Grace Horner is the owner and founder of The Go-to Girl. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska - a city she is very proud to call home. When she isn't networking, meeting with clients, or working, she enjoys yoga, reading, and going to the movies. You can learn more about Grace and The Go-to Girl at www.thegotogirlne.com/about
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I graduated from Morningside College - Sioux City, Iowa - in 2010 with a degree in Mass Communication. However, in the middle of the recession, it was really hard to find a job. So I spent a couple of years doing sales support, business development, and marketing.
From there, I worked at a TV station as a production assistant and photojournalist. It was part-time, so I did that and worked in the corporate communications department (again, part-time) for Union Pacific.
My last corporate job was as the Director of Public Relations and Social Media at Infofree.com. I had the best boss, great coworkers, and I loved what I was doing every day. i was heartbroken when I was laid off.
After that, I had a lot of encouragement to start my own business. So I did. I've been doing that for two years.
What inspired you to start your business?
Honestly? I started it as a way to pay my bills while I job searched after being laid off. I never even intended for it to be a full-time job!
But when my wheels started spinning, the real inspiration came out. At Infofree.com, our target market was small business owners and independent agents - realtors, insurance brokers, etc. I started thinking about all the different hats they wear and all the tasks that are on their to-do lists. I thought I could really make a difference by helping get some of that off of their plates so that they could focus on the main reasons they started their businesses - that passion that drove them from the start.
Where is your business based?
Right now, all of my clients are in Omaha, Nebraska. I am working on a mobile app that would help launch it into other areas. In 10 years, I want to have 6 to 9 other offices in other cities.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
I think the biggest step I took was to seek counsel. I went to school for journalism, I didn't know anything about starting a business. I asked my parents, my siblings, my grandmother - who was also a business owner, and my friends if they could support me in this endeavor.
In seeking counsel, I also talked to a couple of people at the SCORE office in Omaha. The Service Corp of Retired Executives truly is an amazing resource for anyone wanting to grow their business or just learn about starting a business.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Networking! Oh my gosh, I wish I could shout it from the mountaintops. I have made it a point to attend as many networking events as I can. Plus, I belong to Center Sphere - as I mentioned. It is just an authentic way to meet people and tell them about your business. And learn about theirs. Listening to others talk about their business gives me a good chance to hear about their challenges and see how I can help.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
I think my biggest challenge is planning for the ebbs and flows - so budgeting, both personal and professional. I am working on paying off my personal debt in order to alleviate some of that.
I do struggle with my motivation, at times. I find that if I am not motivated, the "5-4-3-2-1-GO!" method and set up the night before for the next day help pull me out of the slump
Balance can also be a struggle for me. I love to work and am a hard-worker by nature. So I will sometimes find myself working 12 and 15 hour days and not even notice. The way I have overcome that was to hire Karen, my account manager. Which in turn is helping me with budgeting.
How do you stay focused?
I really focus on the future. Where do I want my business to go? If I don't do the work, is that going to happen? I'm not sure if it's revolutionary, but writing down those goals and looking at them when I need to focus is really helpful.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
I don't have a lot of competition in the Omaha market. The people that I do compete with usually do things I don't do, and vice versa. So I try to refer to them when I can. But at the end of the day, people are going to work with people they like. The tenets I have built my business on are kindness, honesty, integrity, and quality. I am a huge believer in the Golden Rule, so I think when people experience that, they enjoy working with you.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Word of mouth. I just helped my friends set up their Christmas tree, and they wrote about me in a newsletter they publish and on Nextdoor Neighbor. Now, granted, they are my friends, but they were adamant about how helpful that was and what a great job I did for them. I think when you put that care and love into everything you do, people really feel that. And if they have a good experience, they want to share it.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Don't be afraid of hard work. Put in the long hours, network like crazy, and do the best job you can. And be kind. Always be kind.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
My favorite app is Buffer. I used to spend a ton of time thinking about content, remembering to post it, and putting it on multiple platforms. It's cost effective and super convenient.
I'm not sure if The Skimm qualifies as a blog, but I do read it every day. Otherwise, my friend, Maralee, is a foster care advocate and mom to SIX kids. Talk about Wonder Woman. Reading her blog helps me to be a more patient, better person.
My favorite book is Wild. I try to do most of my reading for pleasure.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
My favorite business tool is Quickbooks. I don't enjoy bookkeeping and I'm not good at it. Nor do I have the discipline to really do it consistently. Quickbooks tracks all of my expenses for me and I just have to classify them.
Who is your business role model? Why?
I would say my grandparents, Keith and Aloise Ferris. They owned a motel and restaurant in the 60s and 70s. They worked really hard and were married for almost 50 years! Their work ethic and commitment to community service (my grandfather was also the mayor of my hometown) is dying with that generation. My grandma always has the best advice, too.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
Well, my goal would be in 6 months to have Karen working full-time with me and then starting to look for two new hires. And I want our app to be up and running.
How can our readers connect with you?
They can check out my website - www.thegotogirlne.com. Or find me here:
Linkedin: The Go-to Girl (Nebraska