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Full Circle: Heartland Destinations to Southeast Kansas Living 

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

I tell a lot of stories. Many about the entrepreneurs we’ve worked with at the Lab. Joanne Smith is one of those great stories. In this excerpt from a speech she gave at a “Toastmasters” meeting, she mentions almost in passing the purchase of Southeast Kansas Living magazine. Taking on an established, high-quality and popular magazine is a huge project, but for Joanne, it completes a circle from a final college project for which she produced a dream project; a publication called “Heartland Destinations.” 

My to-do list is four pages long, plus another page of projects I haven’t bothered to write down. My checking account fluctuates from “yikes” to “whew” Checks do come in the mailbox…just sometimes with uncomfortably long gaps in between.  

 It’s a roller coaster for sure, sometimes exhausting, often exhilarating but I love every single minute of my life as an entrepreneur. I’m not sure becoming an entrepreneur was ever on my radar, in fact, until that “opportunity” more or less slapped me in the face.  

It happened four years ago. Life as I knew it changed forever when my 22-year employment abruptly ended with the closing of Mercy Hospital. The career I loved and that had become so much a part of my very identity came to a screeching halt right at what felt like the edge of a cliff with nowhere else to go.  

 Other jobs like mine were really non-existent in Independence. This is where I made my home and where I wanted to stay, but having no income was certainly not an option. Besides that, I was built to work. I needed to be productive.  

I desperately searched for my next COMPANY TO WORK FOR, preferably without a ridiculous commute and maybe even something I could do from home… I was a journalist by degree, a writer and editor… Could I proofread enough technical journals at a penny a word to make a living? How about voice work? Are there advertising producers or even animated filmmakers out there looking for a fresh 12-year-old voice? I tried to stay positive as every day I read dozens upon dozens of job descriptions that were not even remotely connected to my experience. I clearly remember thinking, though, I can do anything I just need someone to give me a chance. 

Thankfully, one day I took a break from wading through online job sites long enough to seek advice from someone else. I had never formally been introduced to Jim Correll, but I had heard of him and his Fab Lab and I understood he had a reputation as a “BUSINESS” coach. I thought maybe he could steer me in the direction of some good job leads and give me some pointers on how to be more successful in my search. 

 I don’t remember the date of our meeting. I wish I did, because it was a pivotal day. It was indeed the day my job search effectively ended. You see, Jim revealed to me that he was not in fact just a “business” coach, but rather a passionate champion of entrepreneurship. A champion of innovative thinkers and problem solvers and individuals who power through hardships to re-write their stories and take charge of their destinies. People who build their own businesses and work for themselves. 

He challenged me to consider whether I could be one of them. He told me that he believed I could.  

Jim invited me to take his entrepreneurial mindset class. He also offered to trade me a membership in his Fab Lab for marketing services. A pretty good deal. I could come out and learn how to make things.  

Then, ready or not in this freelance gig, Jim began sharing may name to other people and businesses who needed marketing work. Jim knows a lot of people. Eventually, my voicemail and email were filling up. 

When you’re a new entrepreneur and you’re hungry, You never say no. I didn’t even know how to do a lot of the things Jim promised people – cut an aluminum sign with the plasma machine, laser engrave a recognition plaque, print an 8-foot vinyl banner. No worries, he said. He and Tim Haynes at the lab would teach me. 

From there, word spread, and life as an entrepreneur exploded for me. Today, I remain closely connected to the Fab Lab but have created my own marketing company, which I very intentionally named FAB Creative Services. I have a couple of fellow “mompreneurs” who assist me with projects. In officially about three years’ time, we’ve worked with more than 80 different clients. 

My little company is growing steadily. This summer, I purchased Southeast Kansas Living magazine and my first issue is hitting mailboxes this week. It feels good to get back to my journalism roots. 

And I try to give back just a little, in part through a podcast that I’ve recently launched featuring other women entrepreneurs. I do it just for the sake of sharing their stories in hopes that they may be inspirational to other women who are searching for their next opportunity. 

It’s a lot, this entrepreneur life. I sometimes stay up way too late, take on way too much, spend way too little time with family and agonize when there is more ebb than flow to the cash flow.  

But I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. 

For more information see Joanne’s listings in the “Fab Lab Marketplace” at fablabicc.org. 

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks. Archive columns and podcast at jimcorrell.com. 


 


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