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Sue Hesse

Peer Group Advocate

La Jolla, CA

I look back on my decision to sell my company and feel fortunate for the new opportunities I received when I chose to step away.

In 1987 I founded my own printing business, Print Management Design Group, Inc., in St. Louis, Missouri. Initially, I leaned in to entrepreneurship for personal reasons: I wanted to reduce business travel so I could raise my two young children. Starting my own profitable business seemed like a good solution. I was determined to make it a success.

Throughout the early stages of building Print Management, an important aspect of my life was participating in a forum: a peer group with 10 other successful entrepreneurs (in this case all men) as part of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). I was actively engaged in this forum, with monthly meetings that spanned over seven years. I credit my forum members with giving me the courage, knowledge and support to successfully sell my business in 1999. Selling meant giving up my comfortable lifestyle and accepting the risk of, yet again, starting a new career. For me, this was a necessary ending, like a mother letting go of her child—I came of age. The transition also enabled our family to relocate to southern California, a lifelong goal of ours and a personal dream of mine.

Timing, as they say, is everything. During my negotiations to sell Print Management, a wonderful opportunity was presented to me. I was appointed Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the Kauffman Foundation, where I worked to support global entrepreneurship for the next 13 years. My role at the Kauffman Foundation allowed me to help other entrepreneurs achieve what had been so important to me: learning how to build and manage a business.

At the time I joined the Kauffman Foundation, I was also able to engage fully in facilitating forum groups for YPO-WPO, EO and other corporate clients. That initial consulting work has now expanded to forum workshops, moderator development, strategic planning as well as corporate and forum retreats. My facilitation activities have led me to visit over 15 different countries and to work with 1,300 forum groups, providing my now adult children the opportunity to experience several trips with me to foreign countries. As my husband and I continue to enjoy our lives in La Jolla, I look back on my decision to sell my company and feel fortunate for the new opportunities I received when I chose to step away.