Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur of the Year finalist: "Know what you don't know"

This sponsored post is part of a series of profiles on Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” finalists. Click here to keep up with the rest of the series.

When asked what advice she gives aspiring entrepreneurs, Eileen Gittins quickly responds with a common theme: “Never give up.” Gittins — a finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year competition — is the founder and CEO of the do-it-yourself online book publisher, Blurb.

Gittins’ perseverance has paid off: Blurb is not only her third startup – she also founded search startup Verb and web-analytics firm Personify – it’s the one she says is the most rewarding.

Gittins says that, for her, “being an entrepreneur is like breathing.” We recently spoke about the beginnings of Blurb and what it takes to start a successful company.

According to Gittins, Blurb’s secret sauce in a competitive industry is simple: “We are the best at what we do.” Not only does Blurb offer a simple drag-and-drop book editor that removes the manual labor associated with book printing, but the company also offers an online store where anyone can sell their creations in what Gittins refers to as the “Blurbaverse”. This has allowed authors to step over traditional publishers and earn 100% of profits made from book sales. Gittins likened the Blurb bookstore to the Sundance Film Festival as a popular vehicle for independent artistic expression.

Gittins spoke of her persistence in the early days of Blurb by recounting her attempt to raise capital for the company. This was in 2004, just as blogs began to take off in popularity, and more of our media consumption was moving to the web. Transferring digital content back to print seemed counterintuitive to most investors. Gittins stuck with it, and seven years later, Blurb has close to 100 employees and a global network of printers that distribute books around the world.

Blurb was a perfect fit for Gittins, who is an avid photographer, reader and technology lover. As a business, Blurb has the potential to disrupt the world of publishing. But on a personal level, Gittins says she is satisfied every day with her work — work that allows others to create.

According to Gittins, the most important resource for any entrepreneur is a network of people that can help. “The smartest young entrepreneurs are the ones who know that they don’t know” according to Gittins. Entrepreneurs will often keep their ideas close to their chest in fear of others copying them, but Gittins urges founders to talk to anyone who will listen. It’s the best entrepreneurs who are able to filter out that feedback and find the right path to start and grow their company.

Want to be the next Ernst & Young Northern California Entrepreneur Of The Year? Provide your contact information and we’ll let you know when the nomination period opens in January 2012. Fill out the form here!


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