That’s what friends are for

Scott Loggins and I became friends by accident. I was writing a story about Troop 2, a special needs boy no failscout group in Cedar Rapids, and was introduced to Scott, who was the leader of Venturing Crew 2 at the time.

Venturing Crew is a branch of the Boy Scouts that is open to boys and girls 14-21. It follows the Boy Scout rules and regulations, but this group does not get badges for their efforts. Instead, they receive awards for completing a series of challenges, such as the Venturing Award, which requires 24 hours of community service. Venturing Crew 2 is designed for special needs individuals, as well.

Scott’s son, Andrew, is 23 and a member of the Crew. Because membership is based on cognitive age, rather than actual age, my son, Sean, who is autistic, was welcomed into the group. I got to know the kids and eventually became the leader of the crew. (Scott is also the committee president for Troop 2/Venturing Crew 2.)

But the story doesn’t stop there. Scott, who is also a small business owner and a SCORE mentor, has helped me build my online marketing business, MarkIt CR. There have been several times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, but Scott’s support and encouragement have helped me see that I just might be able to pull this off.

I didn’t intend to become a business owner and did so by default when I started my newspaper in 2012. After it was apparent I couldn’t get the advertising necessary to keep the paper going, I ended publication of the paper and got a full-time job.

I enjoyed working at Hibu as a pagination specialist (a fancy name for magazine editor), but I was missing the freedom of being my own boss and was already mulling over the idea of starting my own business when I was laid off in April 2014.

I saw this as a sign. With more time on my hands, I could focus on starting a business. However, I still wasn’t convinced that being a business owner was the right path for me. I started asking questions like, “what kind of business would be the most successful?” and “Do I have what it takes?”

I thought about the things I was already pretty good at and what I liked to do. I liked to write,  I knew that much. I also like to help people and I love to create things. Websites, videos, and photography came to mind. So how could I use all these things to my advantage?

Scott help me sort through my confusion to figure out what kind of business I would be happy doing, but also the best chance for success. He didn’t laugh at my wild ideas about what I wanted to do, but explained the pros and cons that each one consisted of.

That’s when MarkIt CR was born. I would help small businesses owners get online and teach them how to use social media to get the most out of their advertising dollars. And because I am a one-woman show, with low overhead, I could do it at an affordable price.

Scott became my go-to guy for every business question I could ever have, and in turn, he consults with me on the writing, web, and social media issues he comes across. He sends me leads for small businesses that might need help getting online. He also opened his door to me as a tenant in his building when I needed space to work.

I was a little leery about becoming a business owner, especially after my newspaper folded, and shared my fears with Scott. He confided in me that his first business wasn’t a success. And neither was the fifth. He told me it took him 10 tries before his business, Kieck’s Career Apparel, became a success. He has since sold it and now owns Air Management in Cedar Rapids (a filter supply company) as well as several other businesses and real estate.

Scott was also on the flood business task force when Cedar Rapids faced one of its biggest challenges of its existence. The Flood of 2008 damaged most of the buildings in the downtown area and Scott was in charge of helping these businesses rebuild or relocate.

But Scott is a humble, behind-the-scenes kind of guy. Like me, he doesn’t like being in the limelight and would much rather work his magic in the background, which he does, magnificently. He is quiet, but he usually gets people to do what he wants. He is always ready to lend a hand and is a great example of what being a good friend means. He won’t sugar-coat anything, which is why I value his friendship the most. He genuinely cares about his friends, and it shows.

Scott convinced me to teach a SCORE class in March, using the Wix website building program, to a group of small business. I hesitated because of my ingrained apprehension of speaking in public (strange for a journalist, I know), but he pointed out, “What’s there to be afraid of?”

He’s right. I’m reminded of the quote, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” After all, nothing is a failure if you learn from it. I see my ventures as stepping stones to something bigger.  Though my newspaper wasn’t a complete success, it was an awesome experience. And just because I may have zigged and zagged my way to an online marketing business, I got here, and I love it. I get to use everything I have ever learned and I’m pretty good at it.

It’s nice to have friends who want to see you succeed. It helps make the journey less intimidating.



(My) Office Space

For the first time in my life, I have an office. With a real door.

My new office, which is also my first.

My new office, which is also my first.

And not just one in my house, either. This is an actually office with a desk that takes up half the dimensions and a couple of chairs and shelves. True, it doesn’t have my name on the door yet, but it’s just a matter of time.

I have been going back and forth with the whole “owning a business” thing. I have it in my blood. My grandpa owned a grocery store for years in Cedar Rapids, where I grew up. And as a kid, I was the one who wanted to play “store” or “restaurant” when others wanted to play “house.”

But I have a lot of fears, as I’m sure most  entrepreneurs have. (If they don’t they should have some, anyway). As I have found out, there is a lot of comfort in going to a 9 to 5 job and being able to leave your work there.

And I could do that, if I could get one, but as it is, I have had countless rejections in as many months and I’m getting tired of it.

It’s not a lack of skills,but I think employers look at my resume and see that I have only been out of college two years. It doesn’t matter f I started my own newspaper or if I have published a book. I am 51 years old with two years experience, but a lifetime of street-smarts.  Doesn’t that count for something?

So I decided to run with my online marketing idea, MarkIt CR. My niche is that I help small businesses get online at an affordable price. I am a small business owner. I know how tight money is. And I know how valuable my time is. If I were the owner of a small shop and was the only employee, I would love it if I could hire someone to do the dirty work (who happens to like doing it.)

It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

But then I realized that I needed my own space, a place where I could work and NO ONE would bother me. I needed an office.

The building where my new office is belongs to a friend of mine. I asked him if he knew someone who wanted to share office space and said, “As a matter of fact, I do.”

“Can two friends share the same office space without driving each other crazy?”

I think in this case, we can. He and I are both advisors for Venture Crew, an organization that is associated with the Boy Scouts of America. Our group is specifically for special needs boys and girls, and he and I both have sons who are challenged.  The other person who is sharing the office is on the committee for the group.

It’s so nice having my own space, and I couldn’t ask for better office mates.