Peter Barnes didn’t take the traditional route. After briefly studying at Chicago State University and Parkland College, Barnes ended his studies because his family couldn’t afford to support his education during the 2008 financial crisis. Despite that setback, Barnes’ education never actually stopped.
He spent time reading at the library, he worked in the insurance and airline industries and also went on to start entertainment and production companies. Now, his latest venture helps small business owners find clients, and use data analytics to grow their businesses.
This July, the 27-year-old entrepreneur is set to launch, Ulturnative, a platform that connects users to deals from local businesses. He’s also developing three other similar platforms: Cheffingthyme, a platform for booking personal chefs and local catering companies, Allurefix, which lets users book hair and nail appointments, and Retailturnative, which will give business owners deals on operational supplies and equipment.
For other black millennials looking to launch their own B2B companies, Barnes has a five tips for making your business happen.
1. Keep learning.
Barnes read library books and kept abreast of what’s happening across different industries by following reports from Deloitte and The Wall Street Journal. He also believes in learning by doing, jokingly calling the practice “the janky monastery.” He recommends to meet up with other professionals in your industry, ask questions and don’t be afraid of sounding like you don’t know anything. “I put myself in uncomfortable situations,” Barnes said. “I’m not afraid to say ‘I like to be the dumbest person in the room.’ There are things that I’m still learning and will continue to learn.”
2. Find your niche.
There are already companies, like LivingSocial and Groupon, connecting customers with big and small businesses, so Barnes had to find a way to standout. To do that, he spoke with business owners to figure out what their growing pains were, and how he could help. He soon discovered he could supply small businesses with consumer data analytics that bigger companies have, and bring them customers, without taking as much from their profits as other platforms. During his conversations with business owners in different industries, he figured out that beauticians have different needs from shop owners or restaurateurs. He said, “What I learned was that each market they had a different pain,” Barnes said. “That's what led me to separate them and develop them,” he added, referring to the separate aforementioned platforms.
3. Work with other entrepreneurs who are passionate about their businesses.
Barnes is selective about the businesses he chooses to collaborate with. He sometimes visits the stores or establishments he’s looking to partner with, just to see how the customer experience is, and how they're marketing their services. Find people who are about their business.
4. Find new ways to work around cash flow woes.
Not everyone has a pool of cash to tap into to start a company, but don’t let your lack of money keep you from starting your business. “There's so much untapped potential that gets passed by and a lot of people give up on it,” Barnes said. Look for creative ways to work around your cash flow woes. When he needed money to get a domain name for his website, he used a GoFundMe campaign to help raise the cash.
5. Get comfortable with risk.
"Being an entrepreneur comes with a lot of risks, but it can be manageable if you start small," Barnes said. He currently does consultations and earns returns from previous investments, while bootstrapping his business. “Jumping into a company—it's risky and it is a bit daunting,” Barnes said. “When you encounter a challenge, embrace that challenge, because without pain, you’re not gaining anything. Persevere through it.”