Becky McKinnell of IBec has come full circle as an one of the first clients of MCED who now gives back by sitting on the MCED Board. As an entrepreneur she believes in loving what she does and that building a company should be fun.
McKinnell started her first company, iBec Creative in 2006 the day after graduating from University of Southern Maine. She taught herself web development, design and digital marketing and was able to grow her company to over $1mm in revenue in 6 years by bootstrapping. She currently has 14 full time employees and 200 happy clients around the country who are growing their businesses.
In 2010 McKinnell combined forces with Mark Girr to start her second company, iKNO Intranet (iknointranet.com), a social intranet software designed for companies between 50 and 500 employees that need an easy and intuitive way to communicate online.
She has been honored to be featured in Business Week's Top 25 Entrepreneurs 25 and Under, awarded Small Business Administration's Young Entrepreneur of the year, and is a recipient of the Stevie Women in Business Award.
Here she talks about what entrepreneurs need to know about getting started in business, the benefits of locating her business in Maine and her most satisfying moment in business.
Q. You have the distinction of having been an MCED client company while starting your business, seeing that business flourish into a lasting enterprise, and now have come full circle to sit on the MCED Board.
A. When I first started my business in 2006, I was a part of of MCED’s business incubator at Southern Maine Community College. At that time, I had just graduated from USM and it gave me a space that I could go to ‘work’ each day and focus on growing my business. Being with other entrepreneurs who were also trying to launch their companies was invaluable. The initial friends I made at MCED gave me confidence that I could be successful and were the best sounding boards. Many of them became my first clients and we still work with them today.
Q. Given that overview, what changes have you seen or would you like to see implemented to help entrepreneurs flourish in our state?
A. I think we need to continue to facilitate building relationships with other entrepreneurs in similar industries or lifecycle stages. When you’re starting out (or even if you’ve been in business for decades) it’s the network of like-minded entrepreneurs and mentors that is there for you when times are tough or you feel stuck and need advice.
Q. You decided right of college that you wanted to be a business owner and you've been very successful at making that happen. What three pieces of advice would you give to entrepreneur wanna-be's?
A. Thank you :) There are a couple of mantras that I used to say to myself starting out and still do today:
Everything you do counts
Every email you write, every first impression you make, it all contributes to your personal brand and reputation so give it your best.
Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.
Get yourself into those uncomfortable situations! Eventually they become easier, but you have to take the first step.
Be a nice person
Caring about people and being honest goes a long way.
Q. You have a spectacular office right on the waterfront and Portland has become a hot property. With the city now being on what seems like everyone's top ten list of places to live and work, what is the impact on your business? Has the attention brought more competition, more qualified employees, or other challenges?
A. We are finding a rising number of applicants are coming from out of state. It’s not intentional, but right now 11/12 of our team members did not grow up in Maine. Everyone has great things to say about Portland and the quality of life Maine has to offer. Overall it’s been a positive for us and I feel lucky that I moved to Maine too!
Q. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
A. I remember the first time one of my employees purchased their first house-- it made me realize how closely tied the business I created was to helping my employees achieve milestones in their life. I feel like I have created a place for people to not only get a paycheck, but be engaged and have fun at work and I’m proud of that.