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Now, let's get down to business and learn about Valentina Grisales' business!
Wanting to drive a new car is a pretty good motivator for most people to get their hustle on.
At the age of 17, FOMO works pretty well.
But Valentina Grisales took things to a new level after she saw her older friends with their new cars.
She was working at a cell phone store at the time to make it happen.
“The bus would literally drop me off in front of the store that I was working at…I was working till 7 p.m., 9 p.m – so I didn’t have a lot of free time for going out with my friends.”
But then she imagined all the possibilities.
STARTED BUSINESS: October 20, 2008 (13 years ago)
LATINO CONNECTION: Born in Colombia
EDUCATION: Florida Gulf Coast University – Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration
DREAM JOB AS A KID: Surgeon
BIGGEST GOAL YET:
“My next project, maybe not soon, but when I have more free time is to be an entrepreneur coach…Sometimes, it’s the little things that hold you back. And you know, having the experience…you can Google it. But it’s not the same as talking to someone who [has] been through it.”
“I love traveling…I would like to be able to volunteer somewhere abroad. But the business, and going away for six months, doesn’t allow it. So, I’m thinking, hopefully, by 45, I can retire.”
NOT YOUR TYPICAL TEENAGE-TYPE BUSINESS
“I was getting paid my weekly $200-$300…It wasn’t a lot…but I was like, you know what? Let me save for my car, and then I’ll buy it with cash. That’s how it all started.”
What she started was a business. Not just your typical teenage-type business.
No, she decided she wanted to open her own cell phone store. There was just one problem: to get approved for a franchise, she had to show she’d already owned a business.
So she came up with a plan.
“I started selling accessories and unlocked phones.”
SOLUTION: FLEA MARKET
And she sold those unlocked phones (the ones that can be moved from one network provider to another without a long-term contract) at the flea market.
That’s right. The flea market.
“Here in Florida, we don’t have A/C in the flea markets – at least back then…It was really hot. But I was really excited every time I made a sale.”
When she finally made some money, her thinking changed. Even she was surprised that she went from looking at things from a teen’s point of view to a business owner’s perspective. She decided, “Let’s buy some more inventory.”
Grisales had her booth at the flea market for three or four months, long enough to show that she had owned a business. More importantly, that’s where she learned, it’s not just how much money you make. It’s how much you keep. And what you do with it afterwards.
Then, she opened her cell phone store at the age of 18.
The first year went really well, much better than she expected.
Grisales racked up half a million dollars in sales.
And all this was happening to a teen whose family went from having some money when they lived in Colombia to having nothing to spare when they came to the United States.
She remembers her dad telling her when they first arrived to the U.S., “We’re tight right now with money…If you want to go out with your own friends or get your own stuff, you’re going to have to work.” So she became a bagger at Publix at the age of 13.
Of course, once Grisales opened her very own cell phone store in Bonita Springs in 2008, the realities of owning a business versus reading about it in school also kicked in for her.
“You make your business plan and you just see the numbers. And numbers don’t lie.”
Then there are the industry-related problems that, sometimes, creep up.
“We had some problems at the beginning of this year with inventory,” but she says that was because of the semiconductor chip shortage. Grisales says it was not because of the supply chain problems affecting other companies. “Thank God it hasn’t really impacted us.”
THE "OTHER" CUSTOMERS
The biggest shift that impacted her business happened when she changed her thinking about her "other" customers.
“My real customers are my employees. Those are the ones that I want to keep happy…because they’re the ones that are going to translate that to my customers.”
Once Grisales took that into account, that’s when her business really took off.
She was able to buy a second store in her second year of business. And, then, going into the third year, she bought her third cell phone store.
Changing people’s perceptions about who the boss is has been a bigger challenge.
SHE'S THE BOSS
She says that when customers see her dad and brother, they automatically assume they’re "the ‘jefes’. They’re the owners.”
But that’s not the case.
Grisales is the boss. She started the business. Her parents and brother joined her business later.
Grisales is now 30 years old. She now has five cell phone stores and 22 employees.
I ask her, if she hadn’t opened a cell phone store, what kind of business would she have started?
THAT FEARLESS CHILD
She laughs and says that she once told her parents, “I want to open a liquor store. And, at the time, I was 17. And they laughed. They were, like, you can’t even drink!”
She thinks back to that young girl who put up with scorching temperatures while selling her goods in the flea market. It was all because she wanted to make enough money to buy herself a car.
That young girl’s dreams and ambition continue to fuel her today.
