Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: Monday morning comes around and all you can think as you sit in rush hour is that you can’t wait until Friday. You trudge through the office like a dispirited zombie, eat at your desk, and spend most of your days dreaming of that two-week vacation you get every year.
If your life is getting to be a little too much like Peter’s in Office Space, then maybe it’s time to get moving on that dream business you’ve been holding onto in the back of your mind. You know, the idea that makes you feel like you do when Coach goes on sale? Yeah, that one.
Whether it’s a woman’s boutique or an ice cream shop, creating your dream business is easier than ever. If you do it right then it won’t take long for you to quit your lousy day job and jump into your dream life full-time.
That’s exactly what Lisa Raehsler did. She owns an upscale dog boutique, SniffyMcGees.com, and offers funky, unique accessories for the well-dressed canine. It was her dream business, and she finally took the leap after getting sick of working in corporate America.
“Usually when you’re dreaming about going off on your own, you’ve been comfortable for some time,” Lisa says. “That was my situation, and my inspiration. Lacking challenge and control of my own destiny made me think I could do better. I took a look at my life and where I wanted to be, and then started SniffyMcGees.com. You have to be prepared and fearless to start your own business, but you can do it!”
Prepared and fearless is right, so let’s start with prepared. The Small Business Administration estimates that 50% of all startups fail within the first year, and 80% fail within the first five. Why? The biggest reason is lack of preparedness and planning.
Think about it: we plan almost everything in our lives. Getting married, having kids, buying a house. Seems a little crazy not to plan your business, but most people don’t. If you want to increase your chances of success, then you need to be prepared. This means writing a business plan.
Although the words “business plan” strike fear in the hearts of many, it doesn’t have to be the boring, dry document most people equate it to be. Think of your business plan like a roadmap; it’s there to help you get where you want to go.
The new trend in business planning makes it even easier to write one up. They’re called “heart-centered” plans, and they revolve around your dreams and aspirations, not a bottom line.
Here’s an example- in a traditional business plan you need to write down your business goals. One might be, “I want to make six-figures so I can retire.” Ok, great. That statement could come out of anyone’s mouth and be true.
Under a heart-centered plan, however, it gets much more personal. Your goal might sound like this, “I want to make six-figures working from home so I can be there when my kids are done with school, and I want to have a summer home in the Bahamas.”
Wow, see the difference? If you focus your business plan on your feelings and desires, then your plan becomes a living, breathing document, not just something that’s going to gather dust on a shelf. It’s a simple concept with big implications.
Another step you need to take is to do some market research. Look at what you want to do, who your competitors will be, and if there is enough of a population (in the correct income bracket) for what you’re going to offer. This simple step can help you avoid a very costly mistake later on down the road.
It’s also smart to start thinking of how you’d market your business. Your marketing strategy will be an integral part of your business plan, and it’s something that will make or break your business when you get it started.
Debbie LaChusa, marketing expert and owner of consulting firm 10StepMarketing.com, says that most new business owners focus on the wrong things when it comes to their marketing.
“Usually what I see is marketing that talks all about the business,” Debbie says. “It could be the products and services, or the business owner and all of their credentials. Well guess what? People don’t care about any of this. They care about their problem or need, and how you can solve it for them. Therefore your marketing needs to be about them, and how you can solve their problem or fill their need or desire.”
Now, you’ve done your planning, completed your research, and thought of a killer marketing strategy. Excellent.
The next question is how do you, uh, pay for it?
This can be the hardest aspect of starting a business. It’s vital that you realize that the classic line, “If you build it, they will come” isn’t always true. Most experts advise having enough living expenses to cover your needs for one year. That’s how long you might have to go without a paycheck.
If you don’t want to do that, then use your business plan to go get a small business loan. Many banks actually have loans specifically for women wanting to open a small business. Instead of taking into account your assets only, these look at your character, reliability, and experience as well.
There are also plenty of grants to be had for the taking. Visit the Small Business Administration’s website at www.sba.gov. They’ve got an incredible array of links to grants that small business owners can apply for.
Although starting a business is not for the faint of heart, it’s important that you spend time preparing before you jump in all the way.
It’s also important to realize that this is not always going to be a cakewalk. You must be fearless to do this. For those days where your fearlessness is on the lean side, remember this: there was a time when women couldn’t vote. There was a time where women couldn’t own property or drive a car, much less own a business and be successful. Think, and feel grateful to all those women who have come before to make this possible for you. You’re standing on their shoulders. You can do this!