Interview with Andy Otteman about being downsized and becoming an entrepreneur

Andy Otteman started a new business on March 3rd – that’s about a week ago. Andy is both a classic entrepreneur – he spotted some services that could be improved and though to make a business out of them. As he was downsized a while ago after 17 years of hard work as an employee also makes him part of a new breed of entrepreneurs that find opportunities in the new environment created by the crisis. The business launched for the public less that 7 days ago, so it’s an unique opportunity for me as the editor of www.entrepreneurship-interviews.com to witness the birth of a new business, follow along the path and see how it grows. Here is what I found out at the interview:

Cristian: Andy Welcome to Entrepreneurship Interviews. What is Parnunu?

Andy Profile PhotoAndy: Thank you.  It’s a pleasure to be taking part in this interview.  I’m excited to talk with you about my business venture.  Parnunu is a creative online tool to help people stay prepared for their next career opportunity, whenever and wherever it happens.  Parnunu is a secure place for members to create and maintain a personalized career portfolio which gives a clear professional picture of the person.

Cristian: You started Parnunu on March 3rd? So it’s 10 days old. How does it feel to start a business during the crisis?

Andy: I can honestly say that it’s invigorating.  Knowing that I can have a positive impact on someone’s career, and that Parnunu is able to help them stay Prepared And Ready (the P-A-R of Parnunu) is so rewarding.

Cristian: What is special about Parnunu for the job seekers?

Andy: Parnunu gives the member a place where they can not only store their resume, but also tell their own unique professional story.  Members can develop a custom portfolio of photos, videos, web links, work projects and experiences.  It allows you to create your own picture of what you’re about.  Parnunu helps you stay prepared for your career future whether you’re employed or not.  It gives you peace of mind knowing that your career portfolio is always secure and accessible by you anytime and anywhere.

Cristian: And for the employers?

Andy: Parnunu gives hiring companies a highly visual, interactive, searchable database of candidates that creates a time saving bridge between a resume and that initial interview.

Cristian: You told me that you received some entrepreneurial training – what exactly was it?

Andy: Business Plans for Dummies might be good for some people, but even that was too text book for me.  I was fortunate enough to hear about a program being offered through the Michigan Small Business Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC).  The program, FastTrac New Venture, provided me with more than simply text book knowledge.  The program is structured to deliver lectures by other entrepreneurs, provide business resources for starting your venture, and test your venture idea with your peers.  It also offered free research, and they matched me with a business consultant who I still stay connected with today.  All of that led me down a path to structure a complete business plan.  It was an intense 8-week course, but one that was incredibly valuable.

Cristian: Do you think you had the entrepreneurial drive in you and just waiting to happen?

Andy: I often saw myself as an entrepreneur.  In fact, that was how I felt I made decisions in my corporate career.  The restructuring that took place in my business unit afforded me the opportunity to look at the parts within my career I enjoyed most.  That reflection launched me into the idea for Parnunu.

Cristian: So what are the plans for Parnunu for the first year?

Andy: Financially, I would be elated if I could get to a break even point in the first year.  The emerging workforce is ready for this kind of new thinking as it relates to a person’s work history.  Today’s youth is virtually paperless already.  Parnunu helps initiate that shift from the archaic two-page resume to a 21st century portfolio.  Parnunu helps make that an easy transition not only for Generations X & Y, but for all ages.  The overall plan is to reach out to as many people as possible and show them how intuitive and non-threatening creating a Parnunu portfolio can be.

Cristian: How does one start a business online? Do you need to be a technical person? Or pay a company to create a site?

Andy: My entrepreneurial training clearly spelled out the fact that I wasn’t capable of doing everything myself.  To begin with, I think you need a solid business plan.  From there, it helps to have (or establish) a network of talent to fill in the gaps.  I could never have created anything near the quality of design or web architecture within my site by myself, nor could I effectively deliver the PR materials.  It’s a long answer to your question.  So, no, you don’t need to be technically minded. You do need to be passionate about your idea, and find the right people to help you execute the plan.

