College graduates unable to find that first job after can take a few lessons from Tracy Stroderd who’d share the same tip her husband gave her years ago: “Put a filing cabinet in the corner and go sell something!”
Stroderd’s women-owned, online business EverythingBrevard.com was her fifth small business she created and the most successful.
“I refer to my website ‘EverythingBrevard.com’ as ‘the yellow pages on steroids,’” said Stroderd. “Traditional advertising has its limitations and there was no one inclusive source for Brevard County information so that’s how I started this business.”
Tracy’s entrepreneurial pedigree may sound familiar to other small business owners but it’s one that is worth repeating for anyone thinking of starting their own business. Stroderd worked a full time job as a property manager and began her first small business; a dining, arts and entertainment newspaper, at home in her spare time. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree from Miami Shores, Fla. Barry University in 2006. In the meantime, she started a second magazine called businessLIFE for the business-to-business audience.
The decision to leave full-time employment and a steady paycheck to become her own boss wasn’t entirely her own.
“My family had grown beyond the size of the home that came along with my property management position. The property manager’s job was also becoming more uncertain given changes with the homeowners association. I was fairly certain I could leave full time employment altogether and be successful even with the additional expense for a larger home,” Stroderd remembered. “Sometimes you have to do something uncomfortable to grow your business. You can’t be afraid to try something different.”
Tracy’s EverythingBrevard.com online business launched in 2010. The website provides a one-stop location for Brevard County information, resources, and discounts to attract users. In turn, she sells on-line advertising to small and mid-size businesses who want more visibility and growth.
“I never sought lending to build my business because I viewed it as a crutch. I found other ways to finance it without a bank loan,” said Stroderd. “That may not be the right outlook to start or grow your business to the next level but I didn’t want to rely on anything else except my own talent.”
Bringing her business to the next level, though, did require a boost she got from the Women’s Business Center (WBC) at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla.
Tracy signed –up and became involved in IGNITE, an exclusive mentoring program. The program is designed to help existing women-owned businesses develop new skills that will allow to outperform their competition while advancing to the next level of business growth and sustainability.
“I wanted to go to the next level with my business but didn’t know how,” said Tracy who not only had experience of four previous businesses but also earned an MBA. “The mentors were like having my own business advisory board and they taught me to look at my business from a totally different perspective.”
Instead of looking at her business as a hobby or a way to pay the bills each month, Tracy said the program shifted her focus to building the best business she could. Through a six-month regime that began with a detailed business assessment that identified critical performance objectives, Tracy acquired new ways to run and grow EverythingBrevard.com
“My mentors taught me to look at my business as a structure. I became aware that I needed to formally develop and implement operational goals and structures to meet my objectives. Some of these included writing job descriptions for employees; a plan for consistent revenue margins to support personnel needs; and implementing new strategies to promote my business as an important local resource for small businesses,” said Stroderd.
Last month, EverythingBrevard.com logged a half million visitors. Her renewal rate among business advertisers is more than 80%. For potential future advertisers, Stroderd can quickly calculate the return on investment for any business if they sign up. Perhaps more impressive, EverythingBrevard.com has grown from two full-time and one part-time employee to five employees. Everyone exceeded revenue goals developed through the IGNITE mentor experience.
Tracy’s hard work and the innovative direction she gained through the WBC’s IGNITE program is paying off. A part of that mentorship also included developing a five-year exit strategy to
sell the business for its value.
“Right now I’m having too much fun and EverythingBrevard.com has become bigger and better than I imagined.”
If she continues on her current track of success, it might be too lucrative and fun to leave after five years.