea or maybe I already have a small business established, but I’m just struggling to get to that next step. Where do you feel that you can come in and help them develop.
CAVANAUGH: You would be surprised. A lot of businesses start in one of two ways. They are either born out of a hobby, so people will take things that they are very much interested in that they’ve done for fun, and some kind of way it rolls, picks up a little bit more momentum and becomes this small business. The other thing is people stumble into the business realm accidentally. Those two things go hand and hand. The problem with that is often times when people start a hobby it takes on a different form when it becomes a business, or a company can start and go for two years just on pure momentum and then they get to a place where they find themselves floating in that little space. It’s just one of those things where they’re trying to figure out how to take the next step. I usually try to figure out where a company is at the very beginning. I try to find out what stage they are in the process of small business. Then I will usually ask what is your biggest obstacle. If they can identify that, great. If not, we try to help identify what is the company’s biggest obstacle, and we hone in on that and go forward.
JEFF: I’ve talked to several people that have approached me and they’ve always considered themselves to be an entrepreneur, but I feel a lot of times they can’t take that next step and they are not really sure what to do. Can you maybe give some tips or some pointers for someone that maybe has a good idea or has a venture and they’re not sure what to do? Some guidelines maybe.
CAVANAUGH: Believe it or not Jeff, one of the big things that I do that doesn’t show up on the radar of business development is you’re really in the business to some degree of encouraging people to see that they can do the same things that Bill Gates did, the same things that Mark Zuckerburg has done. I think one of the big things is getting people over that hump of fear, the fear of just making that first step. Once you can let people see that this could be something they could do and step out on, if you can make the connection then things start to pick up. If you can get people to believe in their idea and their ability to take that business to the next level I think that is where things really start. Getting over the fear for a lot of business owners, and it could even be starting a business or even expanding a business. That’s something I really try to lock into. I try to paint the picture for them. Once you do that, if a business is already functioning then I try to look at, again the biggest obstacles that they are facing. If they are just starting out then we are looking at business planning, a comprehensive planning. Again, businesses fall somewhere along the spectrum and it’s identifying where they are and what the biggest issues are. We always start there.
JEFF: Of all the entrepreneurs that you’ve helped, all the small businesses that you’ve helped developed, would you say that there are some common pitfalls that you see that are common within a lot of these businesses?
CAVANAUGH: Absolutely. I think that’s the thing. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, Jeff. If you’re in technology or industrial, whatever it may be, there are about four things as we mentioned that really all small businesses face. It doesn’t matter where they are in the process. Usually a company is going to deal with management issue meaning that they either don’t understand the industry as much as they thought they did or they don’t have the personnel to help them pull it off. So it’s identifying that. The other thing is having people make the shift in terms of their marketing. I think because marketing has come such a long way, even in the past decade with Web 2.0 and everything else, it’s helping people make a shift to doing more effective marketing that gives them more return on their dollars. The other thing is helping them really lock into their financials and key into whether or not money is coming in. Is money going out at the right times? Is there enough money in the reserve? Do we need financing? Helping them identify that. The last thing really falls into locating resources. That is a big thing. If a company can’t find the resources to help them grow, they’re still in trouble.
JEFF: I know that you have a passion for kids, for helping them. One of the coolest entrepreneur success stories I’ve heard of is a young guy by the name of David Orr. He founded a site called Fruper.com. Have you heard of it?
CAVANAUGH: No, but I love that name.
JEFF: Yeah, it’s just one of those crazy names. It basically just sells the most random tech things on his site. By the age of 16 he was able to pay cash for a Range Rover from his business. He actually is located here in Illinois up in, I think the Effingham area. I thought that was an amazing story. When you talk to a young person, when they aspire to be a David Orr or a Mark Zuckerberg, what is some direction you can give a young person to get to that next step?
CAVANAUGH: When you mentioned that, I always love hearing those stories because they really represent what entrepreneurship is all about. I think this generation has the opportunity to take anything that has been done before by any of the great names in small business and take it one step further. I think with the young people, what’s great about them is that they are not old enough, as we mentioned to be boxed in yet. They are still in this very creative realm of thinking. They have all this drive and all this determination. That’s what’s great about them at that age. They don’t see any boundaries or limitations and that goes a long way in starting a business. Going back to what we talked about is just helping them identify what they are passionate about. You hope that young people have locked into something whether it’s sports or academics or whatever it may be, helping them find out what they are passionate about. That could go for adult businesses as well, but helping young people identify that and then making it fun. Often times I’ll get questions from parents about that same issue and I’m asking the same things. Are they passionate about something and if not can you help them find what their passion is or things that they enjoy and too, do they enjoy money. If they have an aversion to money and don’t really care about it then that’s going away from this process. There are a lot of lessons to be learned. If you see that your kid has traits of being a leader, very persistent, all those things fall in line with some of the traits of some of the great small business owners of our day. You want to find ways to encourage and nurture that.
JEFF: For any business owner or entrepreneur that wants more information maybe to contact you for a consultation what’s the best way to get a hold of you.
CAVANAUGH: The best way is they can either contact us through our website at ecafellc.com or reach us at 618-206-7013.
JEFF: I know he is also on Facebook. You can also hit him up on Twitter because I’m following him. There’s other ways to get a hold of him. Any last words for all the entrepreneurs out there.
CAVANAUGH: I think one of the things I’ve found over the years Jeff, is that everyone in some shape, form, or fashion was put here to do something. One of the things that I feel like I’ve been amazingly blessed in is I get a chance to get up every day, live my dream, and help other people live their dream in the process. So I’m hoping that people that come in contact with you or The Entrepreneur Café that in a sense we are helping them to live out their dream through small business. If you have a dream find a way to live it.
JEFF: If you have any questions leave a comment at the bottom here. I’m going to see if Cavanaugh can actually address some of the questions we might have. It’s been a splendid experience learning from you.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
JEFF: I appreciate it. Thanks for stopping by. Check us out on Facebook as well. We have the fan page going so be sure to like us there. We’ll see you next time. Take care.