Erika Tapp Duran is a consultant at the Temple Small Business Development Center (SBDC). She works primarily with pre-venture and start-up businesses and teaches the BRIGHT business planning course and start-up programming. She brings over a decade of experience in community and economic development in Philadelphia.
We recently sat down with Tapp Duran to chat with her about her role here at the SBDC and what aspiring business owners and entrepreneurs can do to succeed.
What areas do you specialize in and what is your favorite aspect of working as a consultant?
I specialize in pre-venture and startups. My favorite aspect of consulting is learning about interesting and unique business ideas from the clients that I have the pleasure of working with. I enjoy working with and meeting new people and I think it’s really exciting to watch the evolution of the businesses and entrepreneurial journeys that I get to be a part of.
What did you study in college? Do I need a college degree to start my business?
I majored in architecture at Cornell University. I also have an MA from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA from Villanova University. You definitely don’t need a college degree to start a business. The most critical skills in starting a business are effective communication and creative thinking. College can help people develop these skills, but a willingness to continuously learn is most important for any entrepreneur.
What challenges do you think the SBDC is best able to help aspiring entrepreneurs solve?
The SBDC helps entrepreneurs learn to have a 360-degree view of their business, meaning that they will look at their business holistically. This helps them get a better understanding of the problems they are facing and why those problems may be different than what they think they are.
What aspect of your work do you think makes the biggest impact?
Being a well-informed outside observer can really help entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship can sometimes be a lonely journey and having someone with the ability to listen and effectively communicate feedback and constructive criticism is important. Entrepreneurship requires being honest with yourself about what’s working and what isn’t. That is an important first step in success.
What do you think the biggest challenges are in starting a business today?
In a single word, “instability.” The pandemic has proven that you can’t make predictions on what the world is going to be like next month, let alone next year. That kind of uncertainty makes decision-making more difficult than ever before.
What are some common mistakes that entrepreneurs make when starting a business?
The biggest mistake I see is entrepreneurs not putting the customer first. It’s important to understand the problem you’re trying to solve and the customer you’re trying to help. Another major problem is starting a business without the right financial support. A lot of people underestimate the amount of money needed to start and grow a business. Getting access to bank loans is not as easy as some people think, and many new startups will struggle to get financing from a bank.
What was the most unique business idea you have worked on?
I had a client who was a professional cuddlist. He provided cuddling therapy, which was such an interesting business. It was certainly a challenge to work through the risk management issues and as a male cuddlist, marketing is twice as difficult.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Dream big, plan well and know your customer.
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