Shirley Bloethe always knew she wanted to work for herself, just as her parents had done for 42 years with their New Britain restaurant.
She took the first step with a self-employment assessment; “Out of that, I took a class at The Entrepreneurial Center that helps you write a business plan. In that class, I learned the detail work—how to do research, how to understand cash flow, and how to write a complete business plan. Before that, I didn’t know anything about the inner workings of finance.”
“I also learned that I was hard-working and smart. I had lots of skills that could be used to make it happen. That’s one thing I learned—that I can make it happen.”
In her class, Shirley wrote a business plan for a non-alcoholic juice bar and found, to her dismay, that it just wasn’t feasible. Shirley was glad to learn the skills and understood that the analysis she had done had saved her from going into a business that wouldn’t be profitable, and the skills she learned would prove to be very useful in the future.
Shirley is an entrepreneur at heart; she applied all the skills she had learned to another business idea. Shirley explains, “While my kids and I were visiting my sister in Montana, I saw a company that was selling used sports equipment. I knew I could do that, too.” She went right to work, applying all what she had learned in developing her business plan to this new concept, and Pass It On Sports was born!
Funded by a private loan, Shirley searched through over 400 locations, finally settling on the perfect one. She smiles, “I love to negotiate! To me, that’s fun. I love doing the deal!” The retail store was low rent, high traffic; close to the highway in a great area. Five years later, she ended up buying the building.
She opened on May 1, 1991, and grew from one room to four rooms to overflowing outdoors with equipment. She enjoyed growing the business and the sense of pride that came with it. In 2001, a fire in the building closed the store for a time, during which she made new connections, secured close-out deals and revamped her business to add kayaks, paddle boats and canoes. This allowed her to expand the business to incorporate her passion for boats and grow every year.
As the recession, and competition from a newly-opened Play It Again Sports came, Shirley changed her business model again. “I will continue to grow and change,” she explains. “My biggest challenge now is to find funding for the new dreams.”
Her new dreams included opening Jitters Coffee House, a bookstore, a wellness center and a day spa at her retail location. She still has the consolidated sports equipment business that now focuses only on the boating equipment (if you want to find out more about her businesses, check out www.SunflowerBungalow.com.
Shirley’s advice to would-be entrepreneurs, “Don’t quit! You’d be quitting on yourself, and you can’t do that! Persevere! I found that if I follow my heart, the money will follow. Do what you love with a passion.”