by Ruth Thaler-Carter
RPCN members may recognize long-time member Sandy Zohari
's name because of her database management business, but she also has a jewelry business. She applies much of what she's learned from RPCN to both enterprises - one right-brain, one left-brain - with a shared focus on design. "When I do a database, I do design," Zohari says. "It has to look good and be easy for people to use. The elements have to fit together as an entity."
Zohari also applies her tech skills to her jewelry business. That may not be a consulting service, but "RPCN has been helpful regardless," she says. The RPCN social media conference and a recent presentation on Pinterest were especially useful for marketing her jewelry.
Here is a video interview with Zohari:
Zohari was living in Waterloo, NY, and working on databases for Excellus in Rochester - a draining commute, even though she could work at home one day a week. As a contracted consultant, she was familiar with the consulting concept. She took the leap to starting AzoTek Database Solutions
in 2006, after a friend she saw at a family wedding asked what she did and said, "We need you!"
"I fixed a database for her, her boss contacted me and I started the business with them (as my first client)," Zohari says. "I just had that light bulb go off - I realized there must be many businesses that needed such help."
A home-based consulting business seemed ideal. She initially worked on it while still employed, but gave notice in March of 2007 to focus on Azotek full-time.
She came up with the business name by "looking at all the names with 'technology' in them, and they were all taken. I took the 'zo' from my name, 'tek' for tech and 'a' for the beginning of the alphabet."
Azotek uses Microsoft Access to "create custom-designed database applications for clients who can't find pre-packaged, generic software with the functionality they need to support the unique requirements of their businesses," she says. "Many of my clients were using Microsoft Word and/or Excel to keep track of their data, but these methods didn't allow them to combine all the different data sources to perform functions or provide meaningful analysis." She works directly with clients and their staff to "analyze needs and recommend functionality that increases productivity, streamlines processes, and saves them both time and money." She also provides training for clients who prefer to do the work themselves or want to run their own ad-hoc queries and reports.
The jewelry business, Sage-Thyme Jewelry and Design
, evolved later. "I was interested in design, and jewelry was kind of an accident. I don't do fine jewelry - I'm not a jeweler," Zohari recalls. "I took a course in Rochester on jewelry wrapping and people started asking me for pieces. I started doing it as a business in 2009 and it just grew and grew." Because "I was also interested in the healing arts and had taken a metaphysics course," she incorporates healing properties of gemstones into her jewelry. The name comes from Sage-Thyme Haven, the farm her partner owns and where they live. "It's a play on herbs and wisdom," she says.
Along with her RPCN presence, Zohari gets customers for Azotek through LinkedIn, networking events and AdHub
, a resource for creative professionals in upstate New York. "I don't do any cold-calling," she says. "Mostly people find me online, primarily through AdHub. I'm doing a project now for a client and, when we met, I saw the client had printed out my AdHub profile, not anything from my own site."
Were she starting a consulting business now, Zohari wouldn't do much differently. She found a lot of good advice at a county micro-business center, but it's no longer functioning, so she would use different resources. "I would use more RPCN services," she says. "I found RPCN through networking and joined shortly after March 2007. It's the only membership I've kept because it's the one that gave me the best value." In fact, she met her first Rochester-area client at an RPCN meeting.
Zohari advises colleagues to:
"Be professional in all that you do, and do everything that entails, such as having a domain name and an e-mail address based on that domain name. You don't even need a website as long as you have a domain name and profiles at AdHub, LinkedIn, RPCN, etc."
- "Do your homework first before you start - network, go to events and workshops. There's a lot to learn!"
- "Let people know you're starting a business. You can even ask discussion lists for advice about a business name."
- "Always have business cards with you!"
- "Go to job fairs even if you aren't looking for a full-time job. You'll meet important people there who might become clients."
Zohari's success with two kinds of businesses proves, she says, that "all work benefits from the creative process. Those who work in business can always benefit from originality and thinking outside the box, while many artists who try to market their work have trouble because they aren't knowledgeable about business. Those with dual interests have the best of both worlds."
RPCN member Ruth E. Thaler-Carter is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and proofreader. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com