Women in Business: Chris Ferry Prepares the Next Generation at Theodore’s Academy & Preschool
This is Part 2 of our series featuring successful women business owners throughout Iowa. If you missed, Part 1, you can read it here.
Chris Ferry of Sioux City, Iowa, is no stranger to entrepreneurship. She is part owner of IBC Insurance and Elite Staffing, LLC, both located in Sioux City. In 2019, she decided to invest in another industry: early childhood education. The result of that new passion is Theodore’s Academy Preschool & Childcare, which opened its doors in March 2020.
We wanted to learn more about what drives her entrepreneurial spirit. In our Q&A session, we asked her about this and how she has evolved as a leader over the years.
Q: What inspired you to start your own business?
Chris Ferry: I think life is too short to not try new things and I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship. Early in my career, I decided that if I was going to work 60 hours a week, I’d rather do it for myself and alongside the people I wanted to be with every day. I am passionate about my businesses and what we’re bringing to the community.
Q: What financial resources and tools helped you the most as you were launching your business?
Ferry: The best financial resource is research. Study your competition and their pricing as much as you can and do a forecast. For all three of my businesses, I have a financial forecast that is updated monthly. This is a financial management strategy that has always worked for me.
You also have to find a good financial institution that you can trust. It should be a bank that you know you can have a long relationship with so that they understand your business and the plan you have.
Q: Who are the people that have helped you along the way?
Ferry: I would say my family, my husband has always been supportive. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of crazy business ideas. Turning your ideas into a business can be risky and difficult, which is why surrounding myself with people who understand and believe in me both at work and at home has been very helpful.
Q: What has been the most rewarding part of business ownership?
Ferry: I’m very proud of the stability we have been able to provide our employees. Even though we opened our doors during a pandemic, we have been able to keep everything running and have retained all of our employees.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge?
Ferry: One of the biggest challenges for me has been adapting my personality as a leader in a completely new type of business. Running a preschool is very different from insurance and staffing. As such, I have learned to change my attitude to fit with the type of personalities that are on the team at Theodore’s Academy.
Q: What have you learned about leadership over the years?
Ferry: I have learned to make sure that people understand where I stand with my expectations for the team. It’s important for everyone to understand why they are important to the business and how we as a team and business are choosing to grow. I’ve always tried to lead by example and hold myself accountable for everything that happens, whether it’s a decision I make or something done by an employee.
Q: How do you achieve a work-life balance?
Ferry: For me, personally, I don’t think there is work-life balance. There’s always going to be times when work interrupts my personal life. I still make time for my family, especially my six grandchildren. We have family dinners for 12 every Sunday. I’ve never really worried about work-life balance. I think it all kind of falls into place when it should.
Q: Who are the mentors that encourage you?
Ferry: I’ve always had so many people in my life that I have considered to be mentors, including my parents, my husband, my amazing partners at Elite Staffing and IBC Insurance, past bosses and other business owners that I keep in touch with. I have a life coach, which I have found to be very helpful. I also have a mentor who is my anchor, and helps guide me through the decisions I make, whether it’s personal or business related. I’ve learned that the best mentor is someone you trust, offers good advice, and is honest with you.
Q: What advice would you give another woman who is thinking about starting her own business?
Ferry: Once you have taken that big first step in deciding to start your own business, make sure you have a really good business plan. The business plan should highlight your market studies and your competition as well as what will make it successful and what mistakes could possibly be made along the way. Always prepare for the what-if. Then start building your team right away, because your team is the key to the whole business.
Get Your Ideas Rolling with Northwest Bank
Are you ready to take that big step into business ownership? We can help you make sure you have financing and business accounts in place to get your where you want to be. To learn how else we can help, connect with a commercial banker at Northwest Bank.
This has been Part 2 of our series featuring successful Iowa women business owners. Check back soon for Part 3.
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