Part two there’s more than one way to start a business.
Editor’s note: This is part two of a three part series spotlighting Lily Winsaft a successful Latina entrepreneur and her successful journey. Part one is entitled: The Anatomy of a Latina Entrepreneur Hard work, a thirst for learning and giving back are the building blocks of success.
Latin Business Today: What was the motivation or inspiration behind establishing your business?
I was working with a corporation that was a leader in the industry. I loved the people and the job itself but didn’t align with some of the business practices. It was then that I decided the road to happiness was to start my own company. It would empower me and free me up to execute as I see fit.
As mentioned earlier, I thrive on freedom and my own Hispanic business was a seemingly clear path to get there. It was a huge motivator.
My youngest son, Kory at the time was studying astronomy and suggested we name the company after a star. A solid suggestion since my dream was to work with superstar professionals and help companies hire in a way that empowered them and the candidates…That’s how Aldebaran Associates was born.
Since first launching Aldebaran Associates we’ve had a number of sales teams but the first team will always have a very special place in my heart. These were an exceptional group of ladies who inspired me to be a good leader, and work hard for the goal of the team, not just for myself.
Latin Business Today: Where is your company located and why did you choose the present location for your business?
Aldebaran Associates was launched where I lived eighteen years ago in Atlanta, Georgia. The first major office was located in Buckhead and we built the office to our customized specs. It was very exciting.Several years ago I moved to South Florida and we opened an office not far from my home. My commute is six minutes and the location is beautiful. A year later the office in Atlanta was closed. It’s interesting how we’ve continued to evolve as a Hispanic business company. We’ve maintained the personal touch while leveraging technology tools to extend our virtual footprint.
It’s a family affair, as mentioned earlier, we are building a sales team in San Diego. My son Lance is in charge and running it. He embedded in the market. He has lived in San Diego since he attended UCSD. He graduated a little over five years ago.
Lance’s training and mentoring style is personal and hands on. Given his interpersonal style and the entry into a new market necessitated a new brick and mortar location in San Diego.
My other son, Kory, is relocating to San Diego from South Florida to be a more integral part of the business. Currently he is involved in sales and recruiting but also handles much of our social media. As I write this he is driving a U-Haul and is somewhere in Texas.
Latin Business Today: What was your start-up plan and then your start up timeline?
I actually didn’t have a start-up plan or timeline and never had an official business plan. Having said that, I do not recommend this strategy, but it is how I got started.
After I resigned from my corporate job, by chance I happened to meet a CFO that was interested in hiring an accountant for his company. One thing led to another and he hired me to recruit that person.
When I successfully filled that first position and got paid, I experienced an unbelievable joy knowing I could keep all the money…and that I didn’t have to give any of it away. With those first funds, which were less than $10K, I hired someone to work on my website, an artist to design the logo, purchased business cards, began attending all sorts of professional networking events and as the say, the rest is history.
Latin Business Today: What skills did you acquire in business that prepared you for becoming an Executive Search entrepreneur?
Photo: Women’s Leadership Exchange, Lily is third from left.
My degree in psychology has been most instrumental in enabling me to understand what “makes people tick.” This is very important when matching someone’s personality and value systems with an employer. Of course, my sales background was key and continues to be a driving force in growing the company. I have always felt blessed that I am a natural born saleswoman.
Another key skill set was the ability to create and facilitate training programs.
This was helpful on two fronts; when bringing on new people but also because our product is a menu of training programs for corporations. My experience as a trainer also helps me to excel as a presenter and being adept at motivational speaking. Speaking is a skill highly valued by organizations, including those at which I have served in the capacity of a board director. As such I have served on numerous panels at conferences, which has gotten me a lot of exposure. Lastly, by spending five years with a Fortune 500 company that does staffing and recruiting I learned the ropes, so to speak. By the time I resigned from Robert HaIf, I pretty much had all the skills I need to hang my own shingle. And for the skills I lacked, such as financial aptitude and business planning in general, I partnered with individuals that were strong in these areas.
Latin Business Today: Finances are important to a business. Please share with us your experience and thoughts on financing.
What types of financing did you consider to fund your business? What criteria did you use to assess available funding options?
The company was funded through a nice little deal almost at its inception and included the sale of stock from my last employment. Later on I secured a second mortgage on my home. In addition, dictated by need I also secured loans from family members and angel investors. My criteria was urgency and access. I was pretty much willing to do anything to secure the necessary funds. This included paying very high interest rates in a couple of instances.
Latin Business Today: Did you research and anticipate start-up costs?
Again, I did something I don’t recommend. That is, flying by the seat of my pants. There was little to no planning. I really didn’t know what I was doing. My business was started not because I planned to start a business. It came into existence because after I resigned from my corporate job I thought I could do “a little recruiting” while I secured my next employment. It was meant to be temporary. It was something to keep me entertained while I hit the pavement interviewing for jobs. I really wanted to start a business but I didn’t think I had what it takes, so I just dipped my big toe into the lake and kept testing the water until I was in chest deep and there was no turning back. I learned as I went, made lots of mistakes, experienced terror, and finally came out on the other end almost unscathed.
Latin Business Today: Tell us about the factors and people who have influenced the growth of your business.
Did you have a ‘trusted’ advisor/mentor whom you have worked with, consulted or confided in? How has their input been useful?
None of these early on. But I did have a loving boyfriend who believed in me to no end. He donated an Apple computer which I set up on my kitchen table and launched and officially launched my business. He encouraged me and told me I was brilliant and could “do this thing.” I also had two very smart and supportive teenage sons who inspired me to keep going. As the business involved I did build excellent relationships with professionals that in an “unofficial” capacity gave me all sorts of tips that were helpful. In addition, I was a member of numerous professional organizations, many of which I joined as a board member. These organizations always brought in experts to speak and I learned almost everything about business from them. At one point I belonged to over 15 professional organizations, many of them focused on women entrepreneurs and Hispanic business owners.
Latin Business Today: Although you didn’t start off with a business plan in retrospect what would you say are the essential elements of a business plan?
Understanding your market, your audience and how your product or service can meet a demand thereof. Of course knowing the precedents of your industry and possible challenges, including what you’re up against with your competition and how you will differentiate your business. Being clear about the financial aspects of the business is very important. Having a solid sense of your budget and how you will market and promote your business is critical. When I got started I didn’t have disposable monies to spend on marketing so I had to come up with creative ways to promote my business, such as joining boards and offering motivational talks to corporations. I built intrinsic value around my brand through my personal skills.
Latin Business Today: What is the future plan for your business?
My sons are very interested in taking the company to the next level, and they are doing it! This includes adding staff, building a rock-star sales team and expanding our portfolio lines including our contract division. A sale of the company in the future is certainly a possibility as well.
In part three Lily will focus on the importance of a work-life balance.
Part one: The Anatomy of a Latina Entrepreneur