How Starting a Business Compares to Summertime Fun


Brian Tinsman
Digital Properties Manager


With neighborhood cookouts, family vacations and yardwork back on the calendar, it is unofficially summertime in Loudoun County.

This is also a great time to think about starting or growing your business, and you’ll find inspiration all around you.

K2M Inc. is a Leesburg-based medical manufacturing company with clients and doctors all around the world. Even with a relatively lean staff, founder and CEO Eric Major has transformed the company from a garage startup to a global disruptor.

Major was the keynote speaker at this year’s Loudoun Small Business Week Conference and compared the entrepreneurship journey to two summertime staples: green grass and rollercoasters.

“I think of entrepreneurship in the sense that there’s the seed of an idea that all of you may have,” he told a room of more than 150 Loudoun entrepreneurs. “Some of you may be well into your business. Some of you may have an idea for a business. Some of you may be at work and you haven’t left yet, but in the back of your head, you have an idea that you want to go start. That seed has got to push its way through a very tough environment.

“Sometimes when I go for a run or I’m outside, I see a weed or grass growing up through the sidewalk and I think, ‘How in the heck did this happen?’ I can’t even get my grass to grow at home sometimes, and yet in the middle of the sidewalk, it’s growing.

“People are walking on it, driving on it, there’s acid rain falling on it. And yet, it finds a way. There’s something about that analogy, in that seed that pushes its way through in the face of unbelievable adversity.”

grass_crack_asphault_sidewalkNot only do entrepreneurs have to have the tenacity of grass growing through concrete, but you also need to have the stomach to gut it out through the highs and lows of running a business.

“This is how I think about business: as a rollercoaster,” Major said.

“Business is hard,” he admitted. “If you’re a little bit of an adrenaline junkie or you like the challenge, it’s fantastic. The highs are very high and we all think about those highs, but the lows can be very low.

“When [my wife] Laura and I started our first company in 1998, it was like when your parents said, ‘I walked uphill both ways without shoes to school every day.’ It was really like that. Going a year with no salary, both of us living off a school teacher’s salary, my daughter was 18 months old at the time … we’re living off of credit cards — it was intense.

“But when you have that first sale, or you sign that first lease and you go through it — those highs are just so exciting because they feel so good. That’s been my experience and it’s been wonderful.”

Over the course of his presentation, Major reiterated how difficult it can be to launch a successful business, noting the many ways that the odds are stacked against success. But he also said that locating in Loudoun County was one of the keys to his success.

“What we do is very hard and very complex. The beauty of being here today is the networking. This county has so many resources for you, it is astonishing. When Laura and I started our first company, I had no idea where to go or what to do.

“Had I known about the Small Business Development Center or [Loudoun Economic Development], the George Mason Enterprise Center — the resources are here to help you succeed.”

Need some help? Check out our Small Business Quick-Start Checklist and contact Vanessa Wagner for help scaling up.