February 29, 2024

HireSmart Founders Tell Students Entrepreneurship Must Be Rooted In Passion 

HireSmart Cares founders Mark and Anne Lackey are addicted to entrepreneurship, having successfully run multiple multi-million dollar businesses.  

They love sharing tips with anyone aiming to launch a business. But their first word of advice is always — be ready to live frugally. 

"How many of you like to work and not get paid?" Anne asked a roomful of Melinda Cochran-Davis’s construction students at Jackson Empower College and Career Center in Jefferson, Georgia. 

No one responded or raised a hand. 

"No one? Well, then you probably don't need to go into business," said Anne. "As a business owner, we worked for years without paychecks. We worked for years making investments back into our business over and over and over again." 

Mark and Anne, who run multiple businesses in international hiring, real estate, and consulting, as well as operating a nonprofit, HireSmart Cares, emphasize that "bootstrapping" a business is all about commitment. 

There's no free time, and the responsibility is 24/7/365. There's no "off button." 

A call to action: HireSmart Cares aims to help youth realize their potential  

"We worked seven days a week, 52 weeks a year for seven years before we went on a vacation," said Mark. "There were days when we needed to pay our employees and guess what? We didn't have enough money left to pay ourselves. Running a business is fun and exciting, but it is challenging. It is difficult." 

Mark and Anne talked about Madison County, Georgia, teenage entrepreneur Olivia Braswell, who runs her own homemade soap-making business, Proverbs 31 Farmstead. 

"When you start a business, there's a lot more to it than just owning a business and making money," said Anne. "It's an investment." 

Olivia owns three cows that supply the milk for her business. Mark and Anne asked students to consider all the responsibilities with the cows. Olivia had to purchase the cows and make sure they're fed and properly cared for. She milks them at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day. 

"Every day, seven days a week, 365 days, and she can't miss a day," said Mark. 

Anne said having a good product is not enough. People need to know about what you have to sell. She talked about developing a marketing budget. 

"You need customers; you need advertising," she said. "How are you going to pay for that?" 

Anne said she and Mark worked full-time jobs and invested a portion of their salaries into their businesses, never taking out loans. 

"You have to figure out how much money or time you are willing to invest in something to see if it's going to be successful," said Anne. 

Mark shared that he considered starting a hardware business, so he worked for free every weekend at a hardware store for several months to see what it took to run a hardware store, ultimately deciding he had no desire to start such a business. 

"It was a cheap investment, rather than buying a store or starting to buy nuts and bolts and screws and things and then starting my own hardware store," he said. "I invested in learning." 

Mark and Anne said entrepreneurship is all about marrying your passion for an idea with a commitment to make it work. 

"Find those things you enjoy already," he said. 

"Understand what you do best and what you're passionate about," said Anne. 

A student asked Anne what she loved most about being a business owner. 

"Service," she said, noting that she and Mark employ over 700 people. "I get to help change lives by helping people achieve their goals and giving them health care, dental care, and community." 

Anne said being a successful entrepreneur is rooted in passion and establishing a distinct quality of service. Seeking money for money's sake isn't enough. 

"When you love what you do, and you do your best every day, the money will show up," she said. 

After the talks, Mark and Anne chatted with students, fielded questions, and heard their ideas. 

"We're here to help you," said Anne. "Ask us anything." 

That's the spirit of HireSmart Cares. It's a quest to serve youth with time, teaching, tools, and technology so today's kids can be tomorrow's leaders. 

If you're interested in reading more about HireSmart Cares, click here

If you'd like to donate to support HireSmart Cares and its initiatives to support today's youth, click here. 

If you have ideas for supporting youth that you'd like us to hear, email us Info@HireSmartCares.org. 

Article written by Anne Lackey