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Entrepreneur Spotlight: Randi Craigen

Jason Huang - Thursday, August 30, 2012

 Sometimes the greatest challenge to success is knowing where to start. Randi Craigen found her focus through StartingUp Now.

Randi Craigen is the Chicago director of East Wind Nannies as well as an emerging jewelry designer who had once never thought she would run a business. A mother of four and proclaimed introvert, Randi took the inspiration of friends and the tools and support she gained from StartingUp Now, and is now working on making two dreams a reality. Randi has lived in Chicago for over twenty years, and faces both the challenges and excitements of marketing to the city’s unique needs and culture.

How did you get started with your nanny business?

I was working as a part time teacher’s aid at a preschool, and a friend of mine asked me how my job was going. I told her I was thinking about taking a nanny position instead, so that I could really focus on just a couple of kids and really relate to them and invest in them, rather than crowd control with twenty-some kids. She said to me, why don’t you open a branch at my nanny agency. She was looking to expand, and I said sure let’s talk. As we talked more about it, I realized it was something I could do and would enjoy doing. I didn’t have to start from zero; I could take her plan and her structure, and I could work from there. I still felt by doing that I could invest in kids by helping find quality nannies to care for them while their parents were at work.

How did you learn about StartingUp Now?
I’ve known Brian for about twenty years. I didn’t know exactly what StartingUp was about, but I knew that Brian was kind of a small business guru. I started with this agency in Chicago, which is pretty much just me. I quickly found myself in over my head, and I thought what am I supposed to do? Even though some things were already laid out for me, reaching the Chicago market, you know, that was all on me. So I went to his office to talk to him about small business, and Brian did everything to get me involved, from dropping the book in my lap to walking past me and checking up on me to making sure I was working on things.
 
What has been your experience with StartingUp Now?
I’m still honestly working through some things on it, but I think the greatest benefit I’ve had thus far is clarity. When I first talked to Brian, I wasn’t sure how helpful it was going to be, because figuring out the business plan and start up costs had essentially been done, or so I thought. However, it really helped me to understand just what it was I was marketing, what my product actually was. I thought my product was nannies, and that’s not my product; my product is really the very personalized customer service that I provide for families by doing the nanny search for them. That makes a difference in how I market it.

Brian also showed me the Skillcenter, and I was fiddling around with it and realized how easy it was. There was a question on startup costs that I didn’t exactly know what it was, and there was a link that I could click on immediately that went to an article that explained it; it’s so user friendly.

So after going through StartingUp Now, how has your outlook on entrepreneurship changed?
I just think differently; I see the opportunities in things. It’s funny to me how even talking to my daughter this summer, when she had requests to do face painting at a birthday party, I was just flowing with ideas about how to turn that into a business for her and how she could market that and how she needed to lay out a plan and all these different things on how to market herself as a face painter for birthday parties and earn a little bit of money. I’m planning these little businesses every time I turn around.

About a year and a half ago I started making jewelry just for friends and as gifts. A couple friends would ask, “Can you make something for my mom, and I’ll pay you for it.” People were liking what I was doing, so I started looking for little opportunities, Christmas shows where I could set up a little table and trunk shows for friends, but I never planned on making it a business. It’s just sort of been happening on the side. Now I love making it so much that I have all this product sitting around that nobody knows about really; nobody knows my little secret. Brian has been talking to me about how crazy that the product is already there, the investment is already made, so he’s really pushing me through the business side of it.

Where do you hope to see your businesses going?
I’m a little timid about that, which is another thing that Brian has been beating me over the head about. He’ll say things to me like what if I said you could earn this much money next year with your jewelry business, and I just look at him like he’s crazy. He’s dead serious, like no really, let’s talk about this. Of anybody I have talked to, Brian has really made me feel like okay, I can do this. He’s not just “rah, rah, go!” but instead gives me tools that have really helped me and made me start to believe, yeah I really can do this.

What do I want for this agency? I want it to be very relational, very personalized. I don’t have a vision for it to be huge. If I can’t give the families the kind of customer service that I believe in and believe is a strength as an agency, that means I’m probably going to need to get administrative help; somebody else will have to do other things so that I can do the relational aspect.

StartingUp has helped me to think in terms of growth, but not that it turns into something that I don’t want it to be. Just being able to express that, the Starting Up process has helped me define those things.


If you are interested in being a part of East Wind Nannies, visit their website. To contact Randi directly, call 312-650-9396.


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