By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Thumb through a new report to understand why the number of startups in Hampton Roads recently increased, or talk to Greg Lindsay who opened a barbershop in Chesapeake about five years ago.
Either way, you will see the impact small businesses have on the region. While the recent report by the Kauffman Foundation showed the Hampton Roads region climbed from No. 23 to No. 19 for startups nationwide, Lindsay has hired several new barbers since he opened his barbershop in Greenbrier in 2011. This means he can tell you why some startups survive.
“I had no customers the first month. None! Zero,” said Lindsay who opened NEXT Barbershop in 2011 in Greenbrier at 1600 Crossways Blvd.
“It took me about four months before I got my first customer, said Lindsay, 45. “I handed out flyers, went out and talked to people I saw walking around the mall.”
“It takes a lot of time and sacrifice to manage a new business,” said Lindsay who owns the business with his wife Felecia. They have four children, ages 27 to 9. They also provide care to his father, as well as his brother who is handicapped. Meanwhile, Lindsay is also recovering from a stroke he had about three months ago.
“Business has picked up by 50 percent since we opened,” Lindsay said. “We started out as a multi-cultural barbershop. This means we cut everybody’s hair. I have Caucasian and Hispanic barbers and customers. Everybody is trained to cut all types of hair. We have a pretty good military clientele.”
“But operating your own business is like taking care of a new baby,” Lindsay said. “You have to be there for it. That is how you build it up. It is very rewarding after you see a little progress.”
The problem is the average startup never makes any progress. Records show a typical startup lasts about 16.5 months. The recent Kauffman Foundation report shows more startups were launched in Hampton Roads. And while it shows how unemployment motivated many people to start a business (86.9 percent in 2014 compared to 81.2 percent in 2015), questions remain. For example, why do two out of three startups close before their second birthday? Why do fewer than 50 percent of all startups close before they celebrate their fifth birth? Why do most startups die after 20 months?
“Starting a business is not for the faint of heart,” said Small Business Association Executive Director Jim Carroll, who is also the vice president of Small Business, Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. “Many do not understand cash flow or they are undercapitalized.”
“You have to understand your business from many different standpoints,” said Carroll who spends a lot of time driving to small businesses in Norfolk, Smithfield, Gloucester, Hampton, and Newport News. About a dozen people attend the class he has taught each Saturday since 1997.
“Last year we saw 343 clients and had over 900 at our training events,” Carroll said. “And we helped them generate $32 million in economic impact just last year.”
But the bottom line is more people are launching startups because they are retired and “looking for something to do,” Carroll said. “The other reason is people were working for defense contractors. We talk to quite a few each week.”