Lauren Cohen fell into writing business plans for a living after moving to the U.S. from Canada. Her immigration attorney asked if she would help a client apply for a business immigration visa, and the application she helped prepare was successful. Cohen, who is an attorney, soon founded e-Council Inc., which helps foreign entrepreneurs obtain visas to set up shop in the United States. Now, seven years later, the firm employs eight people and provides a wide range of services for all types of business visas. Business News Daily went behind the business plan and asked Cohen about her pursuit of the American Dream and her firm's efforts to help others do the same.
Business News Daily: In a nutshell, what service does your business provide?
Lauren Cohen: We provide expert business immigration visa solutions and offer a means to access alternative sources of capital to grow and expand U.S. businesses.
BND: How long have you been in business?
Cohen: Since 2008.
BND: Did you start with a formal business plan? If not, how did you lay the groundwork for your business?
Cohen: We did start with a formal business plan. Since we are, at our core, a business plan company, we are constantly revising and revamping our business plan to meet with changing demands and adjustments.
BND: How did you finance your endeavors, both initially and as your business grew?
Cohen: Initially, with my own personal funds. I took out a small business loan and used business income to finance ongoing growth. More recently, we secured a business line of credit to finance our constantly changing cash flow.
BND: How much did you invest personally?
BND: Is your business today what you originally envisioned at the outset, or has it changed significantly over time?
Cohen: No, it has changed significantly over time. Originally, I set the business up to offer outsourced corporate counsel services, which then transitioned into visa business plan development and has since morphed into a turnkey, concierge service designed to help clients with all aspects of their business immigration needs.
BND: What are some lessons you've learned? Is there anything you would have done differently?
Cohen: I have learned that you cannot please all of the people all of the time, and that there is no "I" in "team." Anyone that thinks they can run a business as an island will fail miserably. Rely on your business coach; he or she is like your own board of directors!
BND: What were the most important factors in your success?
Cohen: Perseverance and tenacity. I literally had no choice but to make the business work. I was a single mom with few options, and it just had to happen or we would not survive! Also, my business coach was a great help and support through the process.
BND: What are the next steps you want to take as a business owner? How do you see yourself achieving those goals?
Cohen: I am honing my skills as a business owner and manager of many different personalities and people, both on my team and in terms of our clients. I am working on not taking things personally and being able to separate personal from professional. And most importantly, I am working on balance.
BND: What is your best advice to someone with a great business idea who is ready to give it a shot?
Cohen: Do it! If you have an idea, get a business coach, work on a business plan, develop a strong business model and don't give up until you have turned over every stone to make it happen!