By Janet Civitelli
This blog post continues my series of interviews with people who started businesses following job loss. This interview is with Steven J. Ferrusi, inventor of FitDesk.
What type of career did you have before you launched FitDesk? Prior to taking my invention to market, I worked as a sales rep for a large company that has 3Ms in its name. Our target market was high end residential.
How long did you search for a job and how did your job search go? There was no reason to search for jobs as 8 months prior to getting laid off it was clear that the job market had been narrowed and job search would be futile. I didn't search for jobs...I went straight to plan B: bring my product to market.
How did you survive financially while you started your company? I planned ahead by selling my expensive home before a market downturn and I bought a smaller home with a small mortgage. Also, I had a small rental in my new home that paid the mortgage each month.
What skills and previous experience were you able to bring to FitDesk that are helping you to succeed? I had basic life skills such as managing money, living within my means, and making it a priority to save. These skills are always needed to manage a startup. Also, organization and patience have helped with the daily chores of running a startup.
What is the best part about running your company? The best part is that I believe in this product as a way to help others who have a hard time getting a fitness program started and sticking to it. I had always heard that belief in what you are doing is important when you launch a new venture, but now I completely agree and I suggest that this be part of your decision factors. Sales are always welcome because they validate your efforts.
This would be a good point in the interview to describe FitDesk. What is it? FitDesk is a product that comfortably allows a person to exercise while using a computer or video game. It offers a solution for the problem of not getting enough movement into our lives. I took something that people love to do (computers and gaming) and made it a part of what people need to do (exercise and movement). This increases the likelihood of consistency. After a year and a half of trying many different designs, I decided to go to market with a method that was patentable, cost effective to produce and easy to install and modify.
That sounds genius! You solved the "When and how do I exercise?" problem suffered by so many sedentary people! Yes, I believe I did.
What is the most challenging part about running your company? The most challenging thing about running a new company that has no products like it are PR (no one knows you exist and no one knows how your product will perform) and balancing advertising costs with income. One of the first challenging tasks is to develop a list of resources for potential sales/referrals.
What career advice do you have for job searchers who may be considering an entrepreneurial path? Read books and information on topic. Write a business plan that is flexible. Start slow while you learn about resources that will produce results. Expect highs and lows. Bring all your energy to the table. Make sure you have enough capital to survive 6 months minimum.
Anything else you would like to share? When people tell you that you have a great idea, expect most to give verbal appreciation but not actually part with their money. People take time to make a purchase. Do not take everything personally. Keep pushing your product with utmost confidence.
What new skills did you need to learn to be an entrepreneur? I had to learn the difference between public relations, marketing, and sales. These may seem similar but are very different and need to be understood before you spend time making a business and marketing plan. I also had to make sure my organizational skills are top notch.
How does your current income compare to your previous income? (not numbers, of course, just generally) Income is down only slightly because I'm keeping my startup costs low. I'm using discipline to start out slow so that I can build my resources with the goal of realizing profit and minimizing marketing mistakes.
Any other words of wisdom for people who have recently lost their jobs? Find a way to make it positive. Personally, I was able to triumph. I would not change it for the world.