CEO of Just Between Friends offer tips for entrepreneurs

shannon wilburn

Shannon Wilburn, Co-founder and CEO
Just Between Friends
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Former Wildcat Shannon (McKnight) Wilburn calls herself an "accidental entrepreneur." The co-founder and CEO of Just Between Friends, a $25 million children's and maternity consignment franchise, has a degree in elementary education so she faced a stiff learning curve when she began her franchise in 1997. "I didn't know anything about running a business," she recalls.

This year, her company made Inc. magazine's list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies and was just named one of Entrepreneur magazine's Top 500 Franchises. In 2012, Just Between Friends was one of only 75 companies nationwide to receive the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Blue Ribbon Award. 

Wilburn speaks across the country to budding entrepreneurs and shares these keys that she learned on her journey to success.

  • Get involved: Go out of your way to get involved in your community - the community that will be there to support your business. Networking opportunities are everywhere, so take every advantage. Building relationships is crucial to most small business owners. People do business with those that they know, like and trust. Getting involved creates higher loyalty and increases word-of-mouth advertising.
  • Budget: Not having a business education, there were many things that we simply just didn't think through when we began Just Between Friends. I wish I would have known that it is imperative to have solid, working capital before starting a business, as well as enough money to sustain you professionally and personally as you build your business. Watch that bottom line and your cash flow (the life-blood of every small business) and always know where you stand financially.
  • Surround yourself with smart people: There is only so much that one person can do well. Know your strengths and find ways to perform tasks that play to those strengths every day. Then hire others to handle the rest. It takes so much more time and we are all less efficient at doing those tasks that may not be our strengths. Choose the more productive course and consider outsourcing functions such as bookkeeping, clerical and other tasks outside your area of expertise so that you can spend your time and effort on projects where you will be more productive (and happier).
  • Dream big dreams, work hard and expect great things to happen.

"I think entrepreneurs are people who have that 'I can do anything' attitude," says Wilburn. "They are tenacious and driven. Because of that sometimes we don't always take a moment to step back and make the most calculated decisions. We don't know what we don't know. What has really helped me with JBF is that I have found it imperative to surround myself with smart people. I realized very quickly that a business owner who surrounds herself with smart people who are great at what they do can make you and your business great in the process. I now know that my greatest strength is that I have great people surrounding me. I rely on them for so many aspects of running this business and count it a great joy that I get to learn from them." 

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