Maker Market is truly an open marketplace. It provides a physical space and time for makers to promote and test out their ideas and interact directly with the customer. While these budding businesses usually stem from the creative side, these makers are small business owners. Owning a business, no matter how small, is still a large responsibility and speaking legal and money matters may seem intimidating but are essential to success. Maker Market sat down with Jan Pierce, business attorney and potential FBI agent, to ask him a few questions about the state of the small business and his upcoming Maker Session.
Jan, like many young people, studied in many different fields in college such as political science, philosophy, history, and international relations as well as serving ten years in the Army Reserve. But life, for most, isn’t a straight and narrow path. So when Jan was 34, he went back to school and got a law degree from Marquette University.
Maker Market: What made you decide to go into law and why did you decide to focus on small business?
Jan Pierce: I didn’t go to law school until I was 34. It was always a glimmer of a dream in the back of my head but I always dismissed it. I remember sitting at the stacks of the high school library reading government occupational guides. I thought, wow, it’d be kind of cool to be an FBI agent but you’d have to be an accountant and a lawyer and I could never be either one of those. And now I am an accountant and a lawyer.
Although I always wanted to do business and it was always fascinating to me, working with bigger businesses and the law firms that do business with them is kind of miserable. My background was always with regular folks. I never really hit it off with that clientele. I hated golf and didn’t like country clubs. I would see clients come in 5 years in, when they were making enough money to finally afford to see an attorney. And it was too late. Someone should have just talked to them before they set up their company. And it occurred to me that there were probably hundreds, if not thousands, of people like that. I thought there was no reason you couldn’t operate a low overhead practice and provide reasonably priced flat fee services that were affordable to entrepreneurs. Do them a ton of good right when they are starting out. Build a relationship with them. Get them started on the right track.
MM: How have you seen the local business community grow?
JP: It seems to me that Milwaukee is a happening place. With the food movement, the artisan movement, music, and a lot of interesting DIY business. Theres a new generation of Milwaukeeans that know there is something going on and they are proud of it. Milwaukee is a both big city and a small town. You have the ability to form a network and can get established very quickly. It’s the young people that are changing this city.
MM: What benefits do you see when a customer can buy directly from the maker?
JP: Anytime you do direct sales you are cutting out the middle man. That artisan entrepreneur can make a profit that is sustainable. From a money making point of view each sale is a huge opportunity. We (the customer) benefit as well. Its a real thing thats happening. These are my neighbors.
MM: When you are starting off as a small business owner, when do you think its necesary to speak with an attorney?
JP: Right away. When you are ready to put something into action you talk to someone before you do it. There is some basic stuff that you will do, like incorporate, form an llc, decide wether or not to take on a partner. Basically setting up the stucture of your company. It has implications long term. Its so important to get started right. A lot of it is boring legal stuff and a lot of it is vetting out ideas and providing feedback. Its a lot of questions that people never ask.
MM: Does the necessity of talking to a lawyer and accountant apply to online only business?
JP: There are different issues. But all the same important stuff has to happen. So yeah.
MM: How will coming to your Maker Session be beneficial to the local maker community?
JP: I will cover almost all the stuff that people think about when starting a business.I will take a whole bunch of really confusing things that you can spend a ton of time worrying about and just boil it down to some real easy, general rules. I plan to have half of it be interactive. People who have questions can ask and we can build off that. I think it will resolve a majority of questions that any small business person may have.