Entrepreneurship runs in her blood. Yes, even at a young age, Debbie Dent took ownership of grade school fundraisers and sold those cookies like it was her business. So, when she grew up, it was no surprise when she founded Willow Creative Group (originally Willow Design).
Her creative skills paired with her entrepreneurial intellect helped her grow her client base and overall marketing, advertising and branding business. She used her strengths and recognized where she needed a little help on the business side of things and hired people whose strengths were her weaknesses.
Despite her business savvy, she couldn’t dodge the blow from the failing economy. "The fall of 2008 hit like it did so many people, and many of our clients just rolled up their carpets and said, ‘We can’t spend money now,’ " Dent says.
With 13 employees, Dent had to start making her own cutbacks, but she didn’t want to just layoff her team. "I would do whatever I could to help them find a job. Some of the employees, as they left, I gave them the computer, whatever it would take to help people land on their feet became more of my focus," she says.
Then the economy wasn’t the only challenge facing Dent. "I became ill. On April 1, 2009, I was operated on, and they removed about three and a half pounds worth of tumors," she says. On the bright side, the tumors showed no sign of cancer.
"When things like happen, it just hits you upside the head, and you have to realize we are all finite, and the path that we’re on, most of the time is a path that you do have some control over," Dent says. And after 20 years of business success, Dent realized that she needed to start a new path and closed the doors to Willow Creative Group.
Before launching any new endeavors, Dent took a month long sabbatical. She headed to St. John and documented her experience at StJohnSabbatical.com. "I thought, ‘I’m going to get healthy. I’m going to let the sun hit my skin. I’m going to start meditating a little bit, do some yoga, go on a walk every day, just build up my strength," she says.
After that much needed month of reflection and relaxation, Dent came back to the States, and she started her new business, Aim Straight Up, Jan. 1, 2010. The "aim" part of the business name indicates the need for a direction and a goal, and "straight up" reflects Dent’s ability to just give things "straight up" with her honesty while it also shows her passion for going in a positive direction, without giving up, she says.
After more than a year in business, Dent’s business definitely is moving in that positive direction, and after the economic blow, Dent’s refocus and aim has landed her back on top of her entrepreneurial endeavors.
For more information about Dent and Aim Straight Up, check out AimStraightUp.com.