Mompreneur Advice – How to Get Started With a Business Idea

So, you’re thinking about starting a new business? Whether it’s to find a job that balances your work and family life or to create the next big idea- knowing where to start can be tough.

Once you’ve decided that you want to start a business the hard part is deciding what the business will be. There are literally thousands of business ideas out there. One of the most important parts of your decision will be to really think about what your goals and your core values are.

What kind of lifestyle do you want?

How much time are you able/willing to devote to it?

Do you have measures in place to help you with child care?

What hours do you want to work (9-5 or any time of the day or night)?

Are you willing to give up your weekends or holidays to devote to the business?

You are going to be spending a lot of time with your new business so you will want to make sure it is something you feel passionately about.

When I started One Tiny Suitcase it was based on a successful business model and service I had personally used while travelling. Baby Equipment Rental companies were quite common in the United States and I could see how it would be a good fit for a stay at home parent. When I got home from our vacation, I couldn’t shake the idea that this type of business was something that Calgary needed.

That’s one way to generate ideas for the type of business you want to start, by modelling it after what is working in another geographical location. But, there are lots of ways to start generating ideas:

- Improve on something that is currently on the market- There’s got to be a better way

- Follow an emerging trend ex: Eco-friendly

- Inspiration or frustration from your day to day tasks

- Using a skill you have developed or a passion of yours ex: photography

Once you have your “big idea” it’s time to do some research to see if it is viable.

Don’t be afraid to talk to “people in the know”. Have a great idea for a new baby bib design? Stop by some specialty boutiques and ask them what customers are asking for or what they would like to see. If they are already serving your potential customers they will be a great source of information.

I started asking local magazines, consignment stores and travel agents if they ever got requests for baby equipment rentals. The feedback I got was so valuable. Their answers encouraged me to keep going!

It can be hard to talk about your idea before you are up and running for fear that someone will start a similar business before you get going. Just remember, starting a business is hard work and anyone else who likes your idea would have to do just as much leg work to get it going.

Sharing your idea with friends is a great way to get feedback. Not only will your friends be a great source of support, they will be honest too. The day I told a friend about the business I was thinking of starting was nerve-wracking. I hadn’t really told my friends about my idea yet and wondered what her response would be. I said, “You know that baby equipment rental company I told you about in Hawaii? What if I started something like that in Calgary?” It was great to get her honest feedback about my idea.

Talking to other successful Entrepreneurs can be a good idea too. Don’t know anyone personally who has started a business? Do some research.

I always refer back to the story of the Entrepreneur behind the famous footwear brand ROBEEZ. Sandra Wilson was downsized out of her airline job and was looking for a business that would allow her more time to spend with her young son. She started ROBEEZ out of her basement and sold it years later for millions. Although her story might not be typical of many entrepreneurial ventures it provides some great inspiration.

Internet research is an essential part of the business planning process. You may be frustrated to find someone is already making your ‘big idea’ or that the demographic of where you live isn’t suitable for your product. You may also find that there is a gap in a market that you could fill. Using the internet, I was able to find examples of other similar businesses that proved my idea could work.

You can visit virtual stores all over the world, get statistics instantly, research trends and hot topics on news sites. Look at what is working (or appears to be working) elsewhere and see how you can tailor that to work in your area. When you are developing your business idea, the more research you can do up front, the better your odds are for success.

If, after doing some research you find evidence that may not support your business idea, you have to be willing to let it go and move on to the next idea. Getting stuck on an idea that isn’t supported by good information may mean that you waste a lot of time and potentially money.

When I started out somebody once said to me:

“You don’t necessarily want to be in a business that has NO competitors”

If no one else is doing what you want to do, make sure you ask yourself- why not? There might be good reasons why it hasn’t worked in the past. Or- maybe you will be able to tweak the idea and make it work. Analyzing your competition is part of the process.

It’s not the fun part but, you will have to take a look at your finances. Do you have some money saved up to get your business off the ground or will you need financing? If you plan to get external financing, you will usually be expected to contribute some of your personal money as well. This is a good time to ask yourself how much you are willing to risk. The rewards of entrepreneurship are great but so are the risks.

Having a supportive partner is crucial at this point. If your family relies on your income or if you will be starting your business with money from a ‘joint’ savings account, your partner will have to be on board with the level of risk too.

