I am often asked about advice on starting your own business. While I could talk for hours about the lessons I have learned, I will try to sum it up with the most important things to think about before you get started. When people ask, "how did you know how to open a store?" the simple answer is, I didn't. We figured it out as we went along!
Our business started in our basement as on online store and quite honestly has grown into a business that I am not sure I even could have imagined. It has been quite a ride and for all the success that we have been blessed with, we have surely made mistakes along the way. But you know what they say, most mistakes are just lessons learned.
-You need to start with a business plan. Jot down all the things you will need for your business, down to the pens and paper. You need to take a hard look at the cost that will be involved to get started to be sure you are able to make that investment. Likely there will be other expenses that you haven't thought of, so I would budget extra for the things you can't anticipate. If you are opening a store, you will want to add up your expenses to see how much you will have to make each day to pay the bills and decide if you think that is possible.
-What is your competitive edge? This is my husband's favorite question and a great one that you really need to think about. Likely you aren't the only business in your field, so you have to ask yourself what will make your business stand out amongst the competition. We opened our store because I had said for years that someone needed to open a boutique on our side of town. There were no boutiques on our side of town and that became our competitive edge.
-What will you name your business? When it comes to names, you need to check the social platforms you want to use and make sure that no one already has that name. You will want to make sure you can have the same name on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc. We chose the name Sugar Love because we wanted something unusual and I called my kids sugar and love when they were little.
-Be prepared to work more than you ever have. They say that entrepreneurs are the only people who are willing to work 80 hours to avoid working the 40-hour work week. This is so true and anyone who has opened a business would tell you that nothing good comes easy. If I am being honest, there are many times I wanted to quit. Most new businesses fail in the first three years and it it is because it is hard especially in the beginning. It takes a lot of time for a business to take off and grow and most successful business owners keep investing what they make back into their business. I don't say this to scare you from doing it, but to really take a hard look to see if you are tenacious and have what it takes to stay the course. Also, to be honest that if you want to grow your business, you have to know that you will likely not be taking money out of your business if you want it to grow in the first couple of years.
-You need to decide how you will promote your business? A good marketing plan is key to being successful. When you figure out your competitive edge, you need to think about how you will market to this audience. Now with social media, there are lots of great options that you can start with for free. I spend a good portion of every day on social media. This can also be a little bit daunting as you need to be adding to all of your platforms every day. Content is key. You need to make sure that you aren't just trying to sell something with every post, but rather adding content that your followers would enjoy. It is also very important to answer questions and comments and engage with your followers.
-There are so many great resources online! So much free information out there! I recently got on the podcast train and have learned so much. You need to constantly be learning more about marketing and business!
Some of my favorite people to follow:
-Lastly, get out of your office and meet people! Talk to other business owners, attend conferences in your field, meet with other entrepreneurs! I have learned so much from chatting with people at market, on airplanes and at conferences. There is always more to learn!
Most of all...good luck! There is nothing better than following your dreams!