On January 19th, we celebrated neXus Data Solutions’ five-year anniversary; five years since my Mom and I sat down at the computer and filed for a business license. I started thinking…without my Mom, I don’t know if I would have made the leap into entrepreneurship or “gotten out of the boat” so to speak, in order to pursue a business doing something I love, working with data.
UAA’s Center for Economic Development recently published a study showing that 26% of all employer businesses in Alaska are owned by women; this is the highest percentage in the U.S. Among these woman-owned firms, a majority are less than 5 years old, showing us that these “Alaska Girls” are growing our economy. Well here we are, just past the five-year mark and going strong and I’m honored to be included in this demographic.
Without the support and encouragement from my entrepreneurial mother and grandmother (along with my amazing employees and clients) I wouldn’t be where I am today. My grandmother was a sharp business woman who had a head for numbers and always told me “You’ll never get ahead in this life by working for someone else.”
Early photos of the Anchorage House of Hobbies clockwise from top left: Grandma and Grandpa with Mom at the C St. store in 1972, my grandfather in the 5th and G St. store, late 1960's; exterior shot of the C St. store; Mom at the C. St. store.
Entrepreneurship runs in the family. My grandfather completed his military career and was working as a contract civilian with the RCA here in Alaska when he and my business-minded grandmother decided to turn their hobbies into something more. He loved model airplanes, trains and slot-cars while my grandmother loved business and keeping the books. A perfect match. They started the Anchorage House of Hobbies in May of 1964, opening their first location at the corner of 5th and G St. in an old log cabin shared with the Jonas Bros. Museum (an Alaskan natural history museum).
Anchorage House of Hobbies has been a cornerstone of the toy and hobby industry here in Alaska and over the years we’ve opened nine different locations throughout the city; at one point operating four shops at one time. In the early 1980’s, my mother opened and operated her own store and ran it for 15 years. After retiring from the hobby business, she went on to start her own accounting business as a CPA; another good head for numbers.
The hobby shop is where I spent my days growing up. As a kid, trekking to the family business after school every day, I lamented the fact that I couldn’t participate in after school activities and spend time hanging out with my friends. But what I didn’t know, was that I was paving the pathway to my future endeavors and learning all about running a business.
Photos of Mom's Anchorage House of Hobbies location, clockwise from top left: exterior shot of our store on Old Seward; my Mom with one of our favorite customers; me helping out with building our location in the early 1980's; me loving the fact that I had to work every day at the family biz.
Money magazine recently summarized a study from the Journal of Labor Economics in an article titled "Here’s a New Theory About Why People Become Entrepreneurs" they “found that upbringing, rather than genetics, seems to have the biggest effect on the offspring of self-started business owners.” I don’t need a study to know that; I was raised in an environment where I learned how to share what I love doing with others, foster genuine relationships with customers and vendors, and to pour everything into the business that allows you to build a career out of your interests.
This generational entrepreneurship continues as I pass the torch to my daughters who’ve started their own business of selling hand-made jewelry to support children they’ve sponsored through Compassion International. Here, they’re learning some of those same things I did at the hobby shop like maintaining stock, merchandising, interacting with customers, and keeping track of money. Next step…web site maintenance!
Not only do I get support from my Mom and the other ladies in my family, but there's an incredible network of women leaders here in Alaska who serve as mentors and role models. If you're looking to take the plunge into entrepreneurship here are some great resources available:
Alaska Small Business Development Center - The AK SBDC is an excellent place to learn all aspects of business ownership. I definitely recommend looking them up to see the classes they offer and sign up to speak to their advisers.
Women Entrepreneurs of Alaska - This networking group meets on a regular basis and has proven to be a great place to meet other like-minded individuals who are happy to share in successes and offer advice.
The Business Boutique - This group offers excellent classes and networking events to help get your business off the ground and to continue to succeed.
We have some truly great people in our state who are there to educate and mentor!
So, thanks to my mother and grandmother, both savvy women entrepreneurs who taught and encouraged me every step of the way. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, but they created an environment where I could understand business and learn how to take the calculated risks necessary to be successful. I hope that I too can pass this on to my “Alaska Girls”, as I continue to lift them up and encourage them, as well as other women leaders in our community, to take those same risks that can take them down the path of a successful and fulfilling life as a woman entrepreneur.
The neXus Data Solutions crew (at least part of it) celebrating our five-year anniversary. What an awesome group of people!!!
Camille is president of neXus Data Solutions, LLC and has worked in the IT consulting industry for almost 20 years. She has experience with web design and application development, data warehousing, and relational database development working as a business analyst, developer, database administrator, and project manager.