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Entrepreneurs must do their homework in order to succeed



 Joe and Kelly Harris opened a Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa franchise two weeks ago in Glassboro. 'My father taught me from an early age it was better to be your own boss,' Joe Harris said. / DENISE HENHOEFFER/Courier-Post


To be or not to be? In business   , that is.

 It’s a nagging question that haunts entrepreneurs and the following statistic doesn’t help: According to experts, more than half of self-owned start-ups close within five years.

 Washington Township’s Joe Harris says he always knew he wanted to be his own boss and he has proved to be an exception to the failure rate rule.

 Harris started his own disc jockey entertainment company when he was 15. In 2000, he founded Harris Enhancements, a home-remodeling firm. And two weeks ago, the 43-year-old and his wife, Kelly, opened a Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa franchise on Delsea Drive in Glassboro.

 The store is minutes away from Rowan University, Joe’s alma mater.


“My father taught me from an early age it was better to be your own boss,” Harris recalls. “He would ask, ‘Why make money for a company when you could work for yourself?’


“He said the best way to be successful was to own your own business.”


Harris says his DJ and remodelingbusinesses   are doing well, and the fledgling Hand & Stone spa franchise has opened with higher-than-expected membership and revenues.


Is Harris just lucky?


“Maybe,” he responds. “But I really believe you make your own luck. I know it may be a cliche, but with me, it’s all about my customers. From the time I started my DJ business, I’ve always made sure the customer was happy.


“I’ve been very blessed and fortunate, and I have an incredible family to whom I owe a lot.” Family includes his 29-year-old wife, who until November worked in the medical field.

Partnering with her husband is Kelly’s first venture into the business world, although she’s familiar with the entrepreneurial spirit.


“My mother has had her own wedding invitation business since I was a little kid,” says Kelly, who started her career as a medical laboratory scientist at Kennedy Health Center in Cherry Hill. Most recently she managed the laboratory at Kennedy University Hospital in Stratford.


“I went to school for medical technology   and had a very good job at Kennedy. So leaving that job and starting this with Joe is a very big step for me.


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 “But it’s been very exciting, really, and I love not reporting to a boss.”


Shoko Kato is an assistant professor of management at Rutgers-Camden. She says most entrepreneurs who fail in their business do so because they’re initially caught unaware.


“And they don’t do the research required before starting (their business),” she notes. “They don’t know or learn the ins and outs of successfully running a business.”


Kato labeled Joe Harris a “habitual entrepreneur,” one who obviously enjoys the challenges of creating something new.


“For many it’s not so much about the money, it’s about the personal growth gained from meeting the challenges,” Kato explains. “That’s what stimulates them.”


The Rutgers professor also conducts research on how entrepreneurs persevere despite setbacks.


“Many who have failed often go back and try something else,” Kato says. “To them, failure only occurs when they stop trying.”


Pennsauken resident Charlie DiMedio has had his share of ups and downs over the years, trying to combine a career as an auto   salesman with his own contracting business.


“Right out of high school (in 1980) I also started a landscaping business,” DiMedio recalls. “That went OK for a while, but I found it to be too seasonal. Then I got into the car-selling business, which can be lucrative at times, others not so much.


“So about 15 years ago I launched a contracting business with the hopes of doing that full time. That also went well for a while, but then the economy took a dive. It’s been tough   .”


Rutgers’ Kato advises would-be business owners   to think about more than the mighty dollar before stepping out on their own.


“I tell people they shouldn’t focus only on money, but to also think about what’s important in their life. If starting a business helps improve the value of their life, that’s also important.’’


Cyndi Zippilli spent nearly 30 years in the corporate world before she decided to start her own business. She admits she’s not in it for the money.


“I asked myself if I could sit behind a desk for the next 15 years and the answer was no,” says the 52-year-old former accountant.


“I just finally decided that I was going to fulfill my dream and go for it.”


The entrepreneurial result is The American Table, a Collingswood shop that opened in October and offers all manner of fare focused on food, family, friends and entertainment.


“I’m not in this to make a million bucks,” Zippilli admits, noting that business is going well. “But I’m very happy how it’s all come together.”


There are more than 90 successful Hand & Stone outlets around the country, which made Joe and Kelly Harris a little less leery when they decided to dive into the business waters together.


“It’s a tried-and-true formula, and I love the business model,” Joe says. “This particular business is also all about making the customers happy. Helping them relax and feel good. We just started, but already we’re enjoying some very positive feedback.”


“We make a great team,” says Kelly. “I knew that someday moving forward we’d be working together   . We’re very excited about the future of this business.”

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