President and CEO of American Furniture Warehouse Jake Jabs spoke to students at the second annual Pueblo Entrepreneurship Competition, which was held at the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center Feb. 27.
The competition is a collaborative, non-profit activity coordinated by the Colorado State University-Pueblo Hasan School of Business Healy Center, Junior Achievement and Pueblo Economic Development Corp. The event is also made possible in part by a grant from the Southern Colorado Community Foundation.
Jabs spoke at the finale of the event, which had the theme of “One idea changes everything. What’s yours?”
Outgoing and confident with a sense of humor, Jabs took control over the audience of students hungry for knowledge.
He started out the conference by handing out buttons that read, “I’m an entrepreneur.”
The American Furniture Warehouse founder talked with the students about his “39 keys to business success.”
He said that his biggest dream when he was in college in the mid-1950s was to become a musician.
Jabs said he didn’t start out selling furniture. In the ‘50s everyone knew how to play the guitar, so he bought a guitar store downtown in Billings, Montana for $1,500.
When he met with the bankers to pursue a loan to support his business, they asked him about his financial statement. Jabs said he had no idea how to respond and that he didn’t know what he needed in order to make his business a success.
He advised the young student audience to take as many courses related to business as possible. If he knew how to answer all the questions the bankers asked back then, he would have accomplish his goals faster, he said.
Jabs’ advice for overcoming fears to promote ideas was to “figure out what the people need, examine it and research it, be as prepared as you can possibly be and be sure and confident that your idea is going to work.”
He said that when he founded American Furniture Warehouse, he recognized that people wanted furniture to fit their lifestyles, so he started marketing his product as “lifestyle furniture.”
“As a business owner one needs to understand that that every year people’s needs change, and if you want your company to success you have to understand and target their needs,” he said.
“In this case, I decided to add lifestyle furniture to the company’s name because people are specific, and have different tastes, so by adding that simple word to the title, customers feel like individuals, our job is personalized, and the staff is always happy to help to find specific needs,” Jabs said.
At the end of the conference, a member of the audience asked Jabs what his goals are now that he has accomplished a career on the furniture business.
Jabs said, “I don’t believe in goals, I believe in opportunities. When something is presented to you, you take it, you risk it, you go for it with confidence. That decision makes the difference on the future success on whatever it is you decide to do.”
“I take the opportunities that are presented to me, and I go from there. Then, I turn them into ideas and then into success,” he said.