Cate Steane, the founder and owner of Make It Happen Preparedness Services, did not set out to be good at emergency preparedness. The emergencies—the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the Oakland Hills fire in 1991, the Wine Country fires in 2017, and more—kept finding her. Here, Steane explains how she and her select team of specialty contractors make preparedness happen for businesses.
GGBA: Given all of the emergencies we have experienced in California, your business seems needed now more than ever. Please tell us about it.
Cate Steane: You’re catching me at a—I’m so tired of the word “pivot” that I’m going to call it a swivel—point. My business, Make It Happen Preparedness Services, has been focused entirely on emergency preparedness for businesses. Did I mention that I’m based in Sonoma County, the home of annual wildfires and power shutoffs, spiced up with the occasional flood or earthquake?
Of course, every business needs emergency preparedness training and planning. But few businesses understand its risk mitigation value proposition. It’s not an investment priority for them. So, I’m broadening my focus to include additional workplace safety services that businesses actually want, or need to have in order to get something they want.
For example, I’m now trained as a Pandemic Compliance Advisor. If a business wants to bring employees and customers back into the workplace or wants to put on an event, I’m that master of detail who can ask about your goals and challenges, study the relevant regulations and guidelines, research implementation tools, and work with you to create procedures that will protect your customers, employees, and ass(ets). My training was particularly focused on safely producing meetings and events.
A colleague asked me whether I do fleet safety programs. So, I’m doing some market research now to see what fleet managers are using currently and what they see as missing from the market. If I go in that direction, I may use the tagline “safety training that doesn’t suck.”
I may need to do a little work on my mission to encompass this broader workplace safety vision. Our values will remain unchanged:
- build competence and confidence;
- provoke action;
- achieve excellence;
- act with integrity in all things;
- treat everyone with respect and kindness.
GGBA: Why did you decide to create your business?
Cate Steane: I call myself an involuntary entrepreneur. There are a LOT of us in the over-50 demographic. The industry I had been working in was done with me before I was done with it. When I lost my last job at age 58, finding new work in this semi-rural county turned out to be impossible in my field, and other industries didn’t see my skills as transferable.
I realized that the only one who is going to employ me was me. So, I looked at what I am uniquely good at and started to build a business.
GGBA: Who are some of your role models, and especially those who helped to influence your business?
Cate Steane: One has been Ana-Marie Jones, the preparedness guru better known as Ms. Duct Tape. I’m also finding some kickass role models in the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and a referral group I belong to called ProVisors.
Funny story about ProVisors. It has a huge LGBTQ+ and Allies affinity group. I attended my first meeting of this group recently. As we shared stories in breakout rooms, I realized that at least 2/3 of the participants were allies. I met very few actual queer people. I got to spend two hours listening to the allies’ stories of how wonderfully they responded to their brother’s/daughter’s/grandchild’s coming out.
GGBA: Why did you decide to join the GGBA, and how long have you been a member?
Cate Steane: I’m a newbie. I joined just a few months ago.
GGBA: Although you’ve only been a member of the GGBA for a short time, has it helped your business so far?
Cate Steane: Because of my membership in GGBA, I was able to apply for certification as an LGBTQ-owned business for free. That certification will be a huge advantage for me as I move toward working with businesses with supply chain diversity targets.
GGBA: Do you go to the GGBA monthly Make Contact networking events (now virtual)? Have they benefited you and your business, and would you recommend them to others?
Cate Steane: That’s easy for me to do now when everything is remote. If we go back to 100% in person, that will be a round-trip of at least three hours for every meeting. So, I hope we will retain some online meetings.
GGBA: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting their own business?
Cate Steane: Do your market research before you spend money on anything else. Identify the type of person or business you would be selling to and interview 10 of them to see if there is truly a demand for what you plan to offer. A demand is different from a need. A demand is a need with cash attached to it. Ask people how much they would be willing to spend for your product or service. If there is not a robust demand, find something else to do or produce.
Secondly, get an individual coach. Make it a part of your startup budget; don’t wait for that mythical time when you have enough revenue to support the cost. You need it at startup more than any other time and you can waste a vast amount of time and money without proper direction. You’ll find so many people offering group coaching programs. That’s because group coaching is really lucrative for the coach. It’s not because it’s the best use of the business owner’s time. Finding a coach who will focus 100% on your individual product or service and help you with the areas where you need more development will end up being more cost-efficient for you, because it is more time-efficient.
For more information about Make It Happen Preparedness Services: https://www.makeithappenps.com/