Allison Steers started Get Social to specialize in social media management and website development for small businesses in the LaCrosse area. Her elevator pitch: “We help you brand yourself socially to create better relationships with your current and future clients.”
Friends who owned businesses planted the seeds for Get Social when they reached out to her for help with their social media. Then, Allison said, “One day I was having a fence installed, and I went online to post a review of the business. He did not have a Facebook page! He said he didn’t have time and didn’t know how.” She discovered a need in her community that she could fill.
SBDC helped Allison move forward, reduce risk
Allison met Counselor Terri Urbanek of the UW-LaCrosse Small Business Development Center when Terri presented to a local women’s networking group. Allison realized, “I absolutely needed that guidance.” That SBDC counseling was free was a plus.
Terri helped Allison work on a business plan and financial projections. Terri brought in SBDC-LaCrosse colleagues with expertise in social media and HR to make sure Allison set up her operation correctly from the start. They worked on a SWOT analysis, a risk mitigation plan, and financial projections to guide management decisions. Allison did not seek outside financing.
After about six months, Allison was ready to launch. For some entrepreneurs, that means “all in.” But Allison and her husband have three young children. A slow-and-steady launch, with less risk, was a better fit. Both parents maintain full-time jobs outside the home. Get Social is, for now, a home-based business, using independent contractors to expand capacity. Allison’s husband does the business bookkeeping and accounting.
Terri helped Allison discern how much she would have to earn in the business before leaving her day job. Terri said, “She was looking for a supplemental income. As she builds the client base, using independent contractors, she’s using her management background to run the business, which works.” Allison said, “The SBDC was a game changer for me. They gave me the confidence to jump in, even part-time.”
Referrals run both ways
To market Get Social Allison relies on social media and networking. “Referrals have been huge for me,” she said.
Allison continues to meet with Terri for business advice. Now, referrals run both directions. “She brings me into their local events for businesses in the area,” said Allison, who has studied public speaking. “It’s a good relationship. Terri knows I’m a resource for her.”
Terri said, “Allison loves to talk to people. She’ll go find companies that would benefit from social media. In her kind of business, that’s what you have to have.”
Accomplishments with the SBDC of UW-LaCrosse
- Business planning
- Specialized advice on HR and Social Media
- Referral relationships
Work-life balance has been a challenge for Allison, because “the business grew faster than I ever imagined.” Allison limits the number of clients she can take on and serves them in the evenings and on the weekends. Transparency and discipline are the keys to her slow-growth approach.
Allison has found the business to be more seasonal than expected because her first clients’ businesses are seasonal. She plans to identify more niches to focus on and hire independent contractors who specialize in each field, which will create jobs in the area. Then comes expansion into other midsize cities. Allison doesn’t plan to leave the security of her employment until the children are in high school. “For now, I’ll develop it as a full-time job not for me, but for the people who work for me.”