If you have any doubt about the impact small business is playing in today’s economy, just tune into ABC’s hit program, Brothers & Sisters. After resigning from the Walker family business, Ojai Foods, Sarah Whedon, the oldest sibling played by Rachel Griffiths, joins a start-up Internet company, Greenatopia. She turns her living room into an office (sound familiar?) where her two partners and she struggle to get the site off the ground in time to participate in a big event where they are confident they’ll attract investment capital.
With just a week left to go, the young company runs into financial problems. The trio needs $120,000 to finish the site development in time for their debut at the event. (It always takes longer and cost more than you think to start a business.) Sarah tells her mother Nora (Sally Fields) about their dilemma. Nora subsequently convinces Kitty, (Calista Flockhart), Sarah’s younger sister, to loan Sarah the money. When Kitty offers, Sarah refuses to take her check explaining she has applied for an emergency SBA loan. Later in the program Sarah learns the loan is declined so she swallows her pride and tells Kitty she’s reconsidered and would like to accept the loan. Kitty refuses and suggests Sarah get a home equity loan. When Sarah explains she can’t afford to take that kind of risk, Kitty delivers an important message.
“If you believe in this company as much as you say you do then you need to put more of yourself on the line.”
Most of the time, I think television programs stray so far from reality that the story lines becomes ludicrous. But someone on the Brothers & Sister’s staff has a good grasp of what it takes to start a small business. Kitty’s advice to Sarah about putting yourself on the line resonates with me. I’ve met lots of potential entrepreneurs who weren’t willing to take the financial risk associated with starting a business. Unless you are fortunate enough to have great connections to money sources, you’ve got to put a significant amount of your personal assets at risk. No one wants to invest in an idea you’re not willing to invest in yourself.
It will be interesting to see how this story-line moves along. With the current credit crunch, will Sarah be able to get the home equity loan? Will the Internet start-up attract the investors it needs? How will the relationships among the original trio of founders evolve? Rumor has it there may be a little romantic intrigue in the future.
Whatever happens, it is interesting to watch a story-line unfold that mirrors what many of us face in real life. If you were one of the staff writers, what would happen next for this start-up venture?