Developed by the Kauffman Foundation, PEV gives step-by-step instructions on developing a business plan for starting and managing a small business. According to Fred Gebarowski, Wake Tech's director of Entrepreneurship, the business plan Angel developed as a result of his participation in the course was the best he'd ever seen. "It was so good that I was hard pressed to ask any questions about it,” says Gebarowski.
"The course was phenomenal to me in that it gave me a lot of the concepts but also invaluable tools,” says Angel. "Kauffman provided a template that really helped me build out the plan. The financials were the same way; we had very in-depth financials because we had to show the investors what they were going to get. My business partner, Alan Fluke, sent the plan around to contacts he has nationally and everyone said it was a great business plan.”
After finishing the PEV course, Angel spent 12 months writing his business plan. "The message here is that rarely does someone have their business plan finished at the end of the course,” says Gebarowski. "It actually took Chris 12 months to get all the information he needed, to touch all the bases and do all the research. But the course gives you the tools and the knowledge to put the business plan together.”
After seeing the business plan Kane Realty Corporation, developer of North Hills, a multi-use district that has revived Raleigh's mid-town district, agreed to provide $1 million in tenant allowances. Then, using an investor forum, Angel and his partner raised the additional monies they needed to launch their first location, which they envision as the flagship of what will soon become a chain of Sparians. Each location will have approximately 100 employees, including six to eight full-timers, generating lots of employment opportunities.
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Angel credits his wife with finally getting him on the entrepreneurial path. He worked in sales and marketing for global software companies for 15 years but had long desired to have his own business. "The challenge was that I was in a very lucrative profession; leaving a job with a six-figure salary plus commission is difficult,” he says. "But I had this desire to be an entrepreneur and I'd always talked about it with my wife. Then about two and a half years ago, she looked at me and said, ‘You talk about it all the time; when are you going to do it?' And it hit me between the eyes that I needed to take practical steps. We had a discussion about what this is what it would take as a family and she agreed to do this.
"When I first went to the first class, the room was packed, but by the third or fourth class you see people whittle down,” says Angel. "So many people have a great idea and then they realize it's going to be a lot more work than they anticipated. You really have to have that dedication.”
"One of the greater values in the front end in the course is that it gets people to think about whether they're cut out to be an entrepreneur,” says Gebarowski. "Then the next part gets into the feasibility of the business idea – is it something that someone is going to pay you to do and that you can make enough money to meet your personal goals? Initially when we started running the program, we were full with 24 students and then by the end of the session there would be 10 to 12 people. I realized I was doing a service by helping people find out they weren't cut out to be an entrepreneur or their concept couldn't be turned into an idea that could make money. The course helps you be introspective in the beginning to make good decisions.”
As for Angel, he has no doubt that he made a good decision. "I just wish I'd done it sooner!” he says.