For one successful St. Louis area entrepreneur, growing his business, Blue Stingray, meant making mistakes and learning what he valued. Now, Brian Rehg is able to share those lessons as a new board member of the Metro East Business Incubator, providing insight and mentoring to other local businesses and entrepreneurs.
Jo Ann DiMaggio May, director of the Illinois SBDC for the Metro East at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is a fellow MEBI board member.
“I am sure that Brian will be willing to advise many MEBI clients, as well as entrepreneurs in our SBDC network,” she said. “There is potential for Blue Stingray and the SBDC to work well together, and I can certainly see SBDC clients being referred to Blue Stingray.”
The Metro East Business Incubator is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization established to help startup businesses and companies still in their early stages primarily within St. Clair County communities including Fairview Heights, O’Fallon and Swansea. It works cooperatively with local economic development entities and colleges. More can be found at http://www.themebi.org/
In 2009, Rehg registered Blue Stingray for $70. He started the business from his kitchen table, working as a consultant and building enterprise cloud-software solutions. The company now makes millions annually and is headquartered in downtown St. Louis.
Rehg takes a “cowboy approach” to entrepreneurship. When he started, he had no plan, no mission statement and no loans. He learned business lessons from trial and error, gradually establishing his reputation. Eventually, he started to gain more clients through word-of-mouth.
“I offered excellent service at a great price,” Rehg says. “When that’s your position, you’ll get clients. The difficult part is figuring out how to expand from there.”
Demand for his services continued to increase. In 2011, he hired his first employee. This allowed Rehg to increase his client load considerably and take his business to the next level. As his staff grew, he quickly noticed the amount of time and money that his company spent on training.
To help solve this challenge, his team built a training program that would efficiently get new hires up to speed and adequately equip them for their role in the company, which allowed Rehg to hire relatively inexperienced applicants and build their expertise. “We hire based on personality more than expertise,” Rehg says. “Expertise is helpful, but maintaining a strong company culture is incredibly important.”
Now, Blue Stingray has 20 employees. Rehg’s team has worked with major companies including Pepsi and TransAmerica, building large custom software solutions to fit each company’s needs. Blue Stingray offers complete cloud application development, e-commerce development, enterprise resource planning (ERP) integration and other services for clients in a variety of sectors.
The journey was not always easy. Rehg learned that finding clients with similar company values was difficult. As he encountered some “bad apple” clients, he began seeking clients who would aid in building a positive and professional relationship. Rehg credits this approach with Blue Stingray’s positive work environment.
In addition to managing his company and team, Rehg is also highly involved in the community by mentoring for Boys Hope Girls Hope of St. Louis, volunteering for LaunchCode, and serving on several executive nonprofit boards.
For new entrepreneurs, Rehg recommends starting as slowly and small as possible. His other tip: remain focused on your niche and avoid losing focus as you grow.
“Starting small allows you to find and build clientele, and renting space instead of buying will enable you to evaluate your profitability and responsibly decide when to upgrade your physical space,” Rehg says.
The Illinois SBDC for the Metro East assists entrepreneurs as well as existing business owners operating in the nine-county Metro East region of Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe and Randolph. It enhances the region’s economic interests by providing one-stop assistance to individuals by means of counseling, training, research and advocacy for new ventures and existing small businesses.
To learn more, contact the Metro East SBDC at (618) 650-2929 or email@example.com.
PHOTO: Blue Stingray owner Brian Rehg.