Maven to Know: Tia Agnew

The Joy Pilot CEO might just inspire you to start your own small business and travel the globe—when it's safe, of course.


Tia Agnew is no stranger to small businesses. She co-founded and co-owned New Day Craft, a $1 million a year beverage company located near Fountain Square, for 15 years before selling it in 2019.

Since parting ways with the brewery, Agnew enjoyed a much-needed break from working 24/7. But she couldn’t stay still for long. In August 2020, she decided to try her hand at another small business venture: The Joy Pilot.

The Joy Pilot offers small business coaching, as well as success navigation, which is something we could all use a little dusting of these days.

“I help folks realize and understand what their deep goals are for their life and how their business can actually support that,” Agnew says. “And then help with the nitty-gritty on how to make things happen and get things done both in the short and long-term.”

We squeezed some time on Agnew’s calendar to get her take on starting a small business, how companies can withstand a pandemic, and the first place she’s jetting off to once it’s safer to travel.

Maven superpower: Getting things done and making things happen, but also figuring out the steps to get there.

How did you prepare to launch your own business?

It was a lot of idealism and a lot of financial prep—and a lot of organizing. I’ve always been very much an organizer and a strategist. For my new business, I’m pulling all those lessons I’ve learned and then also researching best practices as far as coaching goes. I’m developing my own program, a signature set of worksheets and formats, that I work my clients through to help them get results quickly instead of just being an ongoing process.

What is the biggest need that small businesses have come to you for help with?

Right now, we’re talking about how you plan for coming out of the pandemic. I would say I’m anticipating quite a frenzied, very exuberant population of people. Be prepared for potentially going from almost no clientele to a very massive clientele in a potentially short period of time. How are they going to prepare themselves for success in an environment that’s going to become very intense, I think, in a short window of time?

What are the characteristics of a business that can sustain itself for 10+ years?

They create success systems. An example of such a system would be checklists for the daily opening and closing of a retail store/restaurant/bar.

They set measurable goals. The first part is setting goals, and most businesses do this—but few create measurements by which they can build a plan, track their progress, make necessary adjustments along the way, and ultimately succeed.  That second part takes effort and accountability from everyone involved, especially the leadership.

They change. This one is as tough as it is obvious. Without change, businesses become stagnant and eventually cease to become viable; calcified by their leadership’s inability or unwillingness to evolve. This can take a number of different forms; not correcting ineffective management policies, failing to respond to emerging customer demands, or refusal to relinquish responsibilities better completed by their employees.

What are the biggest mistakes that small businesses can make early on?

Owners thinking they can do it all. And trying to do it all. I made that mistake and it literally almost nearly killed me. And so that’s one of the reasons I went into this line of work is to help folks that not only can’t you do it, you shouldn’t do it all. That’s not a sustainable business operation for yourself or for the health of the business. That’s probably the biggest mistake business owners make.

What’s something people might not know about you?

I am a gregarious introvert. I love people, yet after spending time with others I need significant amounts of alone time to recharge.

What are you looking forward to most in the New Year?

I’m looking forward to being able to travel again. I’m a big travel junkie. I love discovering new places and being in new cultures and meeting new people.

Who’s someone you look up to or admire in your work?

Kim Crowder. Kim is someone I really admire, both as a business person and just as a beautiful human being. We actually walk multiple times a week together and have a combined business meeting, friend chat session, and exercise. She’s someone that I greatly admire for the work she does in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Where’s the first place you want to travel once it’s safe?

There’s a great probability I’ll go to Belize. We have friends there who are actually going to be relocating and we’re going to probably be spending some time helping them. But a place I would love to go to this year is Peru. I’ve always wanted to go to Machu Picchu.

Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor. 

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