New Ideas New Solutions

In today's business environment, entrepreneurs must develop a flexible business model to gain financing, contracts, and market share

opening another nail salon at a car wash, about one half-mile from her current site, where customers can get their nails done while waiting for their car to be washed. She hopes to launch the second business by January.

All in all, she has no regrets about her decision. “I guess I could have put my name on the sign outside and on the front door and been in the limelight,” she says. “But with all the expenses it would have taken to do [it], I could have been out of business within a year.”

Marvin R. Dickerson needed capital and needed it badly. When he branched out to start his own company in April 2002, he figured it would cost a minimum of $30,000 to $40,000 a month just to pay for the staff. This meant that the 36-year-old president and CEO of Dickerson Technologies Inc. would have had to come up with $360,000 to $480,000 to cover operating expenses for the year.

But Dickerson knew raising that kind of money would be a hurdle for his enterprise, a Germantown, Maryland-based information technology management and consulting firm that provides network security to government agencies and financial and healthcare firms. Without an established customer base, consistent revenue stream, and no real corporate assets to secure the capital, he was unsure if he could land financing from venture capitalists. Then there’s the control factor. “This was my dream and I wanted to maintain control and have the total equity position in the company,” he says. So Dickerson got creative. “I did not want to take the bank route because once you take out the loan, it becomes due,” Dickerson said. “I didn’t want that type of pressure because it forces you out the door to immediately have customer acquisition.” Instead, Dickerson created a model where, as projects came up, he’d issue jobs to a pool of about 15 consultants he had worked with in the past. That allowed him to cut monthly expenses to about $2,000 as the need for a full-time staff was erased.

As a result, he was able to launch Dickerson Technologies with an initial investment of $30,000, mainly to cover the cost of marketing, developing a Website, and building the infrastructure to open the business from his home. He then exercised stock options and sold about $220,000 worth of shares of Network Associates Inc., a publicly traded network security and software firm based in Santa Clara, California, where he worked as director of product management.

With those funds he paid off “tens of thousands” of dollars of personal debt, including vehicles, credit cards, and home projects, and cut living expenses by 60% to have operating capital for his business. Dickerson expects to generate about $1.2 million in revenues and make $70,000 within the next 18 months to recoup his $30,000 initial investment by year-end.

Dickerson has no regrets about taking the entrepreneurial plunge. He’s building financial wealth and independence for himself and his family. “I’m putting

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