Cristian: How does a small business like yours promote itself? Any tips?

Andy: I believe promoting your business with honesty and integrity is very important.  Media today can reach millions of people and far away places quickly and easily.  So, a complete and concise news release about your business is valuable.  Additionally, being that my business is a people business, they are my best advertising.  Providing people with a service that is exactly what you say it is delivers truth in advertising.  With all of the social networking out there, a positive Parnunu experience can reach so many people quickly.  That sort of viral marketing is how I plan to start out.

Cristian: I know it might be too soon to ask, but any signs of success after the first week?

Andy: There’s been a lot of buzz regionally around the subjects of jobs, entrepreneurs and the overall economy.  Parnunu touches all those hot buttons.  With our news release and related stories, traffic to the site, the Facebook page, and the Youtube video has increased.  I’d rate all of that a success.  It is early as it relates to the financial goals.

Cristian: Coming back to the concept, how exactly is Parnunu different from a social network say Linkedin?

Andy: With social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin, there tends to be way too much else going on – friends, connections, games, sidebar advertisements, etc.  It’s not so much about the individual as it is about almost being a sharing board about everyone else but you.  Parnunu is much more discrete – be public if you want to, but know that you can also be private.  Parnunu will also help to remind you to make portfolio updates every once in a while.  With Parnunu the person is the focal point.

Cristian: So what drives an entrepreneur in his first days owning a business? How does it feel to have the site live and have the first customers?

Andy: It is exhilarating to know that something you’ve been working on in your brain and with your team for the last 12-18 months is finally out there, live.  What drives me now is knowing that it’s not done.  In the first five weeks of beta testing the site, we came up with countless enhancements and revisions.  Knowing that each and every day, Parnunu will only become better, is also what drives me.

Cristian: I know that a lot of people are afraid to start a business because they don’t have an unique idea. Do you think that a new business should be based on new unique ideas or just improve on what’s already available?

Andy: I think there’s room for both.  The unique idea is the one that usually has greater risk.  But that can also mean a greater reward.  Likewise, improving something that already exists is beneficial.  I couldn’t see myself running a 5K with a record player, but I know I can run it with my iPod.  As times and technology innovations advance, both avenues will open up.  That’s in a sense what I’m doing with shifting from an archaic resume to the 21st century portfolio.

Cristian: How difficult is nowadays to start a business like yours from the legal point of view? Paperwork, permits and so on?

Andy: Necessary, yes.  Difficult, no.  Again, my course helped guide me through this, and so did my other consultants.  There’s the business license one needs as well as the other legal searches and submissions that need to occur.  As you get more people working for you then the employment laws kick in as well.

Cristian: What if it fails? What are the risks when starting an online business?

Andy: That’s always the risk.  There is less invested than if it were a brick and mortar business with capital expenses and inventory.  That’s the case for Parnunu anyway.  I guess for me, it’s not so much what if it fails, but rather what if you never gave it a try?  The bottom line is that you have to be willing to take that risk and try.

Cristian: Any message for people that are being laid off right now and think about starting a business?

Andy: Don’t just go out there and do something on your own for the sake of doing something on your own.  That’s not what it means to be an entrepreneur.  You have to do something that you have a passion for.  That passion is the energy that fuels your venture.  When I got restructured out of my job, it gave me time to reflect upon what I enjoyed most in that work.  It wasn’t about the sales dollars or other numbers.  It was developing the talent within my team and helping them to obtain the tools to succeed that gave me the greatest job satisfaction.  I created Parnunu as a place where people can securely create that clear picture of what they are all about so they can be prepared and ready for the next step in their career.  If Parnunu can help one person achieve that dream career, then I’m thrilled!!!

Andy: I invite people to explore parnunu.com and create their own professional portfolio. To save money as a first-time subscriber, just visit the Parnunu Facebook page to become a fan, and copy the special promotional discount code to use when you sign up at parnunu.com.  Thank you, Cristian, for this opportunity to talk with you about Parnunu!!