“I smile because, as you grow older…you have more responsibilities. You have more to lose, I guess. But I always try to bring myself [back to] that child in me. That fearless child.”
THE TIP JAR...(tips passed out courtesy of Valentina Grisales)
STARTING OUT: When you're starting out, Grisales thinks you really need to make sure you like the idea for your business.
"Sometimes, we have the drive because of the money. But the money’s not going to cut it.” She says, “You kind of have to be your own motivation.”
“Try to save as much as possible before. The first year is usually very challenging.”
“Don’t expect that instant gratification. Wait and be persistent and, yeah, save.” She says that will help you “hang in there.”
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Grisales bought her first house at 21. “You want things now. You want that reward. But you will get there. You just gotta wait. You don’t want to do things backwards when you go buy the house and the car. And the next thing you know, you’re barely breaking even in your business.”
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career): “My advice would be to work on your time management. And then make a transition. Or maybe you can do both. Or, if you already have the savings and the will to do it, go for it!
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: “I’m crazy OCD about my lists. I have a to-do list, and I check that daily, multiple times. What I do that works really well for me is that I put my phone away for one or two hours in the morning. And then I just really concentrate on one task. Because owning a business, you will get a call every second – or a text…and that will take your attention away.”
STARTING OVER: “It’s never too late to start over. And I learned from my family coming here, you have nothing to lose. And my best advice is to work the numbers…Work your numbers first. And, if it makes sense, proceed.”
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN: “Putting [in] the floor[ing] myself with my family…We thought we were going to save money, and we ended up spending more and working a lot.”
“Open a [savings] account for growth.” She stresses that this is not a savings account for emergencies. That’s different.
“I think that a [savings account for growth] is really important in business. Because I think people get stuck – in one restaurant, one location…one business – when you can have multiple sources of income, instead of having just one thing.”
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE: “If I’m down, pa’delante (Note: That’s short for “para adelante”)."
TRANSLATION: Shake it off. Keep moving forward.
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
20 Questions to Answer Before Starting a Business
The SBDC chapters around Florida are your key to getting free help. If you prefer to do things on your own time, this link provides you with a number of tools to help you start your business. The last item listed provides you with a list of 20 questions to ask yourself (and answer) before you decide to start your business.
The questions force you to consider things you may, or may not, have thought of before starting your business. The list can help you focus on factors that will be critical to launching your business.
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help, especially when it comes to emotional health:
Conquer the Chaos
Looking ahead to December, you'll want to take down info on this class to help you find a way to better deal with chaos. We all go through chaos sometimes. But avoiding it, or at least knowing how to better manage it, sounds like a great class for saving your sanity. This virtual webinar is based on the book with the same title by Keap founders, Clate Mask and Scott Martineaux. Here's the link:
National Entrepreneurship Center/SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.
INSPIRATION FOR THIS ISSUE: I don't know about you, but I certainly was not making active plans to open any kind of a business when I was 17 years old.
And I thought of myself as an ambitious kid.
I'll try to make myself feel better by reminding myself that I come from a different generation than Grisales.
People her age and younger seem to be much savvier about entrepreneurship.
But she offers a really valuable lesson that speaks to our culture of instant gratification.
It seems as if people, in general, have grown more impatient and expect things right away. From a job promotion to making money to building a business, people don't want to wait anymore for things to naturally take shape or blossom.
Grisales seems to have mastered the art of productive waiting. She started out with the goal of wanting to make enough money to buy a new car when she opened her business.
She admitted her biggest daily temptation was not spending the money she earned immediately on a new car.
Instead, she waited.
She put off buying the car over and over again because she had the presence of mind to see the big picture.
How many of us at 17 or 18 could've, or even would've, done the same?
Her good planning, patience and perseverance resulted in her eventually becoming the owner of multiple cell phone stores.
At the same time, she has also been investing in real estate and renting out properties she owns, generating multiple income streams.
It's a delicate balance being an entrepreneur. Do you decide to just seize on a moment and open a business quickly - or wait till you think you're ready for it and the time is right? After all, it may never feel right.
In this case, the girl who clearly isn't afraid to jump out of planes and skydive also seems to have a knack for sizing up opportunities.
And in case you were wondering about the goal that started it all, getting a new car, she did finally get around to buying it.
At the age of 19.
And she didn't even go all out when she finally purchased it.
How many of you would've guessed that she bought a Nissan Altima?
🌴 Share your thoughts in the comments section. What car would you have bought?
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