Starting a business seems to be on many people’s minds these days. Whether it’s a personal brand that you leverage into revenue-generating ideas like a sponsored YouTube channel or speaking engagements or it’s a traditional brick and mortar, many people say entrepreneurialism is one of their goals.
And for good reason.
With social media and digital marketing, getting the word out about your business has never been easier. But how do you get to that point? What do you need to start your own business?
1. An Idea and a Market
I belong to a lot of small business groups on LinkedIn and Facebook and one of the most frequent comments I see is, “I want to be an entrepreneur but I’m not sure what kind of business to start.” Unfortunately, this is critical. You can’t just want to be an entrepreneur, you must have an idea and a market who will buy from you.
Do the research. Start by thinking about what activities you enjoy, then branch out to how those skills may help you further. Maybe you love crafting but don’t want to sell things on Etsy. You could work with local nursing homes to become a freelance activities coordinator for them. Start with an idea and then think about what it could become.
2. A Business Plan
A little over half of all businesses started fail in the first year. The leading causes of these failures are:
- Incompetence: 46 percent
- Lack of knowledge on running a business or lack of managerial experience: 30 percent
- Lack of experiences in the area you’re working in: 11 percent
You need a business plan for several reasons. The first, is to avoid the main causes of failure but the second is to cover every angle of your business. It’s easier to see shortcomings and areas where you need more expertise. Finally, a business plan can help you secure financing as well.
According to a Wells Fargo poll, 77% of businesses are financed by the owner or founder of the company. But if that’s not something you can do on your own you can look to angel investors or small business loans. The former can feel a lot like trying to get discovered in Hollywood. But there are incubators and investor groups and conferences that can help put you in touch with people looking for investments. There’s also your local chamber for networking and your chamber staff who are plugged into the community and can tell you who’s looking for what.
4. A Social Media Presence
This is one of the least expensive ways you can build your new business and it’s something you can do even if your physical space isn’t ready. Get plugged into your target market. Be out there listening. Answer questions in a helpful, not sales-y way. Look for contests and campaigns you can do on social media to build your audience. A local book store I know offers flash sales to its social media followers.
5. An Email List
Begin immediately collecting names for your email list. If you have a brick and mortar location, you can create a sign-up list at check-out. If not, give something of value away on your website in exchange for an email. Create a newsletter or offer exclusive discounts to those on your email list. Make it worth their while to sign-up and you’ll have a group of people you can consistently market to.
Some people won’t understand what you are doing. They won’t get the demanding work and dedication it takes to make your business a success. They won’t understand why you’re working around the clock and neglecting their social invitations. So, make sure you surround yourself with some people who do understand.
You want to find a group of like-minded entrepreneurial spirits. You can do this on LinkedIn and Facebook groups but don’t discount the power of a chamber membership. The chamber has top-notch networking events but can also help support your business needs. They often have free or low-cost seminars for members that can help you learn the basic skills you need to grow your business. And when it comes to introductions, few organizations have the well-respected links to the community that the chamber does.
Starting a business can be a grueling undertaking. Just like in carpentry, if you have the right tools the job can be infinitely easier. Before starting your business, ensure you take these extra steps. Doing so early on can help pave the way for business success.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.
She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.