I’m a failed entrepreneur and that’s okay

Chip Oglesby bio photo By Chip Oglesby

On July 31, 2013, I admitted that I have failed as a small business owner. Let me tell you the story of how I got here and where I went wrong.

Working with newspapers

In 2004 I saw the light. I knew that the internet was the future of journalism. Nine years later, I’m wondering how far we have advanced with that mission.

I know now that it’s not just journalism that needs saving, it’s so much more. Advertisers and publishers are both grappling with how to drive sales online. Bad ads lead to bad websites with no conversions or KPI’s to track.

In 2008, I joined the online department at The State Newspaper (now The State Media Company). Things were great. I helped create and implement their first social media strategy on Facebook and Twitter. Something I was very proud of at the time.

In January 2010, I received unexpected news. I was being let go in the third round of layoffs at the paper. I was crushed.

Life after newspapers

On Feb. 5th, 2010, I had a job interview with The Washington Post to be one of the comment moderators for their website. I was to live in D.C. on 35k per year. I passed on the opportunity and went to New York City. I lived there for a month and a half.

In June, 2010 I joined a The South Carolina Policy Council. I was their social media manager. During that time, I joined a group called Operation Geek Farm (now Spark Freedom). As the social media manager I handled Facebook, Twitter, Google analytics and the website for the policy council and their news website - The Nerve. I learned a lot. I also learned a lot about the free market and the idea of running your own business. I knew that it was better to create a job than to find another job.

Life in the free market

On December 21, 2011, I started Creative Spark Columbia. I had one desire, help small businesses with their online presence. I wanted to run their social media accounts, host and maintain their websites and run reports in Google Analytics for them.

I landed my first client quickly. Before Christmas I was already working on building them a website. I would go on to host and build websites from various price ranges of $500 to $3,000.

Most of my clients are great. It’s my fault though. I was thinking short term and not long term. If I could go back and re do things I would.

Since I had structured my business to “help” small businesses, mainly financially, I was really hurting myself. I didn’t account for the monthly work it would take to maintain websites and I ended up undercutting myself. When you undercut yourself, you hurt your bottom line. Now I was stuck doing a lot of work for free when I should be charging for it.

Why I’m okay with failure

To me, failure is an option. It’s a chance to learn from mistakes, regroup and move on. I know how to do things better now. I know what it takes for a small business to survive.

My advice to people who want to start their own business

  • Know your bottom line. You need to be able to live as well

  • Know your worth. Don’t let a client lowball you. If they do, walk away

  • Learn as much as possible before you start your business

  • Learn as much as possible along the way and add that to your mix of tools

  • Plan for the long term, not the short term. Things will happen when you need an immediate fix. It’s not worth the pain and suffering.

Moving forward and looking to the future

Yes, some version of Creative Spark will continue to exist. I am changing how I operate, what I offer and more importantly, who I offer those services to. This time around I will be much more selective with the clients that I work with. My pricing structure will be different. I was knocked down, but now I am getting back up.