If you’ve always had an itch to start your own business, I can relate. I started my first business when I was 10. It was a shaved-ice stand that used watery kool-aid as it’s flavoring ‘syrup’. Needless to say, I never became the shaved ice mogul I had hoped to be.
The lesson I learned? Dust yourself off and try again. But what kind of mogul should we aspire to be? Finding that answer is not an easy journey. Here are a few steps to get you started:
1. Define your business
First things first (I’m the realest), you have to figure out what your business will be. THANK YOU Captain Obvious! Are you planning to sell a product or carry out a service? That’s up to you, but whatever it is make sure your passion is long and slow burning.
I lost a few pounds, I’ll own a gym! I loved baking, I’ll start a bakery! Both were fun interests that lacked longevity. Serious soul-searching is very important. David Kidder, author of The Startup Playbook, says “Know Thyself,” otherwise you’re wasting time and energy on something that isn’t innately you.
- Are you trying to solve a problem?
- Is there a special product you have?
- Is the industry something you’ll want to be a part of in 10 years?
2. Target your market
Now that you have a product the who are you going to target? Get specific! Answers will begin to sculpt your marketing strategy and keep your efforts efficient. Sometimes the product can give you obvious targets but be mindful of holes in the market. Adult milkshakes, anyone?
Once a pastime for the rugged outdoorsman, camping now offers a luxurious alternative: glamping. Now, the same ugly green outdoor lantern can be offered in shimmering glitter and target high income, city dwelling women. This new trend has created new marketing opportunities for all sorts of products.
- Who would most likely buy your product?
- Who currently isn’t targeted in your product industry?
- Could they use your product in a different way?
3. Differentiate your company
What makes it different from the competition? You may have already answered this when you explored your target market. The uniqueness can come through in all sorts of ways: design, process and even customer service.
The frozen yogurt craze came and went in the 80s as a great low-fat dessert alternative. So why the resurgence of 16 Handles? They changed the process. Self-serve style gave frozen yogurt a fun new twist (and a nice margin) on the nearly 30 year old industry.
- Who’s your competition?
- How can you do it better?
4. Simplify your product
Have you ever seen a puzzle that was so complicated that you just gave up? News Flash: potential customers will give up too. While some products are versatile, overcomplicating them can be fatal. Customers have too little time on their hands to spend timing figuring out what your product is. Make sure the message is simple and obvious.
Most restaurants strive to offer tons of menu items that can be overwhelming. Cheesecake Factory has 200 menu items. Chipotle has 5. 5! It’s simple, eliminates confusion AND cuts down on supply costs.
- Is the product too complicated to explain?
- Do your friends and family find the product straightforward?
5. Focus your efforts
So many possibilities, and so much potential! Exploring all of these options takes precious time and energy away from reaching your ultimate goal. Keep it simple and keep your eye on the prize. Don’t consider additional opportunities until your product is launched and stable.
Sarah Blakley, spent her life-savings and all her time researching and developing only one product: footless pantyhose. The product we now know as Spanx became so popular that it branched out into a line of very successful (and life-saving) undergarment solutions.
- Is your product worth investing your time in?
- Are you getting distracted with new possibilities?
6. Team up
We can’t do it all, and having someone you trust both as a friend and as a business partner is imperative. Heed this warning: Not all friends will make good business partners. Make sure your team has a similar work ethic and has a proper legal agreement before moving forward.
I started Hanabee Creative on my own and after a year of being in business, my long time friend and former co-worker joined me on my venture. I would be nowhere without my incredible partner Katie, who does all of our visual design.
- Can you handle all aspects of the business solo?
- Can you afford to outsource some aspects? (Finance, Marketing etc.)
All of this is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. If you managed to read the entire article and not fall asleep, you’re making progress! Fellow business owners, agree or disagree? Leave a comment below to share your tips!