No limit for start-ups | Business premises
Alicia Petska 540-981-3319
On summer afternoons, Antonio Morris’ daughters, ages 8 and 5, would set up a small lemonade stand in their father’s barbershop.
The duo greet customers and listen carefully to each order. How many cups will they need? Does the customer want ice cream? Or maybe some of the strawberries they offer as an extra-special showpiece?
The girls also consulted with their parents to establish a budget for their summer vacation start. They struggled to calculate the cost of cups and lemons and how to arrive at a fair price to charge.
Unknowingly, the younger generation is emulating in many ways what they have seen modeled by their father since he started his own business about five years ago: customer service, money management, work hard work and innovation.
“It’s awesome,” said Morris, owner of Feel Good Nation in Roanoke, a brand that includes both his Salem Avenue barber shop and a personal fitness service. “They are really small entrepreneurs.”
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“It’s cool to see them learn and grow,” he said. “You know, your kids are watching you. They absorb everything you do… It drives me to want to do more and grow more.
The issue of legacy — what we pass on to others — was the focus of the latest installment in a new series on minority-owned businesses launched by the Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center.
The quarterly program comes at a time when people of color are becoming self-employed at an increasing rate, accounting for more than half of all new businesses created, but are still significantly underrepresented among business owners.
The nation as a whole continues to struggle with a persistent racial wealth gap, and studies have shown that members of certain minority groups continue to be less likely to own homes, be approved for loans even when they are considered a low credit risk or have the ability to tap into family resources.
In an online panel on June 15, local entrepreneurs came together to discuss the responsibility they feel to nurture the next wave of booming business leaders as well as the hard-won lessons they hoped to convey.
“It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you work hard,” said Denise Beltran, owner of Spotless Cleaning Services. “…There is no limit to the distance you can travel.”
Beltran, a mother of four who juggles Spotless Cleaning and another full-time job, said it was a message she especially wanted to share with other mothers and Latinas. And it’s something she saw in action from an early age with her own parents, who arrived here without knowing English but with the intention of building a better life for their children.
Today, her father runs his own construction business and her mother co-founded Spotless Cleaning with her.
“You can run a business,” Beltran said, urging those with an idea or a dream to run with it. It’s not about never getting tired or never taking a wrong step, she added. Determination, not perfection, is what counts.
“When you want something in life, you have to work hard to achieve it,” she said, adding that she hopes to set that example for her children and show them what can be achieved, just like her own. parents did it for her.
“It helped me grow. So I want to show that to my kids,” she said. “…that they’re going to be able to accomplish whatever they want.”
During the hour-long panel, which included five Roanoke entrepreneurs, the group discussed the delicate balance between work and family life, what business ownership has brought to their lives, and what the idea of a legacy means to them. .
Jonathan Kelly, who has built several businesses, recently launching Salty’s Lobster & Co., said there was a time when his dream for his own young family came down to hard practicalities – earning enough to send his children to the best schools and see them, in turn, embark on successful and well-paying careers.
Once her first child was born, however, that changed. He found himself thinking about the importance of teaching his new son to live a happy life with purpose and a sense of connection.
“I take great pride in living my life my way, in an authentic way,” Kelly said. “I want my son to be able to live the same, a fulfilling life where you’re not only doing something you love, but where you’re able to give back and make a difference in your community.”
“So I think, speaking of legacy, if I can see my son following in those footsteps and giving back and doing things that keep him going, then I think I’ll be pretty happy.”
The idea to organize a panel around the importance of legacy was born out of the outreach led by two minority community navigators brought in by the Small Business Development Center through a one-year grant provided by the CARES Act to help services the hard-hit minority business community. .
Conversations led by navigators revealed that the question of how to empower the next generation and pass on all that is possible for them has been on the minds of local business leaders, said Amanda Forrester, regional director of the center, which offers free consultations. , training and small business support services.
At the end of this month’s panel, a member of the public asked if the event was recorded – he hoped to be able to replay it and show it to his children.
Morris, who is now working to turn his personal trainer service into a full-fledged gym, said he hoped seeing the likes of the panelists would help demonstrate that entrepreneurship or other off-the-beaten paths beaten paths are accessible to all.
“I really want to inspire people to not be afraid to pursue their dreams,” he said. “I think there are a lot of people who think that entrepreneurship or business success is that kind of impossible task that you have to be born into. And it’s not. to go there.”
“Dream big and work hard to achieve it,” he said. “Everything is possible.”
Kelly, also asked to share a word of advice for future entrepreneurs, rolled out a list of three or four thoughts: Go ahead, if you have an idea or a passion, start pursuing it. Be obsessed with your craft and be the best at what you do.
And, he added, know that failures and setbacks are inevitable. It is something that everyone faces in their life.
“I think I can speak for a lot of people in that we’ve all failed at some point,” Kelly said. “And if you don’t realize it’s going to happen, it’s a lot more painful, if you think you’re going to get away with it without bruising.”
“There are a lot of tough times in entrepreneurship; often when the money doesn’t come in or when you get up at 3 in the morning and everyone is asleep or your friends are at a party, but you have to stay and do it.
But, Kelly added, all those sacrifices and late nights will bring their own rewards.
“Just know it’s worth it,” he said. “Being able to say that you did it your way and you didn’t just follow someone else’s protocol. No, you built something that you wanted to build.