When Connie Fails
was asked in December 2003 to create the gift shop that would accompany Bill Clinton's presidential library, she
was hesitant.At the time, Fails
owned a popular apparel company in Little Rock, Ark., that had been in business for more than a quarter of a century.
Over the years, Fails
had visited the Clintons at the White House and seen them at barbecues.
wasn't sure she
wanted to run the Clinton Museum Store
(http://www.clintonmuseumstore.com) that would be down the street from the William J. Clinton Presidential Center
."It was scary for me," she
says."I feared giving up something that I had done for such a long time."She
didn't know if she
could manage a bigger enterprise; she
didn't even know how to use a computer. (Up till then, she
had only used it to e-mail friends.) And then there were her
employees.Fails didn't want to close her
business and let them go.Some cutters, sewers, and saleswomen had been with her
Fails also liked the security of owning her
own small business."Today, I see people in their mid-50s looking toward new careers, instead of retirement," she
says."But when I started noticing this trend of people completely changing their careers, I thought that that'd never happen to me, because I'd never want to take that risk."
Then one of Fails'
customers made her
an offer.The woman had just received a $1 million grant to provide training for women recently released from prison.She
proposed buying Fails' inventory, hiring her
employees and starting a new venture that would help train former convicts to work in the clothing business.Fails could remain the company's designer.With her employees taken care of, Fails accepted the woman's proposal and went to work for the Clinton Foundation.
had already built a successful business, she
had a hard time getting the museum store off the ground.
Since the museum store,and the library,opened in mid-November, it has racked up more than $500,000 in sales. (The foundation had projected that the first year's sales would be around $300,000.) The store has six employees besides Fails
, as well as eight part-time volunteers. Fails is glad that she was able to overcome her initial fears and take up the challenge of creating the Clinton Museum Store.
"When the opportunity came, I had actually been thinking about if I wanted to (continue running my clothing shop) for the rest of my life, or something else," she
says."This is the most incredible offer I could ever get: to do something I like to do,design and create,and do it for someone who I've known for so long and who I love so much.But there still was that initial fear."
Here's some advice from Fails
on what to do if you're thinking about starting a new business venture, but you're afraid of letting go of your old one:
Deal with your fears."You have to just push through it," she
And what does Fails
think of her