Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price spoke to Lindsey Mathieu, Owner/Principal of Golden Egg Concepts, about her entrepreneurial journey and the importance of recognizing your niche.
NAN PRICE: How did you come up with the business concept and when did you launch your business?
LINDSEY MATHIEU: I started Golden Egg Concepts in August 2010. Prior to consulting, I spent 10 years doing in-house marketing and business development for firms in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry.
The economy was really starting to tank at that time. Development was painfully slow—there wasn’t a lot of activity. Design and construction firms throughout Connecticut really pulled back and leaned up—the “do more with less” concept.
A lot of my friends and former coworkers were getting laid off from their companies. People were reaching out and asking if I could create a logo, business card, or basic proposal templates. Many of them were forced into going out on their own and they needed help.
NP: Sounds like a lightbulb was starting to illuminate.
LM: Right. At the time I was 29 years old. I thought: why not take a chance, quit my 9-to-5, and start a business? I knew if it didn’t work I could always come back to the industry with plenty of options. The field of marketing can be so broad and general; everyone knows someone who does something related to marketing. But the AEC industry is a definite niche.
It’s very specialized. There’s a lot of terminology and language that, unless you’ve worked for these firms, you wouldn’t necessarily understand. So, I felt I had a good security blanket as far as coming into consulting with a decade’s worth of experience. My hunch was right, and the business blossomed.
NP: Am I correct in the assumption that you’re an “unintentional entrepreneur?”
LM: Yes. I’m an unintentional entrepreneur. I like that term. Because a lot of people assume I must’ve known all along that I wanted to start my own business. That’s not the case—but I can’t imagine it any other way.
NP: What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
LM: It’s basically saying: I’m going to do this. I’m going to give it all I have, put my life savings and reputation on the line, and make it work.
As a true entrepreneur, it’s your idea. It’s your concept. It’s your risk. It’s your reward. It’s your passion. It’s your life, too, in a lot of ways.
NP: How your background shaped you as an entrepreneur?
LM: I can tell my clients: I’ve been in your shoes. For example, to the marketing director for an architectural/engineering firm, I can say: I’ve sat in your seat, I know what it’s like to juggle all these competing priorities and deadlines, and I know where I can help. I’m going to hit the ground running because I’ve done this for so many years. There’s no learning curve.
NP: Your background helped you develop a niche market, so when you went out on your own you were already plugged in.
LM: Absolutely. I admittedly tripped and fell into the design and construction industry, but quickly realized how specialized it was. My first job out of college was working as a regional business development coordinator for a civil engineering firm in Rocky Hill, CT. When it was time to leave that company, I knew I could find a related marketing position for another firm. I knew the need was there and I had the skill set.
That’s why my consulting business is exclusively AEC-focused, because that niche is there. I know the type of help these companies need because I worked for them.
NP: What types of companies does Golden Egg work with?
LM: We have different types of clients. It’s the one-man startup show who doesn’t know where to begin. I help prioritize what’s needed—a logo, a positioning statement, business cards, a website.
I work with mid-sized firms that may not be big enough to justify a full-time, in-house marketing person, but still have routine marketing needs. So, I’m often plugging to bridge that gap.
And then there are very large organizations—companies with thousands of people and offices all over the globe that simply don’t have the horsepower or expertise to keep up with the demands. In these cases, I’m acting as an extension of their marketing department.
So those are the different scenarios: Companies just starting out, companies that need help every now and then, and companies that have Golden Egg plugged in as part of the team on a daily basis because there is a constant need.
NP: Is your client base local to Connecticut?
LM: The majority of my clients are based in Connecticut, typically, in the Hartford area. But I work with firms all over the country.
NP: Now comes the cobbler’s shoes question: As a marketing company, how are you finding clients?
LM: I frequently refer to myself as the cobbler without shoes! It’s a small industry—and a small state—so, a lot my business has been word-of-mouth. Historically, I haven’t done a lot of marketing, but I am trying to take my own advice.
I recently released a one-minute video that explains what we do at Golden Egg Concepts, who do we work with, and what makes us unique.
It’s exciting to think about the potential if we were to boost our marketing efforts because, as a marketer, I could see how things could really ramp up. I think that’s why I haven’t heavily marketed before. I was a one-woman show for so long, and I was afraid of the influx. I knew I couldn’t keep up.
NP: Sounds like a question of supply and demand.
LM: Definitely. I feel more comfortable now that I have the support of a full-time Project Manager. I also have some very strong strategic partners that I lean on for support as needed.
NP: Those are some successes. What would you say have been the biggest challenges for you as a business owner?
LM: Good question. When I was first starting out, one of my challenges was not having any established infrastructure or even guidance about things like getting a good accountant or a good lawyer. I was flying blindly on the operations side and just doing the work.
I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. Looking back, I should have taken advantage of more of the resources out there to get some guidance upfront. You don’t know what owning a business is like until you experience it.
NP: It’s hard to know what you don’t know.
LM: Right. It’s experimentation.
NP: And, as an entrepreneur you can’t let those roadblocks stop you. You need to keep going forward.
LM: Exactly. Knowing you have to pick yourself back up when you fall.
I think the other challenge, which I’m dealing with now as I’ve hired my first employee, is learning to let go. I imagine that’s a common challenge for entrepreneurs, particularly when your name becomes somewhat synonymous with your business.
It’s hard to let go. But you can’t just say: it’s easier to do this myself. Take the time to teach someone you’re investing in as your hire, help them take things off your plate by developing that skill set so you can focus on marketing and other strategic initiatives that will build your business.
I think the biggest challenge as an entrepreneur is that you don’t ever stop. Over the years, I’ve learned that you have to draw that work/life balance line—no one else will do it for you. I have a family. I’m married, and we have two young kids.
It can be hard to disconnect because your work is never done. Even if you finish your task list for the day, you could start on some of your backburner projects. It never stops. There’s always something to be done. You’re never going to say: That’s good enough for today. You want to always do better.
NP: Let’s talk about the future of Golden Egg Concepts. Do you see growth?
LM: I definitely see the business growing and the workload continuing to expand. That’s been the trend since I started Golden Egg.
I never see us breaking out of the AEC niche. This is what we do. This is what we are known for and this is what we’ll continue to refine and deliver.
NP: What’s the best thing you’ve discovered about being an entrepreneur?
LM: I discovered my passion—helping clients put their best foot forward and win work. Don’t get me wrong, there are days as an entrepreneur that are trying. But you shake it off and keep moving because you love what you do.