Amanda Klingenberger says she became deeply familiar with “next-level” burnout in 2019 while juggling a difficult job, a medical startup and raising a family. She knew it was time to take a step back and find a new endeavor that could be rewarding and less emotionally draining. That led Klingenberger to start luxury gift business Linden Square. Today, the Fort Wayne, Indiana-based entrepreneur has successfully grown her business year after year, despite the challenges the pandemic and supply-chain issues have presented. Most importantly, she’s relishing the business that allows her to have more freedom with her time and makes sure to celebrate each win, “because when you have even the smallest win, it seems like the greatest thing in the world.”
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
Tell us more about starting your business.
I was in healthcare for over 25 years, working at nearly every level. But I also needed a break, so I began looking for something that would stretch my creative abilities more. I found it in gifting. There was something cathartic about designing the packaging and choosing the products, but also I was able to apply many of the skills I’d learned throughout my previous career: supply chain and procurement, vendor negotiations, networking, budgeting, marketing, etc. All the skills I’d acquired were put to use in this new venture, and I was home when my kids got off the bus. It was a win-win.
How do you define success?
Everyone has a different definition of success. Money, fame, adoration, etc. For me, success is being able to do something I love and do it well. It’s being available for my family and providing for their needs. There’s a certain satisfaction in the setting of a large, audacious goal and reaching it. It’s taking all the things I’ve learned and accomplished and being able to help those that are a few steps behind. That’s my definition.
What is your biggest success so far?
I’m really proud of the fact that Linden Square is expanding. To be honest, I wasn’t sure that we’d ever get to this point. There was a time — not too far in the past — that I considered shutting the whole thing down. I was tired, not seeing the results I wanted, and not certain how to proceed. Now, we’ve reached a point where we are turning business away because we’re simply out of space. I’m really glad that I didn’t give in to those nudges of self-doubt. I’m also really proud of the fact that we’re completely self-funded and we’ve been profitable every year since opening. That’s almost unheard of for small businesses.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Resources — both tangible and intangible. Time, money and mentorship make anything possible. But when they’re lacking, even the simplest of tasks becomes extraordinarily difficult. It really makes you scrappy. I’m constantly looking at the best way to use resources, maximize ROI, and gain knowledge. I’m lucky to live in an area that has a significant amount of small business and entrepreneurial resources. I also rely on those skills I’ve picked up over the years. It’s sometimes hard in the moment to see how seemingly unrelated skills can help move you forward in new ventures, but you’d be surprised. For example, I learned great procurement skills in my last position. Definitely helpful when seeking out the best price on supplies, especially in a post-pandemic supply chain. Keeping an open mind, thinking outside the box, and being willing to ask for help have made all the difference for me and my business.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
When I left my job (which was both toxic and hostile) to start Linden Square, it was the first time since I was 13 that I wasn’t earning my own money regularly. That was incredibly scary. It really pushed me to work hard and do everything I could to make sure that it succeeded. When my family and I decided that although it was making money, it wasn’t bringing in the type of funds necessary for the kiddos’ upcoming college tuitions, I took on a full time job in marketing, while continuing to work and grow Linden Square.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have started. Honestly, though…I’d tell new startup entrepreneurs to double everything. Double the amount of money you think you need to start. Double the amount of time it takes to get a business off the ground. Double the amount of energy required. Double the frustrations. But also, double the wins, because when you have even the smallest win, it seems like the greatest thing in the world.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I like to read other people’s success stories. I know that they aren’t necessarily more talented or deserving than I am, so if they can make it, so can I.
Who is your most important role model?
My parents. I’ve learned some incredibly valuable lessons from them over the years. I learned the value of hardwork and persistence. Kindness and generosity were always expected. They served their community and sought relationships over transactions (I swear my dad never knew a stranger). They encouraged creativity and problem-solving and so many other wonderful traits. The lessons they taught me, whether intentionally or not, are the foundation that I’ve built my business on, but more importantly, they’ve shaped who I am today. I couldn’t have asked for better role models. ◼