"For five years, I learned how to be an entrepreneur." Timothy Wolf Starr fondly recalls his days learning the ropes of small business by working for an array of upstart companies: asphalt paving, sealer manufacturing, distribution, food service and - his favorite - Christmas lights installation.
"For five years, I learned how to be an entrepreneur."
Timothy Wolf Starr fondly recalls his days learning the ropes of small business by working for an array of upstart companies: asphalt paving, sealer manufacturing, distribution, food service and - his favorite - Christmas lights installation.
Starr had already shown immense personal initiative by running for the Columbus City School Board as a senior at Northland High School. He lost, but tallied 9,000 votes and inspired the school board to lend a closer ear to student input.
So once Starr complemented his ambition with on-the-job equipping, he began lending his expertise to Columbus businesses as a consultant. And as his clientele started to build, he began to see how much sense it made for these companies to work together.
"The economies of scale just started to become obvious," Starr said.
Hence Small Business Beanstalk - per the company website, "a local-first company that leverages connections of all types to support business and community growth." Starr sold his clients on the power of teamwork then offered SBB's services to a select class of businesses. They had to be local and independent, and SBB had to be able to provide them a value.
The SBB already seemed like a lucrative idea when Starr had his real "Eureka!" moment. While strolling around after an Ohio State football game, he noticed all the red shirts and imagined a way to convince all those consumers to shop local: SBB membership cards.
"In the two hours it took me to walk Lane Avenue through all that, that's when the card idea was born," Starr said.
Interest in the SBB was immediate, beginning in the Short North and the University District and quickly expanding into Clintonville and the suburbs. Soon Starr was steeped in work, even with the help of "three partners, two part-timers and an amazing intern army."
They keep devising new ways to unite their businesses (including more than 250 so far), including a charitable giving service, and expanding their brand to the far reaches of the Columbus area. Upon reaching a saturation point in Columbus, Starr hopes to help kindred spirits in other cities develop similar networks.
Starr's also got his hands in a vast array of community organizations. He's trying to become an inextricable part of the fabric of Columbus commerce and culture - and he's succeeding.
"It really all goes back to the value of becoming more than just a coupon," he said.