Are you tired of stories about small businesses struggling during COVID-19? Do you want something a little more inspiring and helpful for growing your small business? Perfect. Keep reading. I recently spoke with Sarah and Robbie Gonzales, co-owners of Tungsten Prep. They are recent recipients of a $10,000 grant from Salesforce. Their story offers encouragement, motivation and some practical ideas on what you can do to boost your own small business resilience.
Tungsten Prep Wins $10,000 Salesforce Grant
Tungsten Prep is a tutoring and SAT/ACT test prep company in the Washington D.C. area. They provide in-home services in over a dozen subject areas. It was started as a way for Sarah to make extra money tutoring to afford an expensive D.C. mortgage. Flash forward three years, and Sarah and her husband Robbie have left their jobs as foreign service diplomats. Now they focus on growing the business and managing a team of nearly 30 tutors.
Announced on the Salesforce blog in June, Tungsten Prep was one of 300 U.S. companies to receive a $10,000 grant through the Salesforce Care Small Business Grants program. Their incredible story of persevering in these challenging times was one of the reasons they won the grant. In my interview, I wanted to learn more about how they developed their small business resilience over the years and how you might do the same.
3 Tips for Boosting Small Business Resilience
Developing small business resistance will help you respond to changes and challenges and bounce back from setbacks. Here is how Tungsten Prep set themselves up for success.
1. Discover What Your Market Wants
When she started, Sarah understood that tutoring is a crowded market. Many online and boutique options exist for parents to choose from. But what she learned is that these services aren’t giving all D.C. parents what they really want. The parents she spoke with wanted tutors who would come into the home – people they could meet in-person and develop relationships with. They also were looking for more meet-in-the-middle pricing versus the exorbitant charges of boutique tutoring options. Finally, Sarah realized that parents are looking for personalized service:
“We discovered very quickly that the branding of a lot of tutoring companies is, 'We’re going to get you into Harvard!' And guess what? Not everyone’s going to get into Harvard, and not everyone wants that as their life path. Moving in a different direction and saying, 'What do you want? What are your goals? What’s going to make you feel proud of yourself” is powerful.”
By figuring out what your target market truly wants, you are solidifying your business. Small business resilience comes from carving out a space where only you can deliver the services that this market needs.
2. Strategically Build Out
When Robbie joined Sarah in the business, the two of them spent time evaluating each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and the gaps in the business. Robbie’s project management skills complemented Sarah’s leadership skills. Together they worked out everything from standardizing marketing and sales to formalizing the hiring process to setting daily and monthly goals for the business.
In building out the team, Sarah and Robbie stress the importance of finding the right people and investing in them. When hiring, ask people on your team for recommendations. And when interviewing, make sure to look beyond qualifications. Is the person you’re interviewing a person who will remain dedicated and passionate for the long-term?
Having the right people on board and investing in them helps to develop your small business resilience. The professional development that Sarah and Robbie have offered their workers has reaped amazing benefits in terms of employee loyalty over the years.
3. Guard Your Finances
During our interview, we talked about business finances, especially how “Cash is King.” This motto has become quite apparent to small business owners as they have faced recent economic challenges. Here are three tips Sarah and Robbie shared with me that I know will help you, too.
- Be Careful with Cash: “Conserve your cash,” says Sarah. “Don’t spend money if you don’t need to and only spend your money on things that are going to grow your business.”
- Build a Relationship with a Community Bank: Big banks tend to be looking out for bigger players in the business realm. Sarah and Robbie’s relationship with a local community bank has helped them secure funding faster and easier.
- Get Your Books in Order: Staying up-to-date on your accounting and finances is vital for small businesses. And don’t be afraid to look around. Although many small businesses use QuickBooks, Sarah recently switched to Bench and loves how it meets her small business needs.
The full interview has even more tips on things such as dividing daily responsibilities, word of mouth marketing, and choosing the right opportunities along the way. As for receiving the Salesforce $10,000 grant, Sarah and Robbie encourage other small business owners to apply for every grant that comes your way! Not only do grants give you the wiggle room you may need to continue moving forward, but they also validate your efforts as a small business owner.
“It’s a sense of validation,” says Robbie, “that we are being recognized for making a contribution to our community and the students we support locally.”
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