Bouncing Back

Just because they found themselves on the wrong end of a pink slip doesn’t mean they were going to take their layoffs lying down. By Lynn Celmer

Nancy Spruel describes herself as the “accidental entrepreneur.” She didn’t go out looking to own her own business, it just happened as a series of events unfolded. After experiencing three layoffs in five years in the volatile garment industry, Spruel decided that her whole heart wasn’t into going back into the industry, but she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do.

“As my unemployment was nearing its end, a friend of mine called and said that she couldn’t handle the wholesale side of her business and asked me if I would consider becoming an account rep,” Spruel said. “I’ve been a skin care junkie since I was young. A couple of other friends asked me to represent them as well. About three weeks into it, we realized that I knew a lot more about wholesaling than they did.”

One of Spruel’s friends who is a marketing and website design guru convinced her that she should do consulting and built her website for free.

She decided to post on a Startup Nation forum thread one morning and by that afternoon, someone had asked her to represent their product line. In November of 2007, she launched

Spruel always said she would never work for herself. “Sometimes you don’t choose things, they choose you,” she said. “I didn’t think I ever wanted to be self-employed and now I absolutely love it. One of the things that I’m very passionate about is giving back and I get to represent some philanthropic lines, so I’m happy that I get to help others with my work.”

As far as advice for anyone in similar position, Spruel said it’s important to do your homework. “Talk to everyone you know about it. Talk to everyone you don’t know about it. I believe in talking to everyone about getting feedback. You never know when someone might know something that you don’t. Also, if you think it’s going to be easy, it’s not. If you are serious about your business, you will work harder than you did as an employee, and you will put in more hours, but it’s worth the trade off if you’re living your passion.”

When Christine Marchuska lost her job in the financial industry after six years, she decided not to stay in finance. She was pretty burned out and she realized that people that had worked hard for these firms were very disposable.

She comes from an entrepreneurial family so it was pretty natural for her to want to start something on her own. She launched her company starting with eco-friendly T-shirts in July of 2008.

“I did not know nearly enough about the garment industry or running a business,” Marchuska said. “I was just on autopilot and I started taking sewing classes in the garment district in New York. I was doing a lot of networking with other entrepreneurs in the garment industry. I also did a ton of reading and took lots of what they call slash and crash courses. About November of 2008 is when I officially launched my own separate line.”

Marchuska has always had a strong love for the environment so her line features versatile pieces for the young professional woman made out of luxurious eco-friendly fabric.

Marchuska feels that networking is very important when it comes to growing your business. “I think networking is huge,” she said. “It’s probably one of the most important things you can do. It’s about learning the whole process and everything within the industry. Business owners should really take advantage of every free marketing opportunity that exists out there. I do a lot with social networking like blogs, Google alerts, Facebook, etc. When you first start up, you don’t want to dedicate too much money to your marketing.”

Marchuska credits her working in the financial industry for much of her business knowledge. “I learned tons of stuff,” she said. “I think I would be missing out on large amounts of my skill set had it not been for my experience with finance, especially in sales. It just teaches you to really persevere and to deal with major challenges. That was huge and has helped me tremendously in meetings and such.”

Marchuska has a lot of passion for her business and hopes to become one of the leaders in the green fashion realm. “I would like to see my line being sold at every major boutique and small retailer in the U.S., as well as globally and in the future hope to eventually have some offers to buy my business.”

Like many General Motors employees, journeyman toolmaker Tom Hodge was following in his father’s footsteps when he took a job at the now closed Moraine, Ohio assembly plant. After 12 years, Hodge worked his last shift in December of 2008.

Instead of gambling on a transfer, Hodge decided to take a buyout and pursue his lifelong dream of starting his own business. He took part of the money from his buyout and opened Absolute CNC Machining in a 1,500 square-foot warehouse in Germantown, Ohio.

“I’d been planning to start my own business since I was 23,” Hodge said. “That was before I actually worked at GM. I didn’t actually realize it until June of last year. That’s when I began realizing that this was going to be the perfect opportunity for me. I thoroughly enjoy my trade and I’m very passionate about it and all of the possibility that it provides.”

Hodge began researching on his own using the Internet, his local library, and speaking to people in the community and building on their experience. Hodge found the Small Business Administration website to be very helpful. He suggests anyone that is looking to start a business sit down and take an hour a day for a few weeks researching the information on

Once he hit the marketing part of the business; that was where he ran into a roadblock. Hodge decided to visit SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) last October.

“I had a dream and an idea and I knew I could do it, but I couldn’t get past the actual running of the business,” Hodge said. “My biggest mountain to climb has been just learning how to run a business. They assigned me a coach, Dick King, and he got me over those few bumps in the road. I talked with him almost daily and he’s been absolutely terrific and dedicated to helping me.”

As far as his goals are concerned, Hodge wants to have enough work eventually to be able to hire some help. “I think it would be such a good feeling to think that I’m going to provide employment,” Hodge said. “I think providing an excellent workplace and a friendly environment is something that will be beneficial for both the employee and the company. My second goal is to provide excellent service to my customers. I also see myself expanding into another building eventually. I don’t know exactly how big I want to get. A lot of companies started out with just one person and they just got way too big. I would like to stay local.”

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Reader Comments

Friday, November 13, 2009 at 11:10 AM
anonymous says:
Such encouraging stories to all who find themselves at a crossroads. Courage and the desire to serve are inherent to success. Best wishes to all who dare to take that step!

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