On Wednesday, February 8th, 130 undergraduate and MBA students packed the central hall of Nichols’ Conant Library to get a firsthand knowledge about what it takes to start a business, courtesy of Nichols alumna and recently-turned entrepreneur Kim McCarthy.
McCarthy, who graduated from Nichols in 1992, was the second speaker in a new series dubbed “Mind Your Own Business,” which focuses on the challenges and rewards of becoming entrepreneurial. In 2008, she founded her company Generations on the Move, which helps elders relocate from houses to smaller apartments, assisted living facilities, or even their children’s homes by handling all aspects of their transition, from packing to setting up housekeeping in their new location.
“We pack their belongings, sell things that no one wants, and clean out the rest of their house in a respectful way, so that lifelong memories don’t end up in the dumpster,” McCarthy explained.
Starting her Worcester, Massachusetts-based business is McCarthy’s second career. She worked at a car rental company for almost a decade before stopping to raise a family. “My husband and I were both marketing majors at Nichols, so we put on our marketing hats,” which meant seeking out everything from Rotary meetings to elder law attorneys, she recalled. “It’s still a challenge to get out the message that this profession actually exists.”
One particularly effective marketing approach was been the motto, “We’re you’re daughter for hire,” McCarthy says, noting that she personally had seen the strain on her own mother when it came to moving Kim’s grandparents.
Nichols Professor of Management Emeritus Richard Hilliard—who still teaches undergraduate and graduate classes at the school—moderated the event and noted that McCarthy started her business in 2008, during the country’s financial crisis and recession. “There’s never a good time or a bad time to start a business,” emphasized Hilliard, who is helping to fund the library’s new resource center on entrepreneurship and contributing books from his large personal collection.
The audience, which overflowed along the balcony over the library lobby, had plenty of questions. What kind of capital did you need? How did you come up with pricing policies? What was the biggest issue in starting your business? To that last question, McCarthy responded, “Gaining people’s trust.”
The Mind Your Own Business series launched in November by hosting Nichols alumnus John Peculis ’01, the president of Allied Appraisal Associates of New England, which is also based in Worcester. On March 7th, Chris Macke, a successful headshot photographer in New York City, will round out this year’s presenters.
Nichols Library Director Jim Douglas hopes to continue Mind Your Own Business during the next academic year. “Mostly we tend to think of our students as future managers, but a certain number are interested in starting their own businesses, some even before they graduate,” Douglas points out.
“To confirm, expand, and personalize the idea of starting a business is very valuable, particularly since these folks presenting were once in the seats where the students are sitting now.”