Written by Caroline Hooper
Edited by Sarah Mejia
After the economic bust of 2008, many companies struggled to stay afloat and survive the tumultuous waters that accompany such a severe and long lasting recession. Many companies, small businesses in particular, are still feeling the effects of the economic downturn on their pocketbooks and growth rates. However, some small businesses in the Pittsburgh area have managed to bloom and flourish thanks to hard work and a little help from a unique program at the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence Center for Women in Business run through the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.
Christin Bummer, a PowerLink Advisory Board Program client and local business owner, is gaining tremendous insight from the guidance of the program. Bummer is the owner of K-9 Kingdom, a Pittsburgh area pet care facility that offers various services for pet owners.
“Through PowerLink, I have been able to really take a step back to reflect on how we’ve arrived at our current position today and really take a long look at where we’re going,” Bummer said. “I’ve adjusted my branding, established my marketing position within the community, and I’ve used these refined tools to help make sure we’re sending the message we wish to send through our advertising and community events.”
Bummer also feels that the assistance of her PowerLink Advisory Board makes decision-making less stressful because she has the support and guidance of skilled professionals.
She comments: “I’ve also been able to work with the board to analyze trends in the pet care industry nationally, and that really helped shape my decision to move toward an all-inclusive rate system like so many companies have. Having the board involved with this major decision provided an excellent level of confidence for me to move forward.”
Despite the growth and success of K-9 Kingdom, entrepreneurship comes with a set of unique challenges. Bummer recalls one difficult setback early in K-9 Kingdom’s inception. Months after the store had opened, the flooring system needed major repairs—severe enough to require closing of the facility for several days in a row. However, experiences like these have helped Bummer grow as a businesswoman. Bummer realizes that every decision ultimately rests in her hands so she needs to be able to handle unexpected situations on her own.
“Whether it [is] right or wrong, and whether it brings in more business or has a negative impact, I have to evaluate the options, make a decision, track the outcome and respond accordingly,” Bummer said.
Besides relying on the devotion of the business owners, the success of the PowerLink Program also greatly depends on the quality and commitment of the advisors who serve the women entrepreneurs for no compensation beyond the satisfaction of helping local business.
Betsey Benson, Publisher and Vice President of Pittsburgh Magazine, serves on the PowerLink Advisory Board as an advisor and acknowledges that small business owners “face a myriad of challenges, including calibrating their operations to remain profitable in challenging economic time.”
Benson states: “Business owners must adjust and reinvent themselves in big and small ways every day to stay relevant in an ever-changing marketplace.”
These challenges are, at least, made a little easier by the supportive guidance provided by the specialized teams assigned to each business owner. According to Benson, advisors need to be very cognizant of the varying needs of the business owners. All too often, an advisor offers a “one-size-fits-all solution” instead of providing meaningful advice that will complement the goals of the business. If advisors do not tailor their advice, business owners do not reap all the benefits of the PowerLink Advisory Board Program.
Overall, Benson finds the role of advisor highly gratifying, citing her curiosity as one of her main motivators.
“I love the ‘peek behind the curtain’ aspect because I am endlessly curious about what makes business happen. I am particularly interested in the human motivations that drive business decisions,” said Benson.
Despite their different vantage points, both business owner and advisor encourage young people to take their dreams head on. Although entrepreneurship is not an easy road, Bummer says it has been worthwhile.
“Becoming an entrepreneur has been the most rewarding experience of my career to date. It has brought some of the most stressful times I have ever experienced along with the most satisfying triumphs,” said Bummer.
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