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So You Want to Start Your Own Business (Part 2) - "The How"

woman opening small business shop

Welcome back to the multi-post series about how to start your own business! Now that we've discussed "the why" for wanting to be an entrepreneur in the last post, it's time to move onto "the how." I chose to break this post into six important segments with the goal of getting you deep thinking about the legitimate next steps to getting an idea off the ground, while also understanding the challenges or limitations that may exist before taking the big leap. It always starts with...


So what is it that you believe in so badly that you're willing to put it all on the line and gamble your stability and future over? Sounds scary, but it's a real question. You need a good idea, first and foremost. And not every good idea will even make it to market. A lot of good ideas never see the light of day, or worse, get copied before an entrepreneur ever even gets the chance to really shoot their shot at all. If you know you want to work for yourself ultimately, but don't quite know what it is you want to do, an IKIGAI chart is a great way to get started. Once you have an idea, it's good to sleep on it, tweak it, and run it by the important people in your life to get some honest feedback to decide whether it's ready to move forward with.


These are wildly important questions to ask yourself next. If you can't answer them, don't go a step further. These responses should be clear, concise, and confident. You should be able to defend them to your best friend and your biggest critic. If you can't, it's best to regroup, go back a step, and consider if "the idea" could use some reworking.


The next step is doing the research and getting some hard data to work with. You won't be able to successfully roll anything out without being thorough on this aspect. Take a hard look at your industry and see what's going on, what competitors already exist (or if there are none, why exactly that may be), if there are any current trends, and figure out how you plan to carve out enough marketshare for yourself. From there, you'll need to learn what kinds of regulations exist where you want to be in business. There are tons of laws state-by-state regarding licensing, taxes, insurance, land use, zoning, and more. Make sure you understand what will be required of you in order to open up shop where you are (or plan to be), and begin the process of cost analysis to understand how you will fund your operation.


Some people need this in order to organize themselves properly for such a big step in life. Others (like myself) sometimes have more experience in a particular field that requires less of a "formality" in the planning process. Regardless, figure out which one you are and do what's best for you here. I will say this, I did not have a great grip on my early finances, looking back on it. It would've been beneficial for me to do some forecasting, more research into funding sources (I self-funded my whole operation, and though it was a big accomplishment, it came with a lot of stress that I'm not sure made that much sense in the long run), and speak to other local business and property owners about my plans before signing my first lease for a brick-and-mortar location. For example, I had no idea opening a music studio would come with so many challenges from neighbors and landlords. I fought an uphill battle for over a decade in three different locations that ended up requiring the help of lawyers, unexpected financial investment, and loss of business due to the parameters that were placed on my company to try and mitigate our sound emition. All that to say, do not assume other people will do your homework for you. Using the same example, I never understood why anyone would offer me a lease in the first place to conduct a business that they would ultimately not allow/support. But at the end of the day, they just pointed to ambiguous wording in the 20+ page document I signed, locking me in for several years, and leaving me with the financial burden of the entire lease (a.k.a. I owed rent money for the full duration of the term I signed for, regardless of their harassment or hampering the nature of my business). It's not a great situation to be in, and could've been much more easily avoided had I known more before diving in head first. So if you're like me, it's wise to pump the brakes a hair and make sure you know everything there is to know before putting all your eggs in one basket. But this is also not an excuse for you procrastinators out there who subconsciously find endless reasons not to get started. There is a risk with everything we do. But a proper and honest evaluation of that risk is what's most important.


This is the part of "the how" that I see most often overlooked. People think because "they know good food" that that qualifies them to open a restaurant. Holy crap, NO! Whatever it is you think you want to do, work in it first! Seriously, get a job doing exactly what it is that you think you want to start. And then get another parallel job in the field. And then another. Can't find practice work? Then work for free. It's that simple. (And it's exactly what I did for many years before starting my companies.) Here are a few examples:

  • If you want to become a photographer, start by offering to take photos of friends and family for free. Get some practice learning the highs and lows of this business without all the risk involved. Then if you want to proceed, you'll have something to start your portfolio and website with, with some legitimate reviews/referrals to go along with it!

  • If you want to open a food truck, try your hand at as many of the elements of restaurant work as you can first. Not only will this give you invaluable experience and allow you to step in in a pinch, but it will give you a thorough understanding of every role in your company and how they all work together most efficiently.

  • If you want to start interior designing homes, offer your services for free online and see who bites. You'll be surprised at how many people will take a chance on you. From there, you can start offering free consultations to gain some momentum until you've built up your client base from freelance, to part-time, to full-time, to maybe even having trained team members under you to help further build your company!

You get the idea. Do all the market testing before you spend the time and money legitimizing a company that may not have what it takes to be profitable the way it was set up.


Once all of the prior steps have been taken, then you've got a decision to make. The most important takeaway I can give you today is this: it's okay to start over. Seriously. You've got to know "when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em," as they say. A lot of people let their egos blurry their view of the real picture that's in front of them. Sometimes it seemed you had the best idea ever, and sometimes you need to admit that it was a loser. It's okay. There's no shame in that. It's actually something quite admirable. Knowing when to quit is the best thing you can do for yourself (and your family, if you've got one). Throwing good money at bad money will never allow you to win in life or in business. If you feel after all the aforementioned steps that you may not have a winner on your hands, then it's time to pivot. Most of what you learned is not lost, and often will be very relevant toward helping advance your next (much better!) idea. Or, if you've done the work and made the tweaks along the way and feel like this is the one, then it's time to prepare for launch!

Many of the "not so fun" aspects of business are what's up next. All the formalities involving legal, finance, accounting, real estate, contracts, government regulations, insurance, licensing, and more will come into play before anyone gets to see the fun and creative parts of what you have planned. But fret not, friends! I'll cover all this in Part 3 of this business series, coming soon!


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