Press in Columbus Business First

On my desk sits a book called 401 Questions every Entrepreneur Should Ask, which provides those thinking about taking the entrepreneurial plunge with basic advice to consider before deciding if it’s the right track for them.

The book is a handy tool that helps identify character traits of an entrepreneur and the potential problems, solutions and financial scenarios entrepreneurs will encounter daily as a business owner.

If you like the sound of becoming an entrepreneur, read the book first and get a preview of what you will be walking into.

What the book doesn’t address at length are people like Jeff Baker of Bexley – a 44-year-old personal property appraiser and estate liquidator – whose backgrounds gently pull them toward entrepreneurship until an event occurs that makes them take that leap.

Valued skills
Baker sets a value to heirlooms, artwork, furniture and the like for people who are moving, have died or just selling what they have. He never envisioned this line of work, but in September 2008 a request from a friend whose wife had died set off a chain of events that altered his thinking.

The friend was preparing for an estate sale of his late wife’s belongings.

Not feeling comfortable with the price the appraiser said he would probably get, the friend approached Baker, knowing he was a regular at tag sales across the area. Baker agreed to come look at the items and told his friend they were being undervalued.

The friend employed Baker to do the entire valuation, which pulled in a nice amount for the widower.

Word-of-mouth reviews got Baker more jobs, and when he connected with an estate sale at the Park Towers condominiums, the “light bulb went on” to make it a full-time business.

“This was not the direction I was going to go after leaving American Signature,” where he spent three years as a divisional merchandising manager of bedroom and formal dining furniture in which he helped develop products.

Previous to that, Baker spent three years at Global Living and seven years running an antiques business out of the building that today houses the Buggyworks condominiums that are located behind Huntington Park in the Arena District of Columbus.

Baker has always had an affinity for antiques, attending estate sales and auctions with his grandparents, who, he said, “would not be very surprised” at what he’s doing today.

He can remember his first antique buy – a $60 rolltop desk that he bought at a county auction in Missouri – and his first sale – cast iron toys when he was in high school.

Rare route
Baker’s foray into entrepreneurship – his expertise in antiques and jobs at Global Living and American Signature – might best be described as a series of a-ha moments that led him to a final a-ha moment, says Sharon Alvarez, an Ohio State University associate professor in management and human resources at the Fisher College of Business.

Alvarez, whose specialties include the study of entrepreneurship, says this path is one she believes happens more often than is illustrated by research. The collective experience, she says, provided Baker and those like him a foundation from which to launch.

“You develop a set of skills and turn that into a business that nobody else does.”
In the opposite vein, Thom Ruhe, provided with the details of Baker’s evolution, labeled him an “accidental entrepreneur,” and says they – along with what he terms survival entrepreneurs – comprise a small portion of those who strike out on their own.

“I do however believe that both of the … categories contribute relatively small numbers to the overall entrepreneur ranks as the majority of people that take the plunge typically go through some methodical and thoughtful process – to varying degrees of course,” says the director of entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Mo.

However people define Baker’s path probably doesn’t matter to him. He says he’s been happier, has more time with his family and is glad his service helps others.

“You really are taking care of someone else’s problem,” Baker says.

Craig Lovelace is an assistant managing editor at Columbus Business First. 614-220-5464 |

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