For business owners and wannabe entrepreneurs, Terry Zarsky is the go-to woman at the Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs. Always upbeat, the business services librarian knows virtually everyone in town, and she earnestly wants to help people to start or grow a business. Her knowledge, courses and consulting are free, thanks to the library. For her photo for the Business Journal, Zarsky wore an item from Janska Clothing, because Janska founder Jan Erickson got her start with Zarsky at the library. That’s just how Zarsky thinks — it’s not about her; it’s about you.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was a military brat. One of the things that was constant when I was growing up was when we moved, we would go find the library and the fire department, because those two institutions knew where the good parts of town and the good schools were. The library was kind of my sanctuary. There was a library every time I moved. I decided when I was in the sixth grade I wanted to be a librarian.
How did you get to Colorado Springs?
When I was finalizing my degree, my husband was offered an interview here and they made the mistake of bringing me with him, because I fell in love with it here. It’s beautiful; it’s got mountains, but it doesn’t have high humidity and it doesn’t have bugs. And you get to see the ground between October and March.
The library offers free courses and services. What classes do you offer?
The main one is Minding Your Business, a 90-minute, fast-paced course. It’s the primary class. I’ve done classes on marketing and research and starting a business, but that’s the only one that’s consistently taught. I teach the class twice a month downtown, and the new business librarian at 21c will teach classes starting in September. It teaches everything you need to know about industries, figuring out if there’s a market available, how to find out who your target market is, if there’s competition or not, where your vendors are located. You can really start the business well, or you can grow it to the next step.
What are the elements of the class?
It introduces the resources we have, and I also have 10 handouts. They include an overview of the best business databases. It breaks down into categories by corporation, demographic information, education information, that sort of stuff. I just created for Small Business Week a new list of 120 city, county, state and federal resources for business people. A lot of them provide free services.
In your 28 years at the library, what has surprised you?
Venues I thought wouldn’t be very popular turn out to be very popular. A new trampoline place up at Woodmen is very much more popular than I thought it would be. It’s indoors, and a lot of our residents are outdoor enthusiasts. But there is still a market of people that may have mobility issues or age issues or just want to do something different. I cover a wide range of business. Obviously right now, marijuana is big.
How have things changed?
There’s a lot more technology than there used to be. I’m seeing a lot wider range of people who want to become entrepreneurs, everything from teenagers to retired people who have decided retirement isn’t all that much fun. And of course, with our transitioning military, a lot of them start their own businesses. Sometimes working for themselves is the way to go.
What do you do in your spare time?
I attend 15 to 20 events monthly on behalf of the library. I’m also a foster parent and volunteer for All Breed Rescue and Training. I love dogs. I know what impact dogs have on people. I’ve been a foster parent for 17 years. I own three dogs and have two fosters.
Why do you enjoy your job?
I do a lot of outreach, trying to help make a better economic bottom line. Because the bottom line, the economic basis of the city, benefits all of us. And I want to be able to contribute to making this a good community to live in. I have gone to some companies that have gone out of business and told their employees about [the] resources available. If they’re on unemployment, they’re not making as much money as they were making before, so therefore, they’re not spending as much. It’s a ripple effect, as far as I’m concerned. I enjoy giving them options and giving them hope that there are other options. There’s a lot we can do for each other to keep our spirits up when we’re going through tough times. I enjoy what I do. I tell people I’m on a paid vacation. I get paid to do what I love to do.