POINCIANA — Wendy Farrell has lived in Poinciana for more than a decade, and runs her own business, Signature Promotions, out of her home.
Although business is picking up at the company after some slow summer months, Farrell said her best advice to high school students thinking about starting their own business is to proceed cautiously before taking that same route.
“I always tell them, it’s really hard,” Farrell said. “It’s not something to take on lightly. Nobody gives you that paycheck at the end of the week. If you get up one morning and decide not to go to work, don’t expect a paycheck at the end of the week. You can have a good month one month, and then the next month be flat on the floor.”
Her best advice for students: stay in school and get as much education as possible first.
“Go to college and get a grounding in business management and marketing and all that,” Farrell said.
Farrell is the chairman of the Poinciana Area Council, a group of business owners in the community between Osceola and Polk counties who meet once a month to network and organize special events – including the annual Career Days.
This is a special project that Farrell launched for the council several years ago. The idea is simple: invite local business owners to visit the community’s three high schools to meet with students and talk to them about their company — and future career options. It helps connect students with local employers, and gives the future graduates an idea of what employers are looking for these days.
“It is always good for the business owners,” Farrell said. “The positive feedback I get from businesses shows they like it. But the schools love it because they get people to mix with the kids, and it’s a win-win, really.”
Career Days has been held in past years in the spring, but because of the annual FCAT testing, PAC decided to move it to November and December – a somewhat risky move, Farrell noted, because people are starting to get busy gearing up for the holidays.
“We’ve moved it to the end of the year to avoid the FCAT and all that, and we also realized we have SAT and FCAT retakes in October, so we had to push it even further back,” she said. “We pushed it to November and December, which works for the schools since they have no testing, but it could be tough with the public because we have Thanksgiving and the holidays coming up.”
Career Days will be held in each school in the next two months. In another change this year, Haines City High School has also agreed to participate.
“Haines City High this year we’ve tucked into the water, to see how that works out,” she said, adding that Career Day there would be on Thursday, Dec. 15.
Farrell said she hopes to recruit a lot of business owners to talk to the students about the qualifications they need and the everyday life skills they should bring to a job, including time management, punctuality, respect and responsibility – all of which translate into success in the work place, she added.
Career Days starts at New Dimensions High School on Tuesday, Nov. 8, and then again on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Farrell said there are still 90-minute time slots available for business owners who want to participate.
“Hopefully, we’ll have some new and exciting people coming along for the first time,” Farrell said. “I’ve emailed them all and I’m kind of hoping they will jump in there.”
Although some professionals who got downsized during the recession have followed Farrell’s chosen path and started a home-based business, she said the message to students isn’t that being your own boss is always the best way to go.
“I don’t know if you can hack it in the tough times,” she said. “But if you can do it in these tough times, you can do it anytime. When I think of PAC, we’ve got a couple of small businesses coming to it, but the schooling is the important thing. It’s so competitive out there at the moment, so you’ve certainly got to know what you’re doing, and you need a base to build on.
“I’m fortunate,” she added. “Running my business from home and moving it back to a home base, we’ve been fortunate about that, because a lot of our competition in offices are having a harder time now because they have too much overhead. But our message to the kids always is finish high school, and if you can and have the capability, go on to college or at least get something vocational. Get that grounding. That’s our message, always.”
It’s one reason, she said, why schools are also starting to work with the students at an earlier age, to get them interested in possible career paths so they can maximize their high school years to full advantage.
“I think a lot of our schools now, the guidance departments are looking more closely at kind of like a five year plan for these kids, making them really think about what they want to do and what they need to know to go into the fields they want,” she said.
To learn more about participating in the upcoming Career Days, call Farrell at 407-518-9413 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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