Interview with Rebecca D’Amico and Rebecca Cole – Founders of Camp Sloop

Interview Entrepreneurs RebeccaTell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.

RD: I always had a knack for running my own business, something I attribute to my mother and grandmother, who were always launching new ventures when I was a child. At age 9 I started Rebecca’s Gift Box, a delivery service for boxes of fruit and other goodies, primarily targeting the parents of students at the university where I lived.

Then at age 14 I began Bec N Call, an errand service for busy professionals. After stints in college and jobs afterwards, I felt stuck, as if I were confined to the structure that others created. It took a while to realize that I could do something on my own. Initially, I thought the businesses I had with my family when I was young were just fun, but not something that could sustain me in “real life.”

When I finally saw a business I knew I could run better (a nanny agency), I shed my fear, took the leap and bought the business. Nowadays, I’m a bit obsessive about evaluating other businesses and dreaming about how I could make them thrive, or popping up with new ideas for them. My kids often tell me to stop coming up with ideas.

RC: I came to being an entrepreneur a little bit late in life. I am definitely a self-starter and after having both my children I realized that I needed to find a way to have more work-life balance. After much debate and looking at purchasing a business, franchising, or starting something new, I decided to start Nurture My Child and build my own business. It has definitely been an exciting 5 years and where I started is definitely not where I have ended up, but it has been a wonderful journey.

What did you do before launching your own business?

RD: Before Nannies from the Heart and Camp Sloop, I worked at Austin Community College as a Student Activities Coordinator supporting clubs, student government and events on campus. Then I worked at AMD as the Commute Solutions Coordinator, helping promote transit, ridesharing and bicycling for employees.

RC: Prior to launching Nurture My Child and Camp Sloop, I worked for 13 years as an engineer and engineering manager with Motorola and Freescale Semiconductor. Being in the corporate world and managing people, gave me some excellent experience as a business owner to understand all of the components that go into running a business.

How did you fund your business?

RD: When I bought Nannies from the Heart (it went by another name at the time), it was nothing more than a yellow page ad—back when people still used the yellow pages. It still was a major investment, which I paid off over the course of the year, the result being everything I made went back into the purchase. It was a lean time. Success at Nannies from the Heart, however, let me take some of my profit to help create Camp Sloop.

RC: When I decided to start Nurture My Child, I was determined to fund it myself. I started planning a year in advance of my departure from my corporate position and my husband and I learned to live on one salary while saving mine to start the new business.  When the opportunity came to create Camp Sloop I took a portion of the profits from Nurture My Child last year to fund it.

How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent is your home office?

RC & RD: It fluctuates, but on average it’s full time now that we each have two businesses, about 40-plus hours per week and about 20 of those hours are spent working in our home offices.

How would you rate your success?

RD:  Sometimes my success feels phenomenal, since I make a comfortable living and have seen such tremendous growth in Nannies from the Heart through the years. Then a slump will come, and I get a bit discouraged. Usually the slumps are short lived, with the exception of the big crash in 2008. That really hit my business hard and it’s taken three years just to rebuild it to where I was before the stock market tumbled.

RC: When I started my company everyone told me that it takes 3 years to truly begin to see your profits and that has definitely been true. I set a 3-year goal and met or exceeded each goal because I was realistic in my expectations. Each year I sit down and set new goals and I think that has helped me stay focused and be successful.

What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?

RD: Definitely hiring people to do what I do. So far – no one can do what I do. Letting go of control I want over my businesses is a real challenge.

RC: My biggest struggle is finding the time to do everything. There are some things that are much more in my comfort zone than others. I have really had to stretch myself and grow in many areas.

What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?

RD: You really need to follow the cliché but true advice for any life pursuit: “Find out what you love to do and do it.” Oh, and then I’d add to hire other people to do the rest! Knowing your strengths and how they add to the value and growth of the business early on will help as you evolve and become more of a manager. I’ve recently discovered the joy of utilizing interns too.

RC: Just dig in and do it! I think many new entrepreneurs are inspired by the big-picture but quickly become discouraged by all the day-to-day things it takes to start a business. It takes cold-calling; it takes follow-up emails and calls; it takes being told no a thousand times; it takes longer to get where you are going than you want. That is all normal! If you can push through it, keep your goals in mind and do the things that make you uncomfortable, you will succeed.

How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?

RD: I create a lot of space in my day. I used to move really fast and discovered that speed really does not serve my clients, or me, or my family. I set boundaries and stick to them. But it is always evolving. For instance, I will be moving into some office next week part time. Right now my business requires (and will require for the next 6 months) a lot of focus and less distractions. The free flow of a home office FT just isn’t going to work for this stage in my business. Last but not least – Make sure you listen to your intuition about what you need as an individual first and foremost and find the support you need to make that happen.

RC: For me it is all about organization and taking one day at a time. Each Friday I sit down and make a long ‘to-do’ list of everything that needs to be done, both personally and professionally. I then break that into daily tasks for the week. That way I know when I need to do everything and that nothing will be missed. I also have created my own space in my house for an office that is only mine – it is very important to have your own space to be creative in and focused.

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