10 Tips For Launching Your Dream Business
It began as a curious thought—a whisper of a notion. Now your business idea has blossomed into a full-blown concept that could propel you into a new adventure. Whether it’s opening your neighborhood’s first organic market, running an online T-shirt company, or selling crafts on Etsy.com, there’s a lot to consider before the big launch. Work from home or lease a space? Borrow from the bank or crowd fund through sites like Kickstarter.com? Don’t let these daunting questions hold you back from going pro. Consider these 10 pre-launch tips to ensure your small business starts out strong.
[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]
Keep Passion Primary
Passion is primary for success in life, and business. Your most powerful weapon as a small business owner is the passion you have for the product—landing a spot on “Hotel Impossible” or “Kitchen Nightmares” isn’t the end-goal here. Take a tip from entrepreneur Desh Deshpande, who explains how passion fueled his journey from an immigrant with $8 in his pocket to a billionaire in the technology field, in this quick animated video.
Ask For Help
This is the first time you’ve opened a business, and no one expects you to have all the answers. Don’t be afraid to utilize the wealth of free resources at your disposal: The U.S. Small Business Administration website is stocked with useful gems, from how-to tutorials on crowd funding to simple steps for choosing your type of business (LLC or sole proprietorship?). Or, meet up with a local mentor over a cup of coffee to discuss marketing tips using Score.org’s nationwide mentor program.
Know Your Customers
Just like your potential customers, you’re also a consumer. Use that qualification to your advantage. Visit local businesses with similar products and pinpoint what they’re missing: Maybe your local record shop has an anemic used vinyl selection, which is why everyone you know buys online. Check sites such as Yelp.com to see other customer’s critiques—these are actual market demands you can use to your advantage. This is conducting market research, and it isn’t always as complex as crunching numbers on the computer.
Go With The Flow
Entrepreneur Steve Blank once said “No business plan survives first contact with customers.” The takeaway? Be flexible. Your cupcake bakery’s business plan—the outline that describes the nuts and bolts of your operation—never predicted your store would struggle in sales while your food truck raked in the, ahem, dough. Be flexible. Shut down the store, buy a fleet of food trucks and take over your city’s appetite for cupcakes one block at a time. It’s important to create a business plan—like one explained in this video—as long as you treat it as a fluid business model, ready to adapt to changing trends.
Locate Your Home Base
Unless you’re venturing into the service industry, there’s a good chance you can forgo the traditional brick-and-mortar location, especially in your business’s infant years. According to recent U.S. Census Bureau numbers, almost 53 percent of small businesses operate from the owner’s home. Channel that saved money into operations: High-quality computers and software for your home design studio; a professional website and marketing materials for your start-up PR company; raw materials for your Etsy store—then target local brick-and-mortar vendors or co-ops to sell your products. If a time arises when you do need a professional office, you can always take advantage of innovative co-shared office spaces popping up across the country for entrepreneurs just like you.
Source Startup Funds
To ensure your venture will be around this time next year, you need a solid understanding of what it will take financially to launch and run your business in the short term—we’re talking about the importance of your business plan (hint: check out these documents). But where will that money come from? More startups are turning to crowd-funding sites such as Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com to meet their initial needs. If 1,000 people donate $20 to your future T-shirt design company—based on the cool samples you posted—that’s $20,000 without taking out a loan at the bank. Use your personal and business social media networks to spread the word.
Choose Your Structure
What makes a business a corporation? What is a limited liability company (LLC)? If you are screenprinting concert posters all alone from home, you’ll likely register as a sole proprietorship. Part of a co-op working in a shared space? That is a cooperative business structure. How your business operates, how many owners are involved, and whether you have investors will directly impact your business tax structure. Use this handy resource from SBA.gov to carefully examine the pros and cons of each designation before you register—this way you’ll avoid tax mishaps or unforeseen costs.
Watch Your Spending
Sure, your successful Kickstarter campaign brought in some nice startup cash, but ordering Thai food every night while you design new custom jewelry might not be the smartest business expense. When you run a small business from home, the line between work and personal expenses starts to blend. Stay diligent with your money. Use downloadable docs from SmartAboutMoney.org to keep track of your wants vs. needs, as well as longer-term expense tracking to help differentiate your personal and professional transactions.
Get The Word Out
Use your expertise as part of the social media generation to put your name on the map for free. Tweet pictures of your landscaping jobs on Twitter. Post your newest vintage vinyl arrivals on Facebook. Connect with local and national blogs focusing on your type of product, and don’t hesitate to send them samples of your latest prints, hair products, or barbecue sauces. An active social media presence sends a simple signal to the consumer: You are relevant, passionate, and have something special to offer. Use this comprehensive list of social media marketing ideas—such as the “10 Social Media Benchmark Statistics”—to get started.
Target New Growth Opportunities
Just as your fluid business model suggests, a small business owner is, at heart, an entrepreneur. Continuously ask yourself, “What’s next?” Embrace expansion. Consider adding a new line of condiments to your hot sauce brand. Hire another landscaping crew to cover more ground in the community. Network with members from the local chamber of commerce to build mutual partnerships. Most importantly, listen to your customers and evolve with them. Let the passion that helped launch your small business guide you to uncharted areas.