After owning Jill Bates Fashion in East Rochester for over 30 years, entrepreneur Jill Bates found that having one small business just wasn’t enough for her. She decided it was time to branch out and open her own consulting firm, and in 2013 Crystal Clear Consulting was born.
At first, Bates didn’t know what sort of secondary business she wanted to dive into. So she sought advice from a business consultant, who picked up on her knack for consulting and suggested she start her own consulting business. Even though Bates still has her fashion business, starting a company in 2013 was much different than starting a business 30 years earlier.
“I decided to look into some of the organizations that I belong to like Rochester Women’s Network and Women TIES,” says Bates. “I connected with some of the ladies in those organizations and found some key people.”
Following a period of critical networking, Bates began working on her brand. Crafting an aesthetic and building a user-friendly website is crucial; with the help of Susan Jefferson, owner of TechCreative, Crystal Clear Consulting grew an online presence.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the final product,” says Bates. “I come across clients who want to design and create their own websites, and I would only recommend this if the person has a strong IT background. I have seen individuals spend time and money on creating their own and then turn around and hire someone to do it.”
As president of Crystal Clear Consulting, Bates helps her clients with essential business strategies. Since she has extensive experience starting not one but two small businesses, Bates is familiar with the obstacles that come with launching a company and how to approach such issues.
“One issue I see with my clients is that when you first start a business you want to do business with everybody,” says Bates. “That’s a big mistake, because you spread yourself too thin and you can’t be good at everything. You really have to focus on who your market is, where your market is and who you want to do business with. Once you learn that, then you know where your market hangs out and it’s easier to educate them and say, ‘This is my product and service.’”
Bates’ extensive experience as a business owner has helped her to fully understand what her clients need, offering “excellent customer service.” But Bates didn’t always have such rich consulting knowledge. Starting her second business definitely came with challenges.
“Looking back, yes it was harder, but I didn’t know any better,” she says. “You don’t know what you don’t know. When you start a business you’re euphoric. It’s this new, fun, interesting adventure. Then all of a sudden you don’t have any clients or cash flow, and the reality sets in. So that’s something that I try to help entrepreneurs understand.”
Opening a second small business has taught Bates a lot about the business world and introduced her to a wider network.
“I’ve learned that there are organizations out there—big and small—looking for people to do presentations for them and looking for people to help people that want to start a business,” says Bates. “The saying ‘you learn something new every day’ is so true.
“The other important thing that I’ve learned and that I try to convey to my consult clients is that sometimes you have to say ‘no.’ Sometimes a client wants to do business with you and you don’t want to or you don’t think you can do a good job, so you have to say no, and that’s really difficult. But it’s a valuable thing to know.”
With two companies, Bates certainly has a lot on her plate, but she is committed to helping her customers understand how to grow their businesses.
“I have developed a fascination and admiration for gemstones—and not just diamonds and rubies and emeralds, but also tiger’s eye and rose quartz and clear quartz,” says Bates, “I’ve had those with me, and the crystal is clear: I want to help people have clarity when it comes to starting or growing their business.”
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