Being your own boss. Many people dream about it; not as many get to live it. But if it’s something you’re considering, let me be the first to discourage you from sharing the vision with your 9 to 5 co-workers. As much as they complain about their job, they won’t have the guts to quit.

If you’re pondering the world of self-employment, the people you want to speak with are the ones who are there. They did the groundwork. They will tell you straight out what to expect. From the grind to the glory, I’ve interviewed five New Jersey entrepreneurs who were happy to share what it’s really like. Then you can decide for yourself if being a business owner is for you.

My panel of entrepreneurs was made up of:

The Vision

Self-employed boss working remotely from home
Self-employed boss working remotely from home

Dreaming big and seeing yourself as successful is what Peter Bunda of Big Fish Sportswear, Inc. recommends. “You can not let any negative voices in your head get to you,” he said. And even if it takes awhile to bring your income up, Bunda said that one of the many pros of starting and maintaining your business is “the unlimited monetary income you can generate.”

According to Kaan Tulgar, owner of Tulgar Media Works, the best thing about starting your own business is turning your vision into reality. “You have to have some type of passion towards whatever it is,” he said in encouragement. “Courage slash capital to put together your dream in a wheel and start rolling.”

Running the whole show is important to Gina Bellado, owner of Frames and Framers. “We have control in all facets of the business,” she said. “Location, hiring, designing your space…Whatever it is that you do, the only one with any input is you.”

Location is significant to Maryanne Castello of Neos Zoe and New Jersey is certainly good for that. She said, “With New Jersey being a well-populated state, depending where you set up shop, you can have a lot of foot traffic.” Castello also favors New Jersey on a personal note because it’s where her family lives. “It allows me to be close to them,” she shared.

John P. Mitrano, owner of Techdesigno LLC agreed that New Jersey is a good location to start a business. “I have found that New Jersey has a lot of resources and networking opportunities available for business owners to help them grow and thrive,” he offered.

Some Hard Facts

Jersey City skyline at sunset
Jersey City skyline at sunset

Even if you’re in the ideal location, Mitrano stressed that it’s not easy. Working long hours was the first con that came up. You may have to temporarily forget about making weekend or vacation plans. You may even find yourself working on holidays.

“If you don’t work you don’t get paid,” said Tulgar. “That’s the biggest downfall. No one will ever work as hard as you do for your business.”

Bellando agreed, saying, “When the money gets tight, you can’t always pay yourself.”

“But that will be okay because in the end you will succeed,” Bunda interjected supportively.

Then there’s the cost of overhead. Castello pointed out that the cost of living in New Jersey has skyrocketed over the years. “Rent, utilities, supplies, etcetera, can be extremely costly and should be researched before opening your business. Read everything, including the fine print, on lease agreements, insurances, banking documents, and all correspondence to ensure you are getting the best value and your business income can afford your monthly overhead expenses.”

Adding to the cost is health insurance. “There’s a reason there’s a corporate America,” offered Tulgar. “You’re collecting a check every week, retirement, pensions. I can go on and on. When you’re your own business, you don’t have most of these things.”

Another downside as per Tulgar is marketing yourself. “Everything costs money,” he said. “You want a website, it’s gonna cost. Social media, it’s gonna cost you. You can never get comfortable.”

Going for It!

Portrait of smiling self-employed entrepreneur
Portrait of smiling self-employed entrepreneur

Even with the downfalls, when asked most entrepreneurs would not have it any other way. It’s not called a dream job for nothing! This is why they were all happy to dish out advice. One of the perks of being an entrepreneur is helping others achieve their dreams.

Mitrano believes there are three fundamental ongoing needs for small business success, and that New Jersey supports all three, which are:

  1. Startup capital and funding
  2. Business training and educational
  3. Coaching from mentors in developing a good business model

One place Mitrano recommends where you can find much of this is through the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers throughout the state of New Jersey.

Also prior to getting started, you must have a plan advises Tulgar. “A six-month plan, a year plan, a retirement plan. Have a back-up plan,” he said. “Nothing comes easy, but if you stick to it, pay your dues, love what you do, you will have an amazing award at the end.”

Bellando agrees. “You have to make sure that you have money put aside for a rainy day,” she said. “For instance, what happened with the Covid virus. We had to close for four months, but the bills are still coming. I was able to get a small loan, but not enough to cover expenses.”

Being flexible and willing to change with the trends is Bunda’s advice for starting your own business. As a custom silk screen t-shirt printing, he has seen many trends come and go. “Styles of shirts and colors have changed over the thirty years I have been doing this,” he said. “You have to look ahead and make predictions and sometimes take a few chances.”

He also encourages to give back in anyway you can. “To your community and your customers,” Bunda said. “Whether it be your time, money, services, or products. It will make you look better, but most importantly, make you feel better.”

Castello’s advice on starting your business is just that. “Start!” she said. “Many of us second guess ourselves. If you keep second guessing yourself, you risk creating fear instead of using the energy to actually start your business. Everything does not have to be perfect at first. You will grow into your business. Will there be ups and downs? Sure. Is it okay if you fail at something in your business? Absolutely. Failing is not always a bad thing. It’s a learning experience and growing pain. Use it to educate yourself and learn from your mistakes. Making mistakes helps you master your craft. Create the business you envision. Be your own boss. And most of all believe in yourself.”

Have any more advice for becoming self-employed? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.