Opportunity for success out there for the taking

score During counseling sessions I often hear clients talk about the lack of opportunities for someone seeking to go into business. All the good businesses are represented and the new ones take too much capital, which isn't available to them.

With the start of businesses at an all-time high, even if many are high-tech, numerous opportunities are available for the individual willing to work at it.

I summer at our family lake cottage, near my hometown, Medford, in northern Wisconsin, which I think has a couple of good examples of young people with the entrepreneurial spirit starting from scratch with a simple idea and developing it into a major business.

There are 6,000 plus jobs available, and the town has 4,437 population. A good 60 percent of these jobs have been developed by businesses started in the last 40 years.

Let's start with Weathershield, which was started in the later 1950s by two brothers just out of school and looking for that first job.

This northern climate has cold winters, sometimes down to 30 degrees below zero, so they reasoned that many of the houses needed some type of storm doors and windows. They settled on aluminum storm windows and doors. This was a business where they could buy the raw materials, glass, aluminum extrusions and and build the windows to fit the job.

They started out soliciting orders from homeowners in the community and surrounding area, building the units in their father's garage, then installing them at the customer's place. This was a success for them, and they had an opportunity to expand in the interior wood sash and door business when a local wood products manufacturing company was available for purchase about seven years later. This business has been operating for 20 years and had a good sales record and customer base that provided great expansion for the entrepreneurs in the same market.

However, these two boys charged ahead with gusto and lots of guts. Over the years, the company grew and expanded; it markets products, doors, windows and accessories all over the world with annual revenues of more than $200 million.

A second business was started by two other brothers and their wives, a small country tavern called Tombstone Tap. To increase business they started making pizzas in the back room, which incidentally was the family kitchen - they lived in an apartment behind the tavern.

They experimented with numerous recipes until they developed one that was the rave. In fact, other taverns in the area asked them to make pizzas for them to sell. This their new business venture, Tombstone Pizza, was started.

They added warming ovens for the pizzas they sold, refrigerated trucks for delivery and eventually the hiring of route salespeople, regional managers and additional remote plants.

They sold the business to Kraft Foods some years ago after developing sales in excess of $175 million annually.

As a result of these two major players, smaller firms have been started that supply materials and services to support the production of these and other local companies.

Medford may look unique, but as I travel around the United States, I find similar examples. The opportunities are there. All it takes is a couple of people with an idea and the guts to act on it. So go with it, just be prepared to make the investment in long hours, seemingly endless search for financing, little leisure time, no vacations and reduced family life to secure that success.

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.


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