Editor’s note: Mary Cantando of WomanBusinesOwner.com recently interviewed Jeannette King of Wilmington-based Specialty Soft. This interview is the latest in The Entrepreneurial Spirit column series, a partnership between the Council for Entrepreneurial Development and Local Tech Wire.
Jeannette, can you tell us about your business and technology?
SpecialtySoft develops, sells and supports software applications for the custom picture framing industry. These products include a retail point of sale application, a wholesale application and software to automate picture framing manufacturing facilities. SpecialtySoft is the premier technology provider for our industry.
I know you’re a native North Carolinian, where did you go to school?
Born in Winston-Salem, NC, I grew up in a rural community in Surry County about 30 miles north of Winston-Salem. I earned my undergraduate degree from UNC-Charlotte and a Masters of Science from North Texas State University
How and why did you start your company?
I have a business management background. My husband’s background is accounting and computer science. We had always wanted to start a software business and saw an opportunity in the custom picture framing industry. My husband purchased a retail custom picture framing business in 1991 which was a nice entry point into that market.
Where do you think your entrepreneurial nature comes from?
I have always been an adventurous person. I tried a lot of different things including providing legal services to rural Alaskan natives, long term care administration, home health care administration and now software development. I have a sense of urgency about life and am exceedingly optimistic. Also, I grew up in an entrepreneurial home. My father owned a retail auto parts business for 30+ years
Tell us about your family and how they fit into your business?
My husband and I are in business together. He is in charge of business development. My sister is a sales professional and has been working with us since 1999. Our dog Lily works with us also. She is in charge of employee morale and hospitality.
What do you think is the best decision you’ve made related to your business?
Listening to our customers and using that information to drive our product development
How about your biggest mistake?
One of my greatest challenges is the temptation to get bogged down in the day to day leaving less time for visioning. The successful entrepreneur must set aside time for visioning or risk stagnation in their business. There must be a balance between vision, organization and implementation. Organization and implementation can be effectively delegated and strategically managed but the entrepreneur must hold the vision.
Was there a particular person or role model who lit the path for you?
I was strongly influenced by a previous employer, Kimberly Quality Care. During my tenure, Kimberly afforded me the opportunity to develop my business management and human resources skills. Kimberly was an entrepreneurial company. While at Kimberly, I was totally responsible for all aspects of management. However, it was different in that I had corporate support that does not exist when you are an individual business owner.
Looking back on your business and career so far, what might you have done differently?
I would have taken bigger risks in bringing on staff. I would have hired key people sooner to move the company ahead more quickly.
What advice would you give to a woman considering entrepreneurship?
It takes single-mindedness to be successful. Make sure you are willing to stay the course. If you know that the entrepreneurial life is for you then do not give up. Keep trying until something works.
What is the greatest obstacle to growth for women entrepreneurs?
I really do not see any big obstacles to my growth as a woman entrepreneur. I believe there are situations where it is more difficult to achieve a specific business objective as a woman. There are also times when the opposite is true. The secret is to know when gender is a help or a hindrance and adjust accordingly. Gender is just one of many variables in a situation.
What is the greatest opportunity?
The opportunity is to always act proactively. Surround yourself with a team of people who as a whole can achieve the given objective. Sometimes as a strong woman, you have the element of surprise on your side.
What, above all, do you want readers to understand about SpecialtySoft?
SpecialtySoft is single minded in its focus. Our goal is to provide a tool to the custom picture framing business that will simplify and automate their business processes. We are passionate about giving our customers a product that will directly contribute to their business success and quality of life.
What message would you like for readers to take away from this discussion?
Owning your own business is a wonderfully rewarding, all consuming journey. It is not for everyone. If you have a vision of something you wish to achieve and are passionate about it, then nothing can keep you from achieving it.