Donna from Steubenville, Ohio

Our Public Library Helped Me Organize for Success

“You should do this as a business!” That's what I repeatedly heard from family, friends, and co-workers as I helped them get organized at home and at the office. Organizing was something I enjoyed doing and came naturally to me, so helping others clear clutter and make great use of their space was more fun than a favor. But my background was in theatre, not business, so what did I know about running a business?

 

Eventually I did decide to start a business as a professional organizer. One thing that has always stuck with me from my theatre education was the importance of research and the treasure of resources that a library holds. So off I went to the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County in my Ohio hometown to check out books on how to start a business.

Starting this endeavor with no extra funds was possible due to the variety of resources that our library system offers. In 2001, I founded I Love 2 Organize by filing my business name with the State of Ohio. While I now had a legal title, I did not have a computer, but our local library had several available for public use. When I finally did get a computer, I did not have internet access, but the library had it, so I stopped by regularly to check email and do internet research. Then when I got Internet access, it was dial-up. I could access email from home, but the library's super-fast Internet connection had spoiled me, so I continued to make trips to the library when I needed to do more extensive online research.

While today's libraries are a lot more than books, I have been able to save money by checking out new and classic books on organizing. I have also been able to practice what I preach as an organizer by borrowing rather than accumulating books through purchases.

The public library supplied my first client (who I had not previously known) as a result of a talk titled “Six Steps to Getting Organized” that I gave there as part of its community education program. I have continued to give annual talks throughout our county's library system on topics such as tips for getting and staying organized, organizing for school, and organizing for the holidays. I have often gotten new clients as a result of these presentations. In turn, I have attended talks by other professionals who have helped me gain knowledge in developing my business, including “How to Buy a Computer” and a helpful presentation about starting a business that was held in conjunction with our local Small Business Development Center.

The library has helped my business in other ways. I Love 2 Organize serves the tri-state area of Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and I often drive an hour to appointments. Books-on-tape on loan from the library are regular companions for my car trips. Some tapes that I choose are informational, such as Suze Ormon's 9 Steps to Financial Freedom; some are motivational, such as Stephen Covey's Habits series; and others are simply entertaining to help the drive pass quickly.

Finally, I recently found a new way that the public library can help my business. Having a large time gap between two meetings in Pittsburgh, I was able to productively use the time by bringing my laptop and working at a desk at one of the libraries there. Away from the occasional distractions that arise at my home office, I was able to get a lot done. I now plan to take some of my bigger projects with me and my laptop to our local library, which also provides wi-fi Internet access, so I can work without interruptions.

Sitting above my desk is a smiling plush green turtle that reminds me that slow and steady is a valid way to grow my business. This July will be the two-year anniversary of my working full-time as a professional organizer, and the public library has provided many of the tools I needed to achieve my dream in a financially sound and professional manner.