This past fall, I met Chase, a millennial entrepreneur who launched his staffing company in Montgomery County, MD. Our paths crossed when Chase applied for a business loan to cover his business accounts payable while he was getting the company established. I worked with Chase during this process and got to know him better. Once we booked the line of credit for JCD Staffing, I wanted the opportunity to interview Chase for Money-Smart Millennials.
All over the US, 62% of millennials “have considered starting their own business”, but most never take the first step. Chase Dawson did and today, he’s enjoying being in control and being the CEO of his company. Here is an excerpt of our interview. If you are a millennial and you want to venture into free enterprise, I hope this short interview gives you hope and encouragement.
What were you doing and how long did you do it before you launched JCD Staffing?
Before I started it, I’d been staffing for 6-7 years. I started in admin staffing which is where you’re helping companies find administrative assistants, HR people, sometimes accountants. Then I switched over to IT which is a booming industry and I wanted to go there at some point. I did that for about five years. All throughout, I knew I wanted to start a business at some point. I had ideas along the way which were ‘pie in the sky’ ideas BUT THERE WERE IDEAS. Then I realized that I was pretty good at staffing and it lends itself to entrepreneurship quite well.
Did you start right out of college?
No. I was actually a tennis pro for two years. It was right out of college, it was good money. I had a flexible schedule but then you gotta remember DC summers, you’re out in the heat 8 hours a day. It’s rough. So anyway, I had a buddy who was in staffing (he was also an athlete in college) who said ‘check it out – I’m doing pretty well’. Then I did, went through a couple interviews and that’s how I got started in staffing.
What was your degree in?
Kinesiology. So to really use that, I’d have to go back to school – I didn’t really like school that much. So if you went back, you’d probably go with physical therapy or something like that; which is nice but I didn’t want to go to another two years of school.
So to start the company, did you have to tap into your network for your pool of clients?
When I left my last employer [and it is common in the industry, there are non-compete clauses and non-solicit], I didn’t have a non-compete so I was able to start my company in the same area. I had a non-solicit so I couldn’t ask my then clients to come with me. I had some connections and I guess that helped. But then again, my background in staffing was more on the sale side. I immediately came out of the gate doing sales and I got a few new clients. It worked out great.
And then like I said, there are two sides to the business. There is the sale side and the recruiting side. So now I’m working on getting that balance.
Do you do everything by yourself?
Most everything. I have a couple people that would help on recruiting. They’re not employees but I can set it so that if they find a person that’s a good fit, I can split some of the profit with them.
How much did you have to invest to start with?
I approached a couple family members and I gave them a portion of the business. So they invested $10,000 total; and that was to cover website, startup costs, you know, to get my office together, subscription to job boards [which is important], and then LinkedIn premium, stuff like that. I probably put in about $5000 of my own money so right around $15,000 [which is relatively low to enter the market].
When was your last day at your job?
Around May 15. I had the business in the works for probably 5 months before that but I was still working. I wasn’t running the business but I was getting it set up; forming the business plan, how I was going to attack it.
Did you pay someone to do your business plan and your projections?
That was all me. For the business plan, I did kinda follow a general business plan template. I picked and chose the topics that I wanted to cover. They didn’t all apply to the type of business I’m in.
For the financial projections, I had put together first year projections to present to my investors who are my mom and my brother [laughs]. But I wanted to show them that I was serious and that I had given it some good thought. And for the loan, I just extrapolated from there to three years.
Are you matching up to your projections?
Oh, I’m exceeding them. In fact, I wanted to make 7 placements my first year and I’ve already done 8 in 6 months. But, from experience I know that the staffing industry is up and down. So you can go 3-4 months without anything and then have a spike. So it’s a good start but it’s a ‘what have you done for me lately’ type of business. You have to keep the pedal to the metal.
Because I did your loan, I know that you’re running everything out of your home…
Yes, everything out of my home. It didn’t make sense for me not to do that. This is a business that’s run mostly via email and phone. The landscape of the staffing business is changing. It used to be dial-dial-dial but people aren’t so talking on the phone anymore. They want to get a quick email, look at it on their phone and decide whether or not they’re interested. I don’t see myself getting into an office. If I allow my employees to work from home, [it’s still a performance based business], I will be able to offer more commission. I think the staffing industry is changing and if you are a dinosaur, you’re going to be left behind.
Would you go back to being an employee?
Never [laughs], never. And if this business, God forbid, would fail, I’ll probably find something else to do. It’s been incredible actually; to be able to wake up when you want, you know you have to work hard but you have that freedom to [for example] come out and meet you (me). I can work on weekends if I have to and maybe take a Friday afternoon off. As long as I am aware of what I need to do and I get it done, you can’t beat it. I don’t think I’ll ever go back unless I have to.
So for a millennial out there, someone who’s been out of school for 5-6 years working a job, would you recommend entrepreneurship or trying at least to do something on their own?
For millennials, and I’ve said this to my wife and my family, I think if you have a drive, you have a huge advantage [because most millennials don’t have a drive] (laughs). But if you do, and you put in the work, you’re ahead of the game. Especially with technology and internet, the barriers to entry are so low that if you put the work in, you’re going to be some sort of success. I’m not trying to make a million dollars here. I wanted to be FREE to do what I can and maybe the business grows to that. I wanted to be able to work from home or work when I want, make some cool money, not have to answer to a boss. In fact, I’m not sure if I did it again, I would even go to college. [For me], I think it’s just a big hole to climb out of with all the debt. But like I said, today, with technology, you can hit the ground running pretty quick. I’m glad I went, I’m glad I completed it but that 4 years wasted that I could’ve done a lot.