NEW LONDON -- When Kayla Barber was just 20 years old she started her own Main Street business, the Riverside Salon in New London.
With eight years as a business owner under her belt, Barber is now watching her 30-year old husband go through growing pains with his new business, Precision Archery in Spicer.
The Barbers gave up jobs working for someone else to start their separate businesses in separate towns.
Kayla started her business at an age when most kids are complaining about handling a 16-credit college load and Corey started his business last year when the economy was at an historic low point.
"I always knew I'd like to own a business of my own," said Kayla Barber. "It was one of my dreams."
Starting a business just months after graduating from cosmetology school was a risky step for the then 20-year old. "But I knew if I didn't do it then I'd be scared later," she said. "And I knew I would be successful."
"You take a chance," said Corey, who worked for nine years designing communication networks -- a job that took him on the road and out of town most weeks -- before he took a leap of faith and opened his store and indoor archery range.
"It was tough to take and make the change. But it felt right and it fell into place," he said. "I guess I believe things happen for a reason."
Despite a tight economy that has seen numerous businesses fail, the Barbers are following their hearts and seeing their businesses succeed.
Corey has heard plenty of bad news about the economy and the toll it's taken on businesses, but said so far he can't complain. He's hoping the service he provides will keep his "loyal customers" coming back despite competition from big retail stores, like Cabela's.
Kayla, who spent her early years working "her heart out" 12 hours a day to build up a strong customer base that allows her more flexibility now, is watching Corey pay his dues by being open seven days a week to gain a solid base of customers.
She warned her husband that he'd be working long hours while he established his business, but she encouraged him to do it before he got any older and not to look back.
"Everybody was saying, 'oh my gosh, I can't believe you're starting a business,'" said Kayla of the archery shop. But she said "you've only got one life" and she knew that Corey needed to follow his dreams as much as she needed to follow hers.
"It is an adventure," she said. "There's going to be bumps in the road but you can't let them bother you."
The Barbers agree it has taken hard work, long hours and a commitment to customers to keep a business going. For the self-described workaholics, that combination came easily.
As an avid hunter and outdoorsman who lives in an area with a high number of hunters, Corey knew he wanted to own a business that caters to hunters. He sells a variety of bows, arrows and archery accessories at the store, located on County Road 10 on the west side of Spicer.
An indoor archery range is available for customers to try out their new bows, or for people who already own equipment to target shoot.
He'll be hosting archery league events starting in January.
"They can come in and shoot and if they have questions I'll help them," he said. Individuals, families and youth groups, like Scouts, can rent the shooting range for a minimal fee to try out equipment and learn about the sport, he said.
While working long hours and juggling their own businesses, the couple is also raising two young daughters. Grandparents help with evening day care and the girls occasionally spend time at their parents' businesses.
They have their own bows and shoot targets while Corey is working at Precision Archery and they pretend they're stylists when they're at the Riverside Salon. Their children are learning valuable lessons about working, said Kayla, adding that family always comes before business.
If someone's sitting on the fence about starting a business Corey has three words: Go for it. But he said it's be wise to pick a business that you enjoy because "you will spend a lot of time" working.
Kayla said she hopes her early move into being a business owner will be an inspiration to other young people to "shoot for their dreams."