How Jonathan Michael launched JM School of Design & Business at 24

Jonathan Michael launched JM School of Design and Business at 24 through participating in the Business Development Center’s entrepreneurial training program

Jonathan Michael is the founder of the JM Group with diversification in vocational education, leadership development, retail and soon to be in e-learning. He started JM School of Design & Business which teaches students Western, Indian and Bridal tailoring designs through diploma courses. Affiliated with the Italian tailoring school, LC Scuola Di Moda Sartoriale, it offers students a unique experience in Italian design as well. Over 100 students, from ages 23-50, have been trained giving Bengaluru new labels and boutiques to meet their fashion needs.

1. How did the Business Development Center’s (BDC) entrepreneurial training classes help you start your business and journey as an entrepreneur?

The support from the BDC was very much in and outside of the classroom. Significant things were taught in the classroom, but the real impact for me was out of the classroom.

Encouragement and Mentoring

Before I began the entrepreneurial classes not everyone in my life was encouraging or said I would make it. Some people reminded me of challenges and said I should go work at Dell or IBM.

The facilitators took an interest in my life and met me out of the class to talk about my business. They mentored and encouraged me through the process of starting my business.

One facilitator said to me, “Jonathan, we know you’re going to be successful. We’re not sure what you’re going to be successful in.” That moment was huge! I still remember those words. They impacted me greatly and gave me confidence to keep going.

Connecting to Capital

I initially had an idea to start a t-shirt design company where I would create t-shirts for rock bands, but I didn’t have any capital. The BDC connected me to an investor who took an interest in my business. I sent my business plan to him, he asked me questions and decided to invest financially. This was crucial in growing my confidence and giving me experience.

Affordable Office Space

Unfortunately, the t-shirt business didn’t take off as I had expected. I needed more money than I thought. Soon after, I met a family member who thought we should enter the market to start a fashion business. I decided I did need to pivot my strategy and start a new business. The BDC allowed me to use office space at an affordable rate to get my business going. The next month, in October, we started the business with Rs.10,000. In November my first two students enrolled and in December one more student enrolled. Through these 3 students I was able to gain momentum and recruit more students.

Treat Your Employees Well

In between closing the t-shirt business and starting the fashion designing school I needed a job. Thankfully, the BDC hired me as their Director of Social Media. Working at the BDC taught me an important lesson: treat your employees well. Jonathan Iverson, my supervisor and founder of the BDC, was diligent in paying me well. He never complained about the pay. He made a promise to me and paid me on time each month. Jonathan also had a great reputation with the building owners. He paid them on time and they had a lot of respect for him.

I’ve taken these values into my business. I keep my word with my employees and I always pay them on time regardless of their performance. This shows your employees you are dependable and your influence in their life grows exponentially.

Giving Back

I have applied this same principle with aspiring entrepreneurs. I tell them, “I’m giving you this money as a sign and commitment because I believe in you.” I’ve done that for 3 people and I’ve realized part of my job is to give back to other young entrepreneurs and be a catalyst in their lives to start a business. I love giving back and investing in people because I’ve experienced it first hand.

2. What startup lessons have you learned since you started your entrepreneur journey?

Here are the top 2 lessons I have learnt:

a. You need to be in tune with your emotional health.

Starting your own business is like diving into an ocean with no lifeboat. In order to make it you need to seek to be emotionally healthy. Obstacles are going to come. How will you respond?

For example, during the early stages of JM School of Design & Business we grew a lot and I had to start looking for a new space. I told our rental company that I would plan to move out in 5-6 months. They didn’t like that idea and told me I had two weeks to leave! What was I supposed to do? Go home and cry? Shut down my business? As an entrepreneur you will be put into unexpected situations. It’s hard work and requires discipline, but if you can get your self in tune emotionally, spiritually and mentally then you can remain calm in a high crisis situation.

So… what did I do?

I called up my real estate agent, explained the situation and told him I wanted to take a space he had previously shown me. To make matters worse my landlord, came back to me and told me I had one week to get out! Not only did I not have the capital to pay for the security deposit, I was waiting on several students to pay their fees. In that moment I reminded myself that I was called to start this business. I realized there was no benefit in getting angry or freaking out. I spoke to my co-founder and we decided we were going to move forward and do whatever we could to get the security deposit and not stop the classes.

In the next week several students paid their fees, we were able to borrow money and we asked if we could pay in installments. The classes continued, more students joined and we were able to pay back the loan almost immediately. I was working hard to solve this problem, but I can’t imagine what would have happened if I wasn’t emotionally healthy.

b. Selling your business or product should be the number one focus and priority of your business.

It doesn’t matter how fancy your business cards or office look. What matters is how many people buy your product. Focus your energy on that.

I learned that through the BDC business competition. I had a fancy presentation stocked with data and research about my industry. Many people told me I was a good public speaker and others thought I would win. But I didn’t have any sales. No one had bought my product. Manoj Stephens, who was my classmate, won the competition because the judges were impressed with the sales he had already made and the demand for his product.

This taught me so much about sales and that ultimately I had to prioritize them in the future.

3. What do you look for in a person when deciding whether they can be successful in their startup and at starting a business?

My number one skill that I think determines success is are they people oriented? Do they know how to engage with people? When you start a business you are going to need to sell your business to others. If I see someone who can sell me on their business or product I’m convinced they can succeed.

How About You?

Do you want to start a business, or grow your existing business?

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