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Don't let economy extinguish innovation

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By Pat Sisneros and Juergen Kneifel
Published:
In our Everett Community College entrepreneurship and business classes, students are asking us whether they should wait until the economy gets better to start their own business.
They explain that they've got a great idea for a company and want to get started now, but worry that it seems risky to launch a business when the economy is so lousy.
This question isn't surprising given the depth of the recession and the effect it has had on many longtime businesses in our community. We continue to be amazed and saddened by the number of established companies that have had to shut down over the past year.
Our message to budding entrepreneurs is this time will pass. We will work our way through the impact of the financial and real estate bubble. This work is hard and the pain has been difficult, but we continue to be optimistic that our community's inherent spirit of entrepreneurism will rule the day.
There is no doubt the economy remains challenging and will probably continue to be so for the near future. Both the latest national and local reports show very little job creation in the private sector. Our economy seems to be caught in an endless cycle where small businesses need access to credit to expand and hire, but banks are reluctant to lend until they see the economy getting better, which is primarily driven by small- businesses hiring.
The markets also seem to be communicating serious concerns about the unsustainable levels of debt this nation is taking on — with no clear plan from our political leaders in Washington, D.C., on how we're going to solve this problem. The debt problem raises anxiety among small-business owners about how much taxes will increase as well as increasing the uncertainty as to what it will cost in the future to borrow money.
But even with all our challenges, if you wait until the economy is humming along again, your opportunity will most likely pass — or even worse, someone else might make your idea a reality.
Yes, launching any business means taking a calculated risk and yes it is riskier to start a business today than it was just a few years ago. But we believe a person with an innovative idea, a passion for making it happen and a plan for executing it in the marketplace can overcome many of the strong headwinds that many businesses, new and old, are facing today.
One note of caution. Before you jump into the deep waters of business ownership, please make sure you are able to answer a simple yet at the same time a difficult question: “Is your business remarkable?”
This question is from one of our favorite business authors, Seth Godin, and is fundamental to whether your new business will be successful.
It's no longer sufficient to offer a product or service that is slightly better than competitive offerings. This just isn't going to cut it in today's marketplace because customers have too many choices. Customers are on information overload from the constant advertising bombardment from TV, radio, e-mail, direct mail and the Internet.
This adds up to thousands of marketing messages a day directed at the average consumer. In our new connected world, it is increasingly difficult to get a new idea noticed. Consumers are now your best advocate by communicating a “remarkable” experience with your business to all of their friends.
If you're planning your remarkable business, we applaud you. For you are a part of the solution that will bring our community out of the great recession and confirm for us that the innovative and imaginative spirit that built this community is alive and well.
Pat Sisneros is the vice president of College Services at Everett Community College. Juergen Kneifel is an associate faculty member in the EvCC Entrepreneurship program. Send your comments to entrepreneurship@ everettcc.edu

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