When I started my business, I chose my business in part because it did not require external financial assistance. Part of my ‘business idea’ was being able to run the business while still being at home with my kids. If I had to get a traditional bank loan that would have added even more pressure to an already ambitious venture. My husband and I agreed that I would withdraw $5000 from our personal line of credit to finance my start up.

Once you have an idea and you’ve done some research go back to the beginning and ask yourself what your goals are. Extra money? A challenge? An empire?

I’ve been lucky. I started my business to support my decision to stay at home with my twins. When they were young and the business was starting off slowly it was a good fit. Answering emails during naptimes and delivering orders in the evening worked. As my business grew, so did my children. Now I answer emails on my blackberry when we go to the park and deliver orders while they are in preschool.

Your overall goals will help you narrow down a business idea that works well for your lifestyle. The business will grow and you will have to make adjustments along the way. Start with a plan for the first year of two to get yourself started.

I have one very ambitious friend and fellow entrepreneur who says, “Too many people plan for what to do if their business fails but never plan for the possibility that it totally takes off and is a raging success.” She is a constant reminder of not only planning for set backs but also planning for success! Are you ready?

Secrets to a Low Risk and Profitable Small Business

If you have even considered starting and running your own small business – then you are not alone. For long-term financial growth and a stable and secure future, running your own business is a must. And, it’s the American way.

Since most of us aren’t wealthy – or don’t have even a few thousand dollars burning a hole in our pockets, then the traditional small business start up may just be simply out of reach for the vast majority of us. In a way that you may not have considered – this may be a good thing!

No matter the actual amount of a traditional businesses start up – whether it be $20,000 or $100,000 (or more), this is an amount of money that most of us have never seen in our lifetimes – and most likely never will, especially if we keep working for others.

The way out is to definitely be your own boss and make your own way through life. And never be dependent upon any one person for your livelihood ever again.

These are driving reasons why we want our own businesses. Financial rewards and independence top the reasons why Americans traditionally have started their own businesses – for going on 250 years now. The old days of working for one company your entire working lifetime and then drawing a nice, fat pension for the rest of your life is a thing of the past. You need to be in business for yourself. But, what can you do if you can’t cough up the excessive start-up costs dictated by the traditional business models?should abandon the idea of owning your own business and go on settling for a 9 to 5 salary for the rest of your life?

For me, the answer in a big fat NO. And, I figure that, for a large percentage of the population in the U.S., the answer is NO as well. I’m here to tell you that you can start a business on a shoestring – and a successful one at that! You really can go where your dreams will take you. That is, if you dare to dream!

I’ve found for myself that a person can truly start their own business for well under $300 – and be successful, at that! Where can this be done, you ask? Simple – by way of a modern miracle called the internet! It is a very real possibility that most anyone can start a small online business that’s profitable and, dare I say, fun to run?

Is it all fun and games? Is there no risk at all? Do you have to put forth any effort at all? You will have to work for your rewards, it won’t be all fun and games, and there is some risk involved – as is with all things in life worth anything. Here are some great reasons why you really should consider (seriously) starting your own online business – as soon as possible, in my humble opinion (IMHO)!

No Buildings

No need for a physical location, or a store front. No buildings, storefronts or warehouses are required for your online business. If you sell a physical product, then you can have it drop-shipped from the supplier. All you need is a small space for your computer, an internet connection – and a comfy chair!

No Employees

As you start your own small business on the internet, and for months and years down the line, there is really no need for employees. You may possibly need some help now and again, but you hire contractors for that work. You learn to become highly efficient at what you do – no need for employees!

Expenses Minimized

Since you don’t need buildings or employees or inventory then your expenses are incredibly small from the start. Really – I have a desk and a chair and my computer. That’s it!

The World Is Your Market

Unlike a traditional small business, you can do business with the world right from your kitchen table – literally made possible by the internet! You potentially have billions of customers that really want to see what you’re selling. This can happen with a business on the internet – not in your neighborhood.

Although, like in any part of life that involves business and large sums of money, there are liars and scams. But, if you hear of people making six figures with their internet businesses, there is plenty of evidence to back this up. Those who are legitimate run high-class businesses, and work hard at maintaining a good reputation. I know I do.

Even though starting and running your own small business on the internet is cheap to start and the earnings unlimited, it’s still work. You must be dedicated and put in the time required to be successful, as you do have competition. But, history (and facts) are on your side. You can definitely make a go if it with your own small business – many thousands have gone before you. And with some hard work, and a little luck, you too can be a successful small business owner!

