How To Enroll In The Grad School Of Life By Starting Your Own Business

by Tim Jahn on July 9, 2010

A few months ago, Jill Felska and Jenn Korducki quit their jobs at a large PR agency in Chicago and started their own social media branding and management company. As Jill explains in the video above, they decided “to enter the grad school of life” and learn the intricacies of business by simply doing it.

At first glance, this idea might seem absolutely crazy. After all, Jill and Jenn are both young. Neither have a business degree. Jenn’s even getting married soon! (congrats again, Jenn!)

But Jill and Jenn are anything but crazy.  These two women are very passionate about learning the ins and outs of business, by doing it.  In addition to running their company, Jill and Jen have a blog called Pursuing Our Passion where they document their story and share the lessons they’re learning along the way with others.

Lots of great nuggets of wisdom in this interview for all you budding creative entrepreneurs out there!

Transcript

Jenn Korducki:
I’m Jenn Korducki and I’m the president and co-founder of POP! Social Media, which is a social media branding and management company.

Jill Felska:
My name is Jill Felska and I am the CEO of POP! Social Media.

Tim Jahn:
So you guys had both been working at the same PR firm for 8 months and then decided it wasn’t for you?

Jenn Korducki:

Yeah, we really appreciated the experience.  We value that and to this day, I will never regret the experience I gained.  It is a very new industry and I don’t think there are any experts in the field.  I don’t necessarily consider myself an expert by any means but I just thought that it was the perfect time to learn what it takes to learn a business.  That’s another thing that we really wanted to focus on – learning to run a business while helping other people.

I was just of the young mindset that it’s worth trying and it’s the time to do it if I’m ever going  to do it.

Jill Felska:
I wanted to know how to run a business and I wanted to enroll myself in the grad school of life, as I like to call it.  I’m a very big learning by doing kind of person.  For me, you leave the security of a big agency where we learned a ton, but there were also a lot of things we weren’t going to get to learn for quite a few years.  Like face to face interaction, doing a lot of the things that we do now on a daily basis, that we would not have seen for years.

While some of the security blanket stuff went away, like you have to buy your own health insurance and you are responsible for your check at the end of two weeks or whatever it is that you set – it’s not going to be written for you.  Some of that went away and there was definitely a little bit of fear.  But it also fueled this energy and this ability to say at the end of the day, I own this.

When I produce something for a client that really makes them happy or creates some kind of a difference, at the end of the day that’s mine, and I can say: I helped make that happen.  To me, that helped push all the other stuff out of the way.  It really made that difference and made me willing to take that risk.

Tim Jahn:
It really changes the perspective on the work you do when it’s your work, and not your bosses work, doesn’t it?

Jill Felska:
Absolutely.  I definitely cared about my clients when I was at a big firm and I’ve always been someone that wants to put everything into what I do, but I think that knowing at the end of the day that you not only have your name on it but that it’s a relationship that you’ve built, you cared about, you believe in the company you’re helping.

It really does change how you experience everything within the entire process.  It really kind of shifts the way everything happens I think.

Tim Jahn:
What did you do?  Did you guys come up with a plan beforehand, like four months into your time there you’d have the idea ready and leave, or did you just wake up one day and think, that’s it?

Jenn Korducki:
It’s a little bit of both I think.  Jill came to me one day and was talking about this book she was reading, about what it takes to start your own business.  It’s called “Making a Living Without a Job and it got me thinking.  She came to me one day and said, I really think that I would want to run a business one day.  I said, I do too.  She said, what if we do it together and I said, why not explore that?

I don’t think she expected me to say that but it worked.  We set a goal for ourselves that if we felt comfortable a couple of months down the road, we’d leave our jobs and start this.  We did a lot of research in the mean time and then felt more comfortable, ready to do it, and ready to leap when we had to.

Tim Jahn:
What kind of comfortable were you looking for?  Are you talking financially, mentally?

Jenn Korducki:
It was definitely mental and a little bit financial too.  I think that, for us, it was feeling like we would see some success pretty soon after.  Like most companies, you don’t expect overnight success at all, but we wanted to make sure it was feasible and that we were filling a need.

We also wanted to make sure our family and friends were comfortable with it too, because it’s a big step.  Most of all, that we ourselves were comfortable.  I think that’s our definition, more so than the financial, although that certainly did play a role too.

Jill Felska:
Some of the best advice we were given right off the bat was that you can be really good at what you do, and really passionate about what you do, which I think that Jenn and I are, but one of the most important things that entrepreneurs sometimes don’t think about right when they’re getting started is the business of business.

And that is really what Jenn and I have tried to focus on, as well as what we’re doing for clients and what we love is learning those lessons.  I think taxes, figuring out how to setup an S Corp versus an LLC, was a big adventure we went on.  Learning when you pay your taxes each month, how you pay your taxes each month, what you owe, what you don’t owe, what’s tax deductible.

All that stuff is things you may not think about potentially when you start off on your own but it definitely all plays into it.  At the end of the day, I really think that if you can master that as an entrepreneur and understand all those little intricacies that go into it, then all those crazy, passionate, life changing ideas that you have, it gives you a leg up on being able to achieve all of them.  You already kind of have that ground base all the time of that business knowledge.

That is a lot of why Jenn and I got into this to begin with.  So that we could learn and grow that base knowledge.  Neither of us went to business school, we’re both journalism majors.  But we knew that if we really put our nose to the book and found some great mentors, we’d really be able to kind of pick it up along the way.

Tim Jahn:
What’s the biggest lesson been so far in the past three months?

Jenn Korducki:
I think there’s a couple but the one that stands out the most is that you just can’t be everything to everyone.  You really have to find what you’re good at, and realize that can change.  Our business strategy started out completely different than what it is now, but just knowing that there are certain times that you have to say no and put your foot down.

You have to respect yourself, respect your business and really cultivate your brand and what your brand is.  I think that’s been the biggest lesson.  Just knowing that you can’t say yes to every opportunity just because it’s an opportunity.

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