Dealing with the Tough Stuff, the latest in the SVN book series by Margot Fraser and Lisa Lorimer, was the topic of Friday afternoon’s plenary where the authors talked about their own struggles in their businesses and helped lead “feedback circles” for participants to get support with their own challenges.
Lisa Lorimer, former President and owner of Vermont Bread Company in Brattleboro, Vt., spoke with passion about what it’s like to be in challenging situations as a business owner. Her great empathy comes from her own vast experience. She knows what it’s like to have to decide what to do when payroll is due and there is no money in the account. Lisa stressed that business owners need to have a place where they are able to talk about the realities of the business, something which was practiced later in the session in an exercise.
Although Birkenstocks are now a ubiquitous sight on college campuses all over the country, Margot Fraser, founder of Birkenstock USA, did not find the U.S. to initially be a receptive market for the cork-souled sandals. Her first distribution deal with the manufacturer was based on a “handshake” and her narrow focus on selling only one product made others call her crazy, but Margot admits she would have liked some seasoned advice when she was first starting out. Both Margot and Lisa agreed that creating a competent and skilled advisory board can be a lifesaver for a struggling entrepreneur.
The session wrapped up with a half an hour exercise with the participants shared their own challenges and offered advice to each other in small groups. This exercise not only got me much needed assistance, but it also demonstrated just how helpful it is to have a sounding board for not only idea but also troubles. I look forward to reading the book, which was included in each participant’s bag, and gaining even more insight of these two women.