This is the third in a week of profiles of local entrepreneurs who have started businesses in Siouxland. Some are small – with only one or two employees – while others have grown through the years to many employees. But all of them have started businesses here and this week share some feedback on what it means to start and grow a business in Siouxland.
BUSINESS OWNER: Tony Olson
BUSINESS NAME: D2 Worldwide
MAIN PRODUCTS/SERVICES: Global communication, behavioral science, data analysis and IT
YEAR STARTED: 2004
ADDRESS: Dakota Dunes, SD
Q: What makes you an entrepreneur?
A: I am an entrepreneur because I have the vision, I have the drive, I have the fortitude, and most importantly I have the willingness and the spirit to risk my family’s savings and my career on an idea and a key group of people. I am an entrepreneur because I take that vision and risk and with the help of a great team, mold it into a real company. Even bigger impact was the ability to attract and retain a great team of curious, creative, and hard-working people.
Q: What was the driving force behind you starting a business?
I had been involved in a number of startup company plans and discussions in the past. But it was never the right mix for me to take the plunge. This time, at the start of D2, everything came together. Due to the beginnings of the collapse of Gateway, there was an unusual number of diverse and talented people ready to consider another opportunity and eager to stay local. The timing in the market was right for a company that would help get products to market. Gateway was friendly to our startup and even became our first customer.
Q: What drives you each day?
A: What drives me is a burning desire to learn. I want to understand how things work, why they break, what people like, what they don’t like. What drives me is a burning desire to improve. I want to improve myself, those around me, the companies we work for, the products they make, and the services they provide. I also want to improve our community. What drives me is a burning desire to help people.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome as you’ve grown your business?
A: I have had three big challenges. First, I had to learn not to let the answer “NO” turn me off. Second, I had to understand that there are times the word no really means “not now”. Finally, I had to learn that not every customer wants to be a good customer.
Q: What has been your greatest reward?
A: The greatest reward has been working with great people, both D2 employees and our customers. We have been able to work on exciting new products, and we have been able to make a big impact.
Q: Why are startups and small companies important to a local economy?
A: Startups and small businesses are not only the life blood of a community, they are the very bone marrow of the local economy. All the net jobs added, effectively only come from startups. There was a US government study that stated “that, both on average and for all but seven years between 1977 and 2005, existing firms are net job destroyers, losing 1 million jobs net combined per year. By contrast, in their first year, new firms add an average of 3 million jobs.” (Reference “The Importance of Startups in Job Creation and Job Destruction” July 2010 Kauffman Foundation Research)
Q: What more can be done to help create, grow and promote small businesses and startups in Sioux City and the region?
A: Siouxland is a great place to live and raise a family. But, we have to be realistic about our region. We have one foot in the hole when compared to big city locations. So what can we do to enhance our positives and reduce our negatives?
1. Of course there are always tax breaks
2. More importantly – new businesses need business advice, support and services.
3. We need active business incubators. Services should include:
– Serving as an advisory board
– Providing training
– Helping with basic business functions (IT/web, Accounting, Legal)
– Providing business support resources and services managed by the incubator.
– Providing a location
– Helping with intellectual property
– Providing access to angel or venture funding
– Networking to strategic partners and potential customers
Know someone who should be featured? E-mail us here.