I never dreamed that spending hours of time writing my business plan at the library would lead to an invitation to brunch and meeting the First Lady at the White House.
As a serial entrepreneur, it's easy for me to get caught up in new business ideas. However, I also know how important it is to do my research before I jump into a new business venture. Over the years, my local library, the Johnson County library in the Kansas City area, has become an invaluable resource for information as I continue to build my business. I've used the library resources so frequently that the library is on my speed dial and I consider the librarians as my market research department.
In 1999, I got caught up in the dot com frenzy and started an online business. One thing lead to another and a multi-million dollar business opportunity was developed. In order to get the necessary funding for this new business venture, I needed to surround myself with experts in the industry and to write a solid business plan.
The business plan required a variety of statistical data (demographics of targeted Midwestern cities, financial data on competitors, and articles on industry trends) as well as history of the industry and the library was an obvious resource. Most of the data was in books in the reference section and couldn't be removed from the library, so that's where I started.
Using the Johnson County library was a double bonus since one of the features is that it had small study rooms suitable for 4-6 people. It was a place where I could meet with my future business partners and we could get the information we needed that was relevant for the business plan. The study rooms became our temporary office and we met there consistently for 6 months researching this business idea and successfully launched in 1999.
One of the greatest benefits we found were the librarians themselves. The librarians directed us to resources that dramatically reduced the hours of our "searching" time. They also asked questions that we hadn't considered yet since they had answered the same questions before for others who were researching business ideas. And, because of their vast knowledge and expertise, they knew what type of information the vast shelves of books held.
The library was such an important aspect of our success that when we sold the business in September of 2001, we met in the parking lot of the library to celebrate.
As a recognized business resource in the Kansas City area, I went on to facilitate programs on starting a business, writing business plans and successfully building a business. When aspiring entrepreneurs needed information, the Small Business Development Centers and other local small business resources directed them to me. After a series of basic start up questions, I referred them on to the library to further their research.
The library became an integral part of my business planning classes. The librarians conducted specialized tours for the participants and educated people on the use of the many valued business resources available at the library.
The author at the White House with Johnson County library officials and First Lady Laura Bush.
Which brings me to the invitation to the White House. In 2005, the Johnson County library was nominated for a national award and when they were told that they had won, one of the conditions of acceptance was that a library patron needed to accept the award on their behalf. Imagine my surprise and true delight when I met with the CEO of the library and she shared the news of the national award and invited me personally to accept on behalf of the Johnson County library.
In January 2006, we traveled to the White House and spent the morning celebrating the value of libraries all around the country. Visiting with the First Lady and sharing our mutual value of reading and the importance of reading to children was truly an experience I'll never forget.