Survival of the Fittest

Survival of the Fittest

The terrain: harsh.

The challenges: unforgiving.

The potential rewards: priceless.

It’s a jungle out there for small-business owners. Many trek through the wilds of entrepreneurship to gain their bounty: from the psychic compensation of being your own boss to profiting from one’s passion. The spoils oftentimes come at an enormous price. But the courageous emerge stronger and wiser from the journey.

Rochelle Thwaites is one of the newly-minted business owners taking the entrepreneurial expedition. “I wouldn’t call it scary, it’s exciting to me,” she asserts. “I get very excited about it because it is a challenge. I like challenges.”

In January, Thwaites launched a line of luxury handbags under her company, Los Angeles-based Mimeki L.L.C (www.mimeki. com). Using $150,000 from real estate investments, the former interior designer literally turned her vision into a reality. “I had a dream about walking into a store and all I saw were handbags on shelves,” says the 31-year-old wife and mother of two. “So I immediately woke up my husband. And it all went from there.”

Although familiar with the design process, Thwaites was new to the industry. So she needed to do extensive industry and financial research to start. Besides talking to experts and meeting with manufacturers, she traveled to New York City to get hands-on experience—all of which she says were critical steps. “There is tons of information out there, and I’m still learning,” says Thwaites. “And I think 10 years down the line, I’ll still be learning. Do your research before getting in because there is a lot of money involved. And if you want to do it and want to do it right, then it’s a matter of taking the time to research.”

This past June, Mimeki was the swag bag for the 2007 Alma Awards. With her bags ranging in price from $200 to $1,000, Thwaites projects revenues of $150,000 for year-end 2007 and anticipates that 2008 will usher in revenues of $200,000 with the help of fashion and trade shows.

And as any small-business owner should be, Thwaites is confident her company will stay the course despite the economic _uncertainty. “You have to keep positive and on track in an economy like this,” she says. “I try not to let anything influence me otherwise because you’ve put so much time and effort into something so dear to you. And how I look at it, there’s no way to go but up.”

Unlike Thwaites, many would-be entrepreneurs don’t act on their dreams, deferring them due to nail-biting fear and overwhelming pressure. And they have good reason to worry: _According to the study Survival and Longevity in the Business Employment Dynamics, 34% of new businesses don’t survive the first two years.

So what does it really take to make it? Passion? Yes. Hard work? Of course. But these will get you nowhere without knowledge and preparation. black enterprise developed the Small Business Success Guide for prospective and current entrepreneurs because far too often they attempt to make the journey without the proper research, guidance, and tools. On the following