What educational, entrepreneurial or business development programs, if any, have you taken advantage of?
We have been working with a business coach for the past four years. I personally attend, speak and participate in dozens of educational, entrepreneurial and business development programs annually. In addition, we offer in-house educational, entrepreneurial, best practices and business development programs and also support our staff attending outside programs in these areas.
Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
Our first clients came to us through word-of-mouth referrals, as do most of our clients today. First clients included Tradefirst.com, Marketshare/Save on Everything, Komen Detroit Race for the Cure, Shelving Inc., Michigan Box, several advertising and PR agencies in Michigan and across the United States who needed project assistance, and a variety of retail and consumer products clients.
Where did you find your first employee?
My first employee had started off as an intern at a job I held prior to starting Shazaaam. Subsequent employees primarily came from word-of-mouth and friends of the agency.
Have you promoted an intern to employee status, and if so how many times have you done it?
We've done this several times over the years. In fact, two of our current employees have been with us for close to 2 years and had begun with us as interns. We have an extremely active internship program and are hoping that as the agency continues to grow entry level positions will be filled by individuals who have graduated our internship program.
Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
All of our growth has been self-funded. We have tried to operate the companies loan and debt free. This has meant a lot of discipline, boot-strapping and a certain level of reinvestment of profit to fund capital growth and improvements.
What are some of the advantages to doing business here?
I love being a Michigan-based business. Several years ago we were approached by a client to relocate our businesses out-of-state. I have found that in addition to the quality of life the state offers, a hard-working and dedicated workforce, Michigan is a bastion of business opportunity and an epicenter of innovation, creativity and pride. To outsiders, Michigan is often looked at as an underdog. We have clients travel to us from across the country and around the globe. They love the ease of our being easy to get to by air and are always amazed at wonderful place Michigan is.
What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about opening a business here?
If you're willing to work hard and are passionate about what you want to do, there's no better place on earth than Michigan to start a business. Many people think that a down economy is the worst time to start a business; historically down economies have proven to be some of the best times to open a business. If you're serious about opening a business here, put your plan together. Look at what your unique selling messages or value propositions are for attracting business. What does the competitive landscape look like for the type of business you are looking to open? Evaluate your business concept against those whom you would perceive to be competitors. What are your strengths versus theirs? What are your weaknesses and what weaknesses do your perceived competitors have? What opportunities exist for you to stand out from the competition/innovate/differentiate yourself from the competition? What trends to the one you want to start? What obstacles or threats are going to get in the way of you succeeding? You can't fear success and you have to learn from your failures and the success and failures of others. Don't be your own worst enemy. Dare to dream bold and audaciously and challenge yourself to wake up every morning believing and being passionate about what you're trying to achieve.
What do you see in Metro Detroit that other people who live outside the area don't?
We're survivors. We're dreamers. We're innovators. We're creatives and creators. We're the phoenix rising from the ashes when much of the outside world believes we can't. We're a region of people embracing change and the ownership and handwork it takes to do so. It's an exciting and vibrant time to be in Metro Detroit, meeting people who have banded together to make a difference within their own communities and to our region and state as a whole.