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There are a few benefits to shopping at local businesses: relationships between customers and owner can form, the product can be of a higher quality than similar products found in big-box stores and in corporate businesses, and money spent at local businesses stays in the local economy.
Many factors go into becoming a local business owner, and there are resources available to Weber State University students who want to own their own businesses.
Johnny Morris, a WSU student, started one local business, Cafe Ville Bella, about 10 years ago. Now, with about 80 percent of his business hailing from WSU, Morris said he enjoys his work, making it a labor of love. With competition from big names like Starbucks, Morris has had to expand his menu from coffee and hot cocoa to now include a variety of sandwiches, soups, salads and gourmet cupcakes.
“We wanted to be a coffee shop with good food, but now we’re more of a restaurant with good coffee,” Morris said.
Besides being flexible with his menu, Morris said he has also learned by experience the value of hard work.
“Regardless of anything else, no one is going to care about your business as much as you do,” Morris said. “You can’t pay someone to care. You can have the best employee in the world, but they’ll never be as good as (the owner).”
Alexander Lawrence, the vice provost for economics and innovation, an expert entrepreneur and a WSU professor, has helped many aspiring business owners make the choice about starting a business. Morris is following some of Lawrence’s most important rules about how to create a successful business: If it doesn’t work, move on; listen to customer feedback, and put heart and soul into the work.
“A lot of people have great ideas . . . Very rarely is the idea unique,” Lawrence said. “Almost never. Coming up with a brand-new idea is very rare. Usually, it’s an improvement on (an existing product).”
Just because an idea isn’t new doesn’t mean it isn’t valid — just that it might require a little more thought to become something great. Lawrence said just wanting to make money isn’t enough to be able to make an entrepreneurial venture successful. Proper motivation can be the key to success.
“(Only wanting to make money) won’t keep warm at night when you’re going through the hard time in entrepreneurship and things get difficult,” Lawrence said. “You aren’t going to sit there saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to make a lot of money on this one day’ when you’re running out of money. But if you’re really passionate about it, that’s what will help you through.”
Sometimes, however, success isn’t the end result for every idea. Lawrence said not to be afraid of failure, but to use the decline of one idea as a springboard for a new, even better idea.
“Sometimes the best outcome is that you should move on to your next idea,” Lawrence said. “. . . The more passionate you are, the harder it is going to be to quit and move on.”
For that extra advice from fellow entrepreneurs or help getting to the next step toward becoming a business, Lawrence also suggested that students get in touch with the Weber Entrepreneur Association. With Zarin Ficklin as president, the Weber Entrepreneur Association meets once a week on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in Room 320 of the Shepherd Union Building.
Students don’t just meet other students interested in creating their own businesses at these meetings. The Weber Entrepreneur Association also uses these days to invite business leaders to speak to students, provide how-to and business-building workshops, and foster open discussions in which students can pitch ideas to one another.
Ficklin said one of the other great advantages to the Weber Entrepreneur Association is the motivation members get from one another.
“A lot of members come to get motivated each week and keep working on (their projects),” Ficklin said. “Anyone can get (involved in the Weber Entrepreneur Association) by just showing up to the meetings on Wednesday nights. Whether a business major or not, the Weber Entrepreneur Association is a great place for support for prospective business owners.”