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When going gets tough ... owners reinvent themselves as CEOs

Tuesday, March 29, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
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Whatever the words used -- downsized, laid off or fired -- being separated from a steady livelihood hurts.

Rather than trusting their fate to another employer, many people who find themselves in that position opt for entrepreneurship.

"I ask people, 'Do you want to be president of a company?'" said Angelo Mastrangelo, adjunct assistant professor in Binghamton University's School of Management. "They say, 'Yes, for sure' -- and I say, 'Good, then start your own business.'"

For decades, he has lived and breathed entrepreneurship as an author, instructor and successful small business owner in his own right. He started as a stock boy and ended up owning multi-million-dollar Adirondack Beverages, which he has since sold.

But the key isn't just being an entrepreneur, but in being entrepreneurial, he tells his students.

"You have to love commerce, embrace uncertainty, look forward to paying people on Friday and not necessarily getting paid yourself," he said. He has written extensively about the need for leadership skills that will promote the company's growth internally and externally.

"Not everybody can do it," he said. "They don't have the stomach."

But some do, and they're thankful they took the leap.

Find a niche and fill it

After Ian Gaffney was laid off from his job as a graphic artist, he and fellow 20-something, Samantha Abrams, launched Emmy's Organics in Ithaca. In 2009, their first year making and selling their vegan, gluten-free macaroons and other treats, they did $70,000 in sales.

"In 2010 that number almost tripled," she said. "We're growing very rapidly." They've added two part-time employees, in addition to themselves.

They make full use of social media through Twitter, Facebook, blogspot and their own website, and their products can be found on shelves in 25 states and other venues online.

Bob Talkiewicz, of West Windsor, got laid-off from Penguin Publishing in 2009 and couldn't find an equivalent position elsewhere, he said.

"I always wanted to have my own small business," said Talkiewicz, 59. "I came to realize 'why not start now?'"

He had a wide array of experiences and initially considered making his own line of motorcycle luggage, among other possibilities.

Then he enrolled in the Entrepreneur Assistance Program at Broome Community College and got focused.

"It's a fabulous program," he said.

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