So You Want to Start Your Own Business?
Historically, rates of female entrepreneurship have always lagged behind those of men. As society develops, a long overdue mindset of openness has gained popularity. In turn, there has been a dramatic increase in women’s entrepreneurship in the last few years.
In the United States, not only do women own 11.3 million businesses, it is estimated that 36 percent of all businesses are owned by women, an increase of 6 percent from 2007. Many women are choosing entrepreneurship as a way to build a work environment that moves away from the old boys club. Even though there is a lot of work to be done to even the playing field for both women and men, entrepreneurship is a great start to this end. Here we discuss how women can effectively start a business and succeed as entrepreneurs. Are you ready to start your own business?
Step 1: Determine Your Business Idea
What Can You Offer?
The first step is to think about what skills, products or services you have to offer. Based on this, you can identify a business idea, that will be the main focus of your business venture. In order for any business to succeed, it must fill a gap in the market. What this means is that your business idea must solve a current problem or fulfil a need. There are many ways to go about determining these gaps in the market — market research, focus groups, using big data analyses and simply trial and error can provide very valuable insight.
Once you have settled on a viable business idea, you might find that you need to develop certain skills to ensure your idea comes to fruition. Perhaps going to trade school, taking up a certificate course, or even spending some time honing necessary skills through free online programs would be beneficial. Before starting a business, you must familiarize yourself with the nuances of management, including everything from knowing about manufacturing processes, legal procedures, sales and marketing techniques, and financial management.
Who is Your Target Demographic?
Knowing your audience is the first step to knowing how to best tailor your business idea. For example, your entire business plan and subsequent channels of distribution would change depending on whether your target audience shops online or prefers an in-store experience. Once you have identified your target demographic, you can start gathering information using traditional market research, big data analyses, or sending out surveys with incentives. Social media is another great way to find information about your audience.
Your methods for gathering information will depend upon your business idea and what you plan to achieve. Some general questions to ask about a buyer include: what type of company they work for and their role in the company, their age, their educational background, their family status, career goals they might have, challenges they face, their everyday hobbies, and many more.
Step 2: Plan Your Funding
Funding is often one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when you are starting a business — but with the right planning and resources, it doesn’t have to be. In a previous article about funding a startup, I drew upon the example of Vicki Mayo, co-founder of TouchPoint Solution, a wearable technology that reduces stress response. Mayo’s journey started with finding a co-founder with similar values and complementary skills at Project Entrepreneur. Even with a co-founder, Mayo found that having a large network of support was beneficial as an entrepreneur. She gained this and more through Project Entrepreneur. Even though Mayo went to the summit with a particular goal of learning about rebranding, she returned with much more knowledge and a large network. Mayo’s example teaches us that more often than not, entrepreneurship as a whole is always better together.
In a similar vein, rather than tackling finances and funding alone, turning to the crowd is a viable and effective alternative. With the internet connecting people from all over the world, the entire globe can literally become fair game to target for the funding of your business. Crowdfunding is especially beneficial for women entrepreneurs. In fact, studies at UAB show that “Companies with a female executive are worth 64 percent more at first funding and 49 percent more at last funding than their all-male counterparts.” Other ways to fund your business include asking for money from able family members, relatives and friends, or taking a bank loan. A bank loan requires a lot of prior preparation, and a substantial amount of paperwork, so its best to consult with someone who understands the nuances of finance before taking one.
Step 3: Execution
The most hands-on part of starting a business is putting your plan into action.
To begin with, figure out where your business location will be. Will you be working from home, from a shared or private space, or a retail location? Whatever the case may be, you will first need to set up your office. Your location should be based on your business idea and target audience, and subsequently the equipment and supplies you need will depend upon the location you choose.
Secondly, if you intend to hire employees, it is a good idea to do so before your business launches – both operationally and legally. You will want to write job descriptions and detail responsibilities for positions that are open and spread the word that you are hiring. Alternatively, you could outsource your work — but be sure to have the right paperwork in place to do so. Even if you are a one-woman show, you will need some help while starting out. Be it a mentor, business advisor, or even friends with experience, make sure you have your informal team set up and ready to go.
You’ll want to have a basic marketing strategy in place to promote your business before it launches. The initial stages of a business comprise of many constantly changing parts, and you’ll need to be flexible enough to keep up with the dynamism a new business brings. Obviously, your promotion strategy will need to be tailored in accordance with your progress and findings, but a loosely defined strategy is necessary to get the ball rolling in terms of marketing. There is no lack of marketing ideas for startups, and as you launch your business, you will be able to determine what the most effective way of promoting it is.
Should you start your own business?
Even though starting your own business is no easy feat, being an entrepreneur is extremely rewarding. Remember that succeeding takes time; so be willing to put in the time and effort to see your dreams turn into reality.