Lifelong Learning for the Entrepreneur

In Education on July 25, 2011 at 10:13 am

By Donna Messer 

Like many of her fellow small business owners, Judith Kirkness hasn’t always done things the easy way. Judith dropped out of university to start her first business at 19. She was driven to follow her dreams, she wanted her own business. Completing a business education seemed like just filling time; time she needed to be out there, making things happen.

Her first business was called Funnie Ponie Productions and she created a line of clothing for the horse industry.

She travelled in a beat up car from tack shop to tack shop selling t-shirts and sweatshirts with funny sayings on them. She financed that business with a youth venture capital loan and a matching loan from her parents.

She sold the line to a national distributor of horse products. And she paid back both loans within six months.
There is no substitute for owning a business to learn about business. The mistakes you make, what you learn about yourself and others is an invaluable experience for whatever you choose to do in the future.
In the early months of owning a business, she learned the valuable and painful lesson of payment terms and cash flow.  She learned what being “cash poor” meant! She had receivables, but still had to honour her payables and that meant she was giving out more than she was taking in.
She met and married her husband through a summer program for teens interested in technology and entrepreneurship called Shad Valley.  She joined her husband’s company, Minotaur Software, a small ERP software development company.
Judith is an extrovert and has a way with customers that always complemented her husband’s technical and analytical skills.  Her husband completed an Executive MBS from the University of Toronto, while she stayed at home and raised their 3 children. The company benefited from this formal education and gave customers more comfort knowing they were dealing with an expert in business and accounting as well as in technology.
When it was Judith’s turn to go for that higher education and she decided to go for her Executive MBA from Queens University.  Since working with a spouse can be a challenge as the work/home life separation doesn’t exist, they each had separate responsibilities, Judith took on the lead sales role and her husband took the lead on programming and technology.
She didn’t go for her MBA to climb the corporate ladder; it was to develop her skills as a business leader. She wanted to gain the credentials needed to bolster her practical knowledge when competing for bigger customers.
Judith used networking to find new customers and was actively involved with many women’s organizations.  Minotaur specializes in traceability ERP for food, meat and beverage manufacturers, so it made sense for her to join a group called Women in Food Industry Management
No matter what the economic environment, pursuing an MBA seems like a viable option.

This is an association where she served as a board member for five years. She was able to keep up-to-date on innovations in the food industry, and make sure her company could respond to meet the needs.
What Judith found out through her Executive MBA: (she graduated in May)
1. Entrepreneurs can be great students; they are self-motivated and accustomed to planning their time and working all hours.
2. An executive education keeps your ideas fresh, introduces you to people you would not normally meet and generally expands your mind.
Judith is revitalized professionally, if a little tired, and she’s ready to put some of these innovative ideas into practice.


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