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updated: 11/25/2013 10:58 AM

Three-year old startup results in multifaceted existence

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Whether the intent is to supplement income from a vulnerable job or assert more control over an individual destiny, more of us are thinking about starting a business.

That makes Mark Lyons' startup experience pertinent. Like many entrepreneurs today, Lyons has a multifaceted life:

• Since 2010, he has owned Green Thumb at Your Service, a Palatine company that consults with gardeners who would like assistance with their vegetable gardens.

• To help promote his business, but also to add income, Lyons teaches gardening at adult ed classes sponsored by local schools and park districts.

• Lyons is a musician, too -- guitar, ukulele and washboard. He's a professional, so he gets paid for his performances.

• But, because Green Thumb doesn't yet pay Lyons' way, he does temp work -- 40 hours a week.

Green Thumb "is still more hobby than full-time business," Lyons says. "Eventually I will reach a point where the (gardening) business contributes more income."

Green Thumb came about because "my job search wasn't launching," Lyons says. In spite of counselor assurances that he was on the right track, the searches "were getting me nowhere."

Like many entrepreneurs before him, Lyons ultimately decided to "do what I like, take my destiny in my own hands, control my own fate. When I turn 80, I want to be able to look back and say I gave it my best try."

Green Thumb is the result. Lyons had a business plan, but it took a push from a mentor who kept asking "What's stopping you?" to turn Lyons into an entrepreneur. "There comes a time when you have to do it, even if you do it wrong," he says.

"I needed to know more about the resources out there," Lyons recalls about his starting-up days. "I visited the SBA website, but I haven't done SCORE yet, and I should." Even now, he says, "I'm still learning."

Lyons has discovered podcasts; oDesk, an online source of freelancers; and Fiverr, a similar source but of individuals willing to turn out a project for $5. He "found someone" to build his website.

Developing "a more effective business card" is on the to-do list.

"Friends and buddies" have helped Lyons find churches in northwest Cook County that are willing to host Green Thumb gardening presentations. The presentations are a source of additional audiences and, therefore, of potential customers -- and are a source of names for Green Thumb's newsletter list.

"I give out free information" in the newsletter, Lyons says. "It helps build my credibility."

So do Green Thumb tips of the week on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Lyons also has learned presentation skills. "Everybody does a PowerPoint presentation," Lyons says, "but I do better without PowerPoint." That realization has led Lyons to videotape his classes.

The videos not only allow Lyons to critique his presentations, but they represent an opportunity to "turn the tape into a (product) I can sell."

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at 2013 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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