Local businessman and college professor Ray Nissen says if you are out of work, you should take the initiative and start a business. In doing so, pick a business you have a passion for.
“Unfortunately, the days of the big paying factory jobs are gone. People are struggling out there, and if they just look at some of the things they can do,” Nissen said.
“Five percent of the new jobs are created by small businesses and start-ups. Right now is a perfect opportunity to become an entrepreneur because a lot of corporations, even my family business that I work for, are sitting on their hands,” Nissen continued.
“They are not taking any risks because they are afraid of what the economy is going to do, you know. There is a lot of opportunity out there, and that is the first thing I talk about. It’s like the bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity for people to hurdle.”
Nissen should know. In 1983, he left the University of Toledo, where he was a business instructor, and joined three others in a start up called Thermal Gard of Ohio.
“We took this company from zero to 15 million dollars in sales in five years. After some disputes, I left this company and moved to my first wife’s hometown of Gainesville, Florida. I started a computer consulting company to sell personal computers directly to homes with children as an educational tool. As with many entrepreneurs, I was undercapitalized and ran into financial trouble which resulted in a divorce and my return to my home and the family business,” Nissen said.
“After working in the Oregon office for a few years, it was decided to open a second plant in West Toledo and I was assigned that responsibility. The second plant is very successful and has now been opened for ten years. In 2007, I interviewed and was hired by Tiffin University to teach in its degree completion program with a specialty in international business and entrepreneurship. I still continue to run our West Toledo plant along with teaching four to eight courses a year for Tiffin University.
An Oregon native and Clay High School graduate, Nissen now lives in Millbury and has been married to wife Susie for 15 years.
Nissen will be presenting his “Common Sense Entrepreneur” approach at the Oregon Branch Library on October 26 from 7-8 p.m. There is no cost to attend.
There will also be sessions Oct. 30 from 2-3 p.m. at Sanger Branch Library on Central Avenue and on Nov. 15 from 7-8 p.m. at Holland Branch Library on McCord Road.
“I think all the academia has one point of view — you need to have a business plan; you need to have venture capital. What I’m trying to do is bring it down to a lower level and say, ‘Look, let’s see, is it really a problem you’re solving? Is it really your passion?
“You know, I’d like to be the greatest golfer in the whole world, but I realize I’m never going to hit the ball 300 yards, you know. So, it’s the same point of view. Is the desire there, is the passion there, do they have a good idea what they want to do and where they want to do it? The other key to success is, ‘wanting to be the best.’ You want to have something special there,” Nissen said.
“I’ve been to some of the boot camps and they give you quite a detailed plan, but that can be overwhelming when you are first starting,” Nissen continued. “You try not to make it too complicated. Let’s get down to the basics. I think the key to being successful is you have to have the passion, and make it fun. It should be something where you enjoy going to work; you enjoy what you are doing.
“The other reason I’ve done this is one of the points I’ve included is that this country needs entrepreneurs. I’m excited about the whole program because the library has been really accommodating to me, and I really want to help people.
“I met with three or four of the people from the library, and they told me what they are seeing is a lot of people are coming in there now because they are out of work and they are using those resources to look for jobs. This is another resource we can offer to those people who are out there and need help trying to find work.”
Nissen grew up next to the family business, which then was Nissen Coal and now is Nissen Concrete at Stadium and Navarre Avenue. He began working there at the age of 12 and continued to work there through high school and college. He went to Ashland College, graduating with a degree in Finance and Marketing.
After college, Nissen returned to the family business with hopes of attending law school. He was wait listed for almost a year and then had a chance to go overseas to Taiwan with an aunt and uncle. After arriving in Taiwan, he was hired by an American owned buying agent called Tradepower Taipei.
Nissen’s responsibilities were to coordinate purchases made by large American retailers. After working in Taipei for a year and half, he was promoted and assigned to go to Seoul and open the Tradepower Korea office. After several years and getting tired of the extensive travel, he decided to return home and pursue a MBA degree at the University of Toledo.
While Nissen was in the program, he was a graduate assistant and began teaching for the accounting department. After he received his degree, the marketing department offered him an instructor position teaching marketing and international business.