What is your full name, title, and business name?
Carey R. Schmitt, Partner and Senior Advisor, Plentiful
Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.
Plentiful is a strategic advising consultancy focused on the connections between nonprofit organizations and those who support them. When a donor’s passion for a cause and an organization’s pursuit of a mission are in mutually fulfilling alignment, outcomes of significance can happen. Our work combines strategic marketing principles with nonprofit management best practices. We gather insights to inform recommendations, create strategy, and implement a plan. Then we continue consulting with our clients to ensure the plan yields results and to evolve the approach as needed. Through these lasting relationships, we help organizations raise the money that enables them to fulfill their mission—to do good and be great.
How did the idea for your business come about?
We believe in the power and essentiality of the nonprofit sector and we want it to thrive. It’s good for our community — it’s good for all of us. Organizations do great work, and we want to help them achieve their goals and maximize their impact. We have found that applying strategic marketing principles to fundraising, operations, and programming can elevate the work, so we created a consultancy that is designed to bring those practices to the nonprofit sector.
What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
The outcomes prove it. Organizations that have fully embraced brand and marketing are better able to articulate the mission, vision, work, and case to donors. Consequently, they become better understood, embraced, and supported. The biggest proof point is in attracting and keeping donors, but the focus also helps with hiring, program delivery, and other community relationships.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
It means we have the platform to sharpen our ideas every day. We have an informed point of view, we’re fueled by experience, and we see opportunity in the space. This gives us the ability to put those ideas into motion for the good of our clients.
What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
The social sector is vibrant and growing in Columbus. Nonprofit organizations have played an immensely important role in shaping the community and will continue to be a key factor in our future. Because of the high level of investment and engagement in nonprofits, there is a lot of strong leadership committed to helping organizations do the best possible work. The result is a nonprofit landscape that is enterprising, innovative, and determined — the ideal environment for professional services designed to support and accelerate this positive trajectory.
Are you from Columbus? If not, please explain what brought you to here and ultimately what made you stay.
My husband is from here and returned to join his family business in 2004. I’ve now lived in Columbus longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in my life and consider it my home. I love the opportunity to focus and engage with this community and feel great about being here for the long run.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
Be crystal clear about what you hope to achieve and contribute. It takes a lot of commitment, so the fundamentals have to be strong.
What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
I have always appreciated that relationships are valuable and important, but that is especially true when you’re building a business. You can learn something from anyone, so it’s very helpful to learn from others’ perspectives and experiences.
What’s the most challenging part of your business (i.e, what keeps you up at night)?
We just sincerely want the best for our clients and there are many factors that are out of our control. We spend a lot of time thinking of all the ways we can set our clients up for success, trying to anticipate challenges and sort through obstacles. The challenge for us is that no two scenarios are alike, so it always requires fresh thinking. Of course, that’s also the best part and why we love it!
Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
I’m not as punctual as I should be. I always try to cram one more thing in and then I end up being late. I’m working on it. I’ve been successfully tricking myself into thinking I have to be somewhere much earlier than required and that seems to help.
Why do you think most business owners fail? What has made you different?
I think it’s so important to get continual feedback from a wide range of people. It’s so helpful to gather perspectives and hear others’ thoughts and reactions to your work. It really helps sharpen your focus and become more confident about your direction.
What was your biggest mistake and what did it cost you?
Making assumptions that turn out to not be true. Jumping to a quick conclusion can be expedient, but it’s risky. Slow down, double-check, and fully explore a situation. Doing so takes more time and energy, but it guards against missing an opportunity.
What tool has helped you the most for your business (invoicing, accounting, shipping, plugin for website, etc.)?
We use Asana for project management.
When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?
We have triggers in our business planning that indicate when and where growth is needed.
What is something that you did that was a game changer for your business?
We pay close attention to the audiences of our clients, keeping a finger on the pulse of what they want and think. That really helps us serve our clients by finding ways to bridge the organization’s goals with the interests and appetite of their audiences.
What was an idea that you spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference in your business that didn’t pan out.
We have concepted different ways provide guidance to our clients. However, because every organization has different opportunities and challenges, we customize everything and that simply demands dedicated 1:1 time.
What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
We invest in our relationships. We prioritize spending time with people every week. It informs our perspective, it challenges our thinking, it keeps us fresh. We’re so incredibly lucky to have great people around us and they are vital to our success.
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
Increasingly we’re exploring the business models of nonprofits. There are many different ways to raise contributed income and deliver against the mission. As organizations are considering what’s possible for them, it’s so interesting to take stock of today to inform potential model options for the future, and then use insights to inform a clear course of action.
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
As I said, we focus a lot on personal relationships and outreach. We also challenge ourselves to put together strong thought leadership that illustrates what and how we think while hopefully providing a little bit of inspiration.
Who is your best Columbus resource (accountant, lawyer, marketer, etc.)?
We often partner with Reddy or Knot for graphic design. They do great, smart work.
Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
My business partner!
Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
So much could happen in 10 years, but the ultimate goal is to still be providing the strategic guidance that accelerates the work of the nonprofit sector.
What was the single worst decision you made regarding your business and how’d you recover?
Thankfully we haven’t experienced anything too catastrophic. But I did receive great advice to address mistakes as soon as they are evident. You can’t hope something will sort itself out. Own it, fix it, and move on.
When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to overcome this feeling?
I do something else. For me, it’s being active and outside whenever possible.
What’s one component of entrepreneurship that’s much different than what most people think?
Just because you have a good idea doesn’t mean that anyone wants it. You can never lose track of what your audience is receptive to — they are the ultimate judge of how good an idea actually is.
How would your business fare if the economy hit a nasty downturn like it did in 2008? Have you prepared for this?
We are really lean and nimble, so hopefully we can adapt to landscape and economic shifts. Some changes will be more difficult than others, but it’s always good to be ready for a slow down or unexpected interruption.
What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?
There are some incredible women in our community who have built excellent, responsible, smart businesses. Those are very inspiring to me.
If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
I’m a big fan of the Columbus Zoo, so I’d suggest that.