Thriving cities depend on the adventurous among us, who alter the urban landscape when they forge their own successful paths.
Each month, we ask an influential Pittsburgher: What was it like for you in the beginning?
Live: Mt. Washington
Work: East Liberty
How Long: 5 years
Projects: The Beauty Shoppe’s coworking model was inspired by our experience starting GTECH, a social enterprise here in Pittsburgh. As young entrepreneurs reasonably uncertain about the future, there was no 3rd option between signing a 12-month minimum office lease (and buying things to fill it) and squeezing into an less-than-desirable free option. As real estate developers, coworking is something of an industry innovation that made sense given our own entrepreneurial and business experiences.
What was the defining moment that propelled you to start your own business? I had left a job working for a larger commercial real estate developer to start my own boutique firm, Edile, in 2010. This left me in a similar situation as when we founded GTECH, in terms of bouncing between office options. Coworking was an idea that had bounced around Pittsburgh for several years without a real space emerging, and as I was collaborating with on other projects in East Liberty – and found a great partner in ELDI Real Estate – it wasn’t too far a stretch to launch The Beauty Shoppe. It’s concept was much more of an experiment than plan… activate a space, see who showed up, and hopefully learn something in the process. Its been fun, plus we’ve helped serve a broad range of freelancers, small firms, start-ups, projects. Now we’re super excited to expand the business and serve a much greater community.
What struggles did you face when starting your own business? Focusing on less. Getting an idea off the ground, it made sense to chase every opportunity, particularly in a place like Pittsburgh. With so much potential, its difficult to really focus on the ideas the hold the fastest potential to make it. A partner told me recently that pumpkin farmers tend only the strongest stems and kill off the rest. Its a good analogy to business.
What was the riskiest move you ever made? The easy answer is leaving a stable job to do something uncertain and entrepreneurial, but I’ve never viewed it that way. In my mind the downside of everything I’ve chosen to do over the past few years was broader relationships, valuable experience, and the satisfaction of pursuing projects important to me. While its naive to think this path doesn’t demand sacrifices and support, I didn’t necessarily see it as risky. Maybe this lacks perspective or is short-sighted but I haven’t had too much time to reflect.
If you could change the past, is there anything involving your career that you would do differently? I try not to dwell too much on past decisions. Everything I’ve done has led me to today, and I’m very happy with that.
Could you ever go back to a “normal job,” working for someone else? Absolutely… sometimes preferably… but it would need to be the right job, right inspiration, assuming I had the luxury of options. It would be fun to use some of the perspective and experience I’ve gained to help launch or scale a more established business.
What personality traits must someone possess in order to do what you do and be successful? In my experience, its helpful to be a humble self-evaluator and to understand when to seek help, and its necessary to deal well with uncertainty.
In the beginning, if you could have had a glimpse into where your work is today, what 3 words describe how you might have felt? Be well rounded.