Every year the Bluefield WV Economic Development Authority (BEDA) hosts the "Entrepreneur2Entrepreneur" or "E2E" event which offers 75+ participants the ability to hear about the trials, tribulations, and even failures that 12 successful entrepreneurs endured creating their business. In years past, 12 entrepreneurs are invited to speak to a group of participants in a "round-table" format. This year, E2E has taken a virtual approach due to the novel coronavirus, and Executive Director Jim Spencer took this opportunity to interview an entrepreneur a little further away from #MyBluefield.
Today we will hear from Mike Artim, President of Intrignia, Inc. from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Spencer and Artim met through the Intuit Prosperity Hub program. Artim is the President of Intrignia Inc., a real estate development and consulting company, which currently owns and operates Balance Restaurant in downtown Johnstown, PA. Intrignia is currently in the process of developing additional properties for entrepreneurship activities such as restaurants, retail space, and office space.
We invite you to listen to the interview or read the re-cap below ⬇️
Jim: What caused you to become an entrepreneur?
Mike: I call myself an "accidental" entrepreneur. I have 30+ years of experience in education and I decided to leave and look for the next "thing". Entrepreneurs come from all different shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and age groups. We decided that we wanted to open up a restaurant in downtown Johnstown. There was an empty restaurant that had been through a few owners and wasn't successful. Being community involved, I wanted to be part of revitalizing downtown Johnstown. We hired a culinary team that handled the food and budgeting -- basically the great work that makes a restaurant successful. It was a challenge for me. I was used to my 9-5 job and it's different as an entrepreneur because you are your own boss and you are responsible for your success or failure. I really wish I would have started earlier. You think about all the risk that is involved [with starting your own business] but you come to realize all of the rewards.
J: Mike, I know you're an entrepreneur but you also coach other entrepreneurs. What advice do you have for an entrepreneur today -- especially with COVID-19?
M: Right away the first thing I talk to [aspiring] entrepreneurs about is their passion for their business. If it's something you really want to do and are passionate about, you can probably overcome the obstacles that come to your mind right now. The clarity will come to you as you follow that passion. It's not about the "how", it's about the "why". You'll figure out the how if you have a very strong "why". For us, it was wanting to help revitalize downtown Johnstown and providing great food for people. That's how we found our success. Entrepreneurs can do that too, but they have to find their passion.
J: If you were going to start over as an entrepreneur, with all the lessons you learned, what would you do differently?
M: Two things. I think I underestimated the amount of reserve we needed to have because it takes a while to get your feet under you. You have all these great projections for when you open your doors but that projection can be 3-4 months down the road. So you need to have a reserve and find that sweet spot of what works for you so you can get going down the road. The second thing was that I probably should have saved the money on some of the things I did. We all have a picture of what a fully-grown company looks like and so many entrepreneurs have this idea of what they need to have on day one. When we opened up our second restaurant we decided to break it down by "what do we need to have" and "what we want or what we would like to have". We started with getting the "needs" done and opening up. We then worked on the other pieces because some things we didn't need and you can save that money. I think most entrepreneurs under-appreciate that initial startup.
BEDA encourages entrepreneurs and business owners far and wide to share their stories on social media using the official hashtag #NatlEshipWeek. Check out everything going on in #MyBluefield for National Entrepreneurship Week on our Facebook and Instagram.