Story by Eli Marchbanks | Jan 01, 2018
Photography by Keith Borgmeyer

Capital City Connections, a local networking group, discusses the importance of making community ties.

Working for yourself; everyone has thought about it. People like to romanticize the idea of working for yourself, being your own boss, setting your own hours, etc. Few people actually go through with it. Of those who actually go through with it, few experience success. Of those who experience success, few experience lasting success. Are the successful better than the unsuccessful? Are they smarter, luckier, tougher?

According to some local entrepreneurs, letting other people help you and being willing to help them is a big part of “making it.” On Tuesdays in Jefferson City, a group of the successfully self-employed get together and support one another in their respective business endeavors. This group started outwith fewer than half a dozen members just a few years ago but has recently grown to more than 20 people with a wealth of collective knowledge for whatever you would like to find out about building your own business.

“We can come in here and share information, share ideas, or share leads,” says Charlie Christiansen, a Shelter Insurance agent. In addition to sharing advice and helping to solve each other’s problems, the various types of businesses represented by the entrepreneurs in these weekly meetings can act as references for each other. A symbiotic environment exists where all can build up their own potential customer bases while at the same time building up one another’s and discussing the best way to serve the public.

“I’ve done a lot of different networking groups, I’ve done the advertising thing, and I don’t think anything has come close to the power of this group,” according to Laura Sigwerth, a certified health coach. She goes on to explain that she believes that sense of community and friendship within this group is what makes it such a beneficial organization for all involved.

“You can’t go online or read a book that is going to be better than working with someone at the local level,” says Michael Baxa of the UPS store in Jefferson City. “The support system this group offers has been helpful to me. Everybody in here is going to run into road blocks and someone else here has likely hit that same road block and can help you. That kind of stuff is invaluable.” The people who attend these meetings support each other as they navigate the hardships of self-employment.

In a recent meeting of this group, the topic of “entrepreneurial wellness” was discussed. This can refer to many things. One of those things is the chance to hone your message. Kim Slaughter, co-owner and practice administrator at Riverbend Dentistry, explains that “this group is really good at helping you with your ‘elevator speech’ because that’s something that we practice every week — how to spit out your business in just about 30 seconds.”

Reliability is another part of entrepreneurial wellness. Several in the group would agree that consistency has been an important part of their careers. “Consistency for any entrepreneur is the key,” says Nathan Hays of Jefferson City Autoplex. “Having people know they can count on you and being able to count on other people is the glue that holds this group together.” That glue has helped some members of this group transition from being part-time business owners to full-time business owners.

The group makes sure that everyone knows “who does what” — the instant connections help members save time finding help, rather than trying to track people down on their own. Austin Craddock, owner of Bandana’s Bar-B-Q in Jefferson City, Sedalia, and Osage Beach, says: “Time is precious for entrepreneurs. . . . being able to make one phone call instead of six just to get to the person who does this thing or that thing — this group right here helps a lot with that.”

Speaking of time being precious, it’s important for entrepreneurs to find a balance so that they don’t fall victim to their own strong work ethic and risk burning out. When trying to take care of everyone else, entrepreneurs can feel guilty about making sure to take care of themselves so that they can continue to work. “As entrepreneurs, it’s really easy to step away from your desk and feel guilty,” says Missy Creed, of Dogwood Social, “and I’m working on not feeling guilty.”

Sitting in this meeting, one can really gain insight into the motivations of successful business owners. One might be surprised that becoming wealthy isn’t one of those motivations. Justin Neihart, owner of United Landscape Design LLC, explains how, when he was growing up, “money never drove me . . . but opportunity did. The opportunity to help people.”

Kurt Propst, a partner with Summit Wealth Strategies, would agree. “My mindset is about how I can help other people out and then worry about helping myself out later,” Propst says. While one might be tempted to think that people go into business themselves to capture as much of the almighty dollar as they can, the success of the individuals in this room is predicated upon a genuine care for both their customers and each other. Success follows that genuine care.

Neihart talks about how he’s always ready to help entrepreneurs who are just starting out and is also willing to “take notes” from those who are more experienced than he is. With entrepreneurs this driven and selfless supporting and challenging each other, the entrepreneurial community of Jefferson City has a bright future to talk about.