Originally from West Palm Beach, FL, Jamara Wilson, founder of Tuxedo Impressions, attended college at The University of Central Florida before moving to New York City to fulfill a childhood dream. She always wanted to be a business woman and thought the Big Apple was the perfect place to prove herself. Turned out, she was right. After several years of hard work, not only did she "make it", she also worked with a lot of small businesses and learned through observation that there was a need for order. In particular, there was a need for small businesses to have systems in place that promoted fluent communication, processes, input and output. After a move and a one year stay in Chicago, where Wilson worked in visual merchandising and inventory management for The Container Store, the timing was right to move back to Orlando and launch her new business.
"When I moved back to Orlando in December of 2013, I took a part-time job with a local Internet company while I built out my business," she said. "I was determined not to do anything where I could potentially get comfortable and/or promoted. I didn't want that anymore. I was focused on building my own business. I formally launched Tuxedo Impressions in July of 2014. The goal was to work with small businesses to help them establish efficiencies through an effective combination of processes, people and technology."
Tuxedo Impressions was born out of Wilson's frustrations working with companies that didn't have organization in their processes. According to Wilson, she often encountered employees that weren't following the processes that were in place. As someone who worked in several customer facing positions, she would feel this pain. After launching Tuxedo Impressions, Wilson kept her part-time job for a year until the business was generating revenue on a consistent basis, enabling her to pay herself and put some money back into the business. In the world of small businesses, generating enough revenue to pay yourself in year one is a big accomplishment, but as Wilson shared, the milestone came with its fair share of challenges.
"The biggest challenge was understanding exactly what I was doing and how to communicate that to potential clients," she said. "I didn't know it was process improvement. I thought I was more of a business coach or operations specialist. Describing the business and our services was confusing to some people, unless I had plenty of time to sit down with them. As a result, I pivoted the business and re-branded to focus on process improvement and how to effectively communicate that to clients. Other challenges included pricing and how to reach our niche target market. I had to learn to demonstrate our value and to package that into a proposal. Once I established our prices and the right proposals, I had to learn how to find the small businesses that needed our services and then get them to understand that we're a solution to their problems."
During the process of formalizing her value proposition, Wilson, like most great entrepreneurs, took full advantage of the resources around her. She started working with a small business coach and attending relevant workshops to learn as much as she could. She also utilized the National Entrepreneur Center, SBA.gov and SCORE, where she met with coaches and mentors. The result of her efforts was a cleaned-up and refined approach that allowed her to effectively communicate her services to her clients.
Looking ahead, Wilson, who recently completed Lean Six Sigma training, is focused on process improvement for small businesses and she's motivated by the relief she brings to stressed-out business owners. She'll continue to offer consultations and workshops, with an emphasis on the latter. "I want to facilitate more workshops for small businesses and organizations," she said. "It's a great way to get in front of our target market and to let them see that we're an answer to their problems. We're also set up for government contracting, so getting more opportunities with local government agencies is a big goal of ours."
Wilson offers up some invaluable advice for those looking to take the entrepreneurial plunge. "In Michael Gerber's E-Myth, he talks about the difference between being a technician, a manager and an entrepreneur," she said. "You can be passionate about being a technician, which is your craft, but you need an entirely different mindset to actually run a business. Your product or service will be easier to sell if you have a well oiled business. Stay consistent and understand that you'll have long days and that you'll have to make sacrifices. In some cases, that includes financial and relationship sacrifices. Nevertheless, it's important to stay the course and to always remember your 'why'. Why did you start your business in the first place? I'm also a firm believer in slow and manageable growth. Understand your competition and what they're doing, but stay focused on your business. Focus on the behaviors behind operating your business and the results will come. Don't focus on the money and quick results. Focus on solving a problem and being the best at solving that problem. Lastly, make sure you're honest, transparent, ethical and fair."
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