However, it is a fact that anyone, absolutely anyone can do it because it is a lot easier than any of the traditional small business models and you need very little money to start, which means you will be risking almost nothing but some of your time and effort.

Small Business Financing Options – Know What to Expect!

So you have made the decision to start a small business franchise or home based business… now, how do you pay for it? As any rational individual understands, albeit contrary to what many internet “opportunities” would have you believe, any legitimate business requires capital: either cash or credit. As recently as a few years ago, obtaining funding to cover business start-up and operating costs was as simple as going to your local bank and getting a loan. However, due to the current economic conditions most individuals and small businesses are not able to qualify for large loans due to more stringent lending guidelines – banks just are not lending money like they used to. As a result, many would-be entrepreneurs are finding they must forgo their small business plans, put them on hold or become very creative at finding alternate means of financing. This article will provide a cursory overview of some basic methods business owners have used in order to fund their enterprises.

Depending on the small business plans you have in mind, you will most likely need some type of start-up capital along with your ongoing operating budget. Even small franchise opportunities are beyond the financial means for most individuals without assistance. Too little funding will virtually ensure either the immediate failure of your business, or will lead to you going out of business in a short time due to a lack of required operating income. Unless you are one of the fortunate ones in a position to have all of the needed investment capital liquid, meaning you have immediate access to the money, you will have to borrow money, either from people you know or from outside sources. Even if you are cash rich and have ready access to the required funding, it may still make fiscal sense for you to borrow, if possible. For the sake of this brief article I will separate the funding sources into personal and outside sources. I am writing this under the assumption that you already have or will have an approximate estimation of the nature of your desired business and how much capital you will require to realize your vision. Also, it goes without saying this article is not meant to provide in-depth financial advice. This is solely my opinion and I would strongly encourage you to make any financial or business decisions only after doing thorough due diligence.

In order to finance your business plan you may be able to raise the money personally or borrow money from people you know. This will probably be a more viable option if you do not need a large amount of money. On average, small business franchises usually require $10,000 – $30,000 to start, while you can start some small franchise opportunities and home businesses with as little as $2,000 or even less. Fast food franchises normally start around $100,000 or much more. You will almost certainly – unless you are in an extremely dire financial situation – be required to invest some of your own money in order to obtain additional financing. Individuals will probably be unlikely to invest in your business if you have not shown the same commitment. Even if you don’t have the money readily available in the most obvious places such as a savings or checking account, entrepreneurs frequently use available credit in the form of credit cards, money in retirement accounts including 401K savings or borrow against your 401K or house with a home equity loan or line of credit. If you are planning to approach family, friends or business partners to borrow, or are looking for a loan from outside sources, you should plan on preparing a business plan.

If you are unfamiliar with what goes into creating a business plan, you may find sufficient guidance online or from your local library. Any commercial lending institution (e.g. your local bank) and even family or friends will most likely require a formal written business plan. A business plan essentially details the nature of your business, including a strategy, risk level, expectations of profit, an overview of how you will operate your business and more. An informal plan may suffice if you just need a small loan from a friend, but plan on having a detailed and comprehensive plan if requesting a sizeable loan from a lending institution. Bankers will expect you to fully explain what the money will be used for: why you require the requested amount, when you can reasonably expect to repay the loan, etc. Do your homework ahead of time and be prepared!

You may need to seek professional guidance in this area especially if your plan is unusual or excessively complex, but otherwise you may be able to get by with a pre-formatted business plan template or even follow an existing business plan from another company. If you are looking to start a small business franchise you can likely use borrowing guidelines provided from the company. One of the benefits of franchise-type businesses is they give you a “cookie cutter” type format for what has proven to work for others, especially in regard to investment amounts. Regardless of the nature of your business though, lenders will take into account numerous factors when considering your plan. Request sufficient financing to allow you to operate your business as you have budgeted, but not an excessive amount or your application may be denied.

The author hoped to provide some insight and suggestions as you seek to fund your new business. This will hopefully provide some direction as you continue to do your homework on making your business ownership dreams a reality. From a personal standpoint you should look to use some combination of liquid funds, credit cards, retirement savings or possibly a home equity loan. If you need additional financing, consider approaching family, friends, business partners or commercial lending institutions. Regardless of where you plan to obtain the funding, plan to prepare a thorough business plan. As mentioned above, if you are starting a small business franchise you may be given investing guidelines to follow. No matter what type of business, however, prepare to provide potential lenders with a clear and complete picture of your business strategy, risk and repayment timeframe.