This week we are doing a little TBT! This is a re-post of the first ever Teacher Entrepreneur Profile. Joe is a sharp guy with a great business. Enjoy the interview!
Welcome to our first Teacher Entrepreneur profile. Each week I will be posting an interview with a Teacher Entrepreneur. My hope is that these profiles are helpful in a couple of ways. I hope they are educational and that you learn valuable tips and insights from the Teacher Entrepreneurs. I also hope that the next time you need a service or product you seek out a Teacher Entrepreneur and support their business. Since it is December it seems appropriate that our Teacher Entrepreneur profile would be about Santa…Joe Santa.
Joe Santa is the owner of TCP an awards, apparel and signage store in Huntington, Indiana. Recently, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Joe at his store. I met Joe over 15 years ago when we were both at Huntington North High School. Joe was the Athletic Director there at the time, and he was one of the best. For those of you that know what kind of commitment it takes to be a High School Athletic Director you will have a great appreciation for Joe. After 25 years in education he retired and opened TCP. Following is our interview.
CS: What is the name of your business and where is it located?
JS: TCP – Awards, Apparel & Signage, 445 N. Jefferson St. Huntington
CS: How long have you been an educator and what positions have you held?
JS: 25 years. I taught at Canterbury for 5 years. While I was there we started the Varsity Basketball program, I coached and spent 3 years as part time AD. I then spent 17 years AD at Huntington North High School and 3 Years as AD at Warsaw.
CS: Why did you want to become an entrepreneur?
JS: I always thought it would be neat to have your own business. I always had it in the back of my mind. It just seemed like the right time to do it. I think a lot of it is the competitiveness in people; they want to compete and attack something. They want the success of being a business owner.
CS: Why did you choose your particular industry?
JS: I had always been close to it through youth and high school sports, it felt like a natural fit.
CS: Tell me a little bit about your business?
JS: We do awards, apparel and signage. More specifically:
Awards: Laser engraved metal, wood, glass and acrylics
Apparel: Screen printing, embroidery
Signage: Banners, interior and exterior signage
CS: What is the best business advice you have ever been given?
JS: Choose your battles. It is true in so many ways. Dick Cochran always used to preach this when I was taking graduate classes. He said you need to learn to pick your battles or you’ll spend too much energy on things that don’t matter. Van Bailey was also somebody that I learned this lesson from. He was good at picking his battles.
CS: What is the greatest challenge of being a Teacher Entrepreneur?
JS: Assuming that all the people you knew over the years would do business with you. You still have to prove yourself to them. You can’t assume that people will give you there business because they know you and like you. People are loyal to the businesses they support and aren’t likely to change if they are happy with the service they are getting.
CS: What advice would you give to other Teacher Entrepreneurs?
JS: There is no level of preparation that will prepare you so you don’t make mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, but you have to try to minimize them. There is a huge learning curve. I spent a year and a half preparing to start my business.
Educators are good at sharing; people in business don’t do that. You can’t call a competitor and ask how their business is being successful; they don’t want to help you. If you get far enough away from your market, people will help you. I visited a couple of similar business 3 or 4 hours away before I started my business and those people were willing to help because I wasn’t their competition. People in the same business generally don’t share information as openly as teachers because their motivations are different. In business, everyone wants their business to be successful. In education, everyone shares information because they all want to do what is best for kids.
CS: What books or resources would you recommend to other Teacher Entrepreneurs?
JS: As far as books I would recommend; The E-myth Revisited and the Pumpkin Plan. Score.org is a great resource and so is the Twitter Feed @SmallBizBee, they have lots of great articles.
CS: What is your vision for your business?
JS: The biggest thing is to get 15 years in in the business and develop the business to a point that I’m a leader in Northern Indiana in terms of Awards, Apparel and Signage. When I turn 65 I want to have the option to sell the business or to continue working until I decide I’ve had enough.
CS: What would you do differently if you were to start another business?
JS: Put more pressure on buying an established business. Starting a business is very different than buying an established one. I might have waited a couple more years, my daughter was in school at Butler University, so it would have been easier financially if I would have waited. It is difficult to make money in the first several years. It takes time to grow your business to the point of profitability. I said years ago that I wouldn’t be an athletic director at age 50 and when I was 49 I knew I had better get started. I wanted a business where I could wear jeans and take my dog to work.
CS: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you or your business?
JS: Most people think of awards as athletic, but there are all kinds of types of awards. There are personal, corporate, and individual awards, and many ways to recognize success. There is more of a focus on apparel than awards right now. I’m really trying to grow that part of the business.
CS: I’d like to thank Joe for taking the time to participate in the interview. I have known Joe for a long time and I have a lot of respect for him. Please see Joe at TCP for all your Awards, Apparel and Signage needs. You can contact him at (260) 504-2717 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.trophycenterplus.com