Congratulations to our own, Kristin Slice, who was chosen as one of the Phoenix Business Journal’s “20 People to Know” in the Valley’s Startup space.
How long have you worked with startups: 7 years
Define a startup: Any business in the first two years of sales.
Can you explain your work over the years in local startups? As an SBDC counselor, we have great training programs that help startups really move ideas into reality. From funding to proof of concept, we support a variety of startups. Through our advocacy and community outreach efforts with the SBDC, we support events and community building programs.
Why do you think it’s important to help local startups? Startups are a piece of our economy. That doesn’t just mean the next greatest tech firm! The reality is the majority of jobs in Arizona come from small businesses, and all small businesses were a startup at some point!
How do local startups help the community? Diverse startups create a vibrant more sustainable economy. The reality is that statistically women are the fastest-growing population of startups in the country. The reasons that they start businesses are often out of necessity to support their family or create a lifestyle that supports their goals. Women-owned firms give back to their communities at higher rates and provide higher caliber jobs. They also create higher levels of innovation.
What do you like best about the work you do? Giving people the opportunity to create a better life for themselves and their family.
Tell us about the coolest trend in the startup space today: I like working with startups because they move as fast as I do! Startups in Phoenix are getting smarter, and we are reaching a maturity point. They know they won’t get funding for an idea, they have to build a business first. I like that startups are trending toward working smart, starting small and solving real-world solutions.
What are Arizona’s greatest strengths with regard to the startup ecosystem?Phoenix has always had an independent spirit. Our ecosystem is smart, caring and committed to evolving.
What are Arizona’s biggest weaknesses with regard to the startup ecosystem?Our ecosystem lacks an understanding of the value of diversity. Startup ecosystems that embrace diversity and actively take steps to increase diversity create stronger businesses. This includes a diversity of industries, of demographics and of business values. We need to leverage the demographic diversity of Arizona to create a stronger ecosystem.
How did you get involved with startups? By starting my own business!
Best takeaway from your own entrepreneurial experience? Learn your numbers, as a marketer I resisted understanding my numbers and managing them. Now I know that your numbers are the heartbeat of your business. They help you manage effectively. Cash flow often is cited as the No. 1 reason businesses fail. Not because the idea is bad, but building a business is dependent on cash flow.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business? I say this to every startup I talk to, get flexible. Instead of focusing on the way you think it is going to look, become tied to solving a problem that is big enough people will pay money for you to solve it. It never looks the way you think it will! Talk to your potential clients, not just your mom and friends, early and often.
With the exception of funding, what are some of the biggest challenges for someone who is starting a new business? Access to capital … I didn’t say funding! In Phoenix, people are generous with their time, which is great, What that means is that you end up with a lot of people’s opinion. Starting a business isn’t an exact formula. Anyone who tells you there is a formula, they are trying to sell you that formula. The best things to do are get started small, think about the future and listen to people, listen to your customers first.
What individual, besides a family member, impacted you the most on your professional journey and why? Nancy Sanders, she was my business partner first and now is my director at the Maricopa SBDC. I started my first business when I was 23. It was the diversity of experiences in our business that made us strong. Nancy taught me how to sell and how to run a business. I couldn’t have gotten that training anywhere else.
How have you seen Arizona’s startup environment change in the past few years? It is hard to describe how rapidly things have changed. People are advocating and getting involved more. I hope it continues to evolve.