Originally Printed in Northern Ontario Business, July 2015.
I often meet people who are intrigued by the idea of starting their own business, but are intimidated by the fact that they have no experience or simply don’t know where to begin.
What I say to these people is, “Start slow, focus on your idea, and ask for help when you need it.”
In my last article (in Northern Ontario Business) I talked about all of the free resources available to entrepreneurs in Northern Ontario. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the programs, funding and business advisory services available in their communities.
The act of starting a business use to be inherently more risky than it is today. With the Internet and social media, today’s entrepreneurs have access to knowledge, tools and resources that never existed before.
Where market research may have once involved going to the library to look up company (competitor) information, or annual reports, or conducting a survey via mail or the telephone, today budding entrepreneurs can access incredible volumes of information, news and data as they research their ideas and potential markets from the comfort of their home or even on their mobile device.
Also available is access to customers, friends and colleagues who can provide feedback in real-time. Online survey tools such as Survey Monkey allow users to effortlessly capture both quantitative and qualitative data and valuable customer feedback – and the results are compiled into fancy graphs and charts for you.
Social media provides unprecedented access to millions of people, celebrities, friends, customers and even competitors. Social media offers a powerful platform for building brand awareness and crafting both creative and inexpensive marketing.
Through the Internet, one can launch a new business practically overnight. Online tools like Wix (www.wix.com) allow you to build a website, and even take online payments in a matter of hours.
For literally a few hundred dollars you can launch a new online business and test your business concept in the real world. No more spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to launch a new business that may fail in the end.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that entrepreneurs skip the whole research component of their business concept, or fail to crunch the numbers to see if their idea is feasible. But just as times have changed, full-blown business plans are also becoming less popular – in favour of faster, more valuable tools such as one-page business plans, or a business model canvas.
Today entrepreneurs are encouraged to launch quickly, get customer feedback and then refine their product or business model accordingly. Whether launching a new mobile app, a digital ebook or a physical product, today it is easier than ever to gain valuable feedback directly from customers, and use that feedback to make your product better before investing too heavily.
I recommend that you pick up a copy of The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, by Chris Guillebeau, if you’d like some inspiration about launching a new business for very little money. The author interviewed thousands of entrepreneurs who launched meaningful businesses for a very modest investment. The book is both insightful and inspirational, as these entrepreneurs launched successful businesses doing what they loved or are passionate about.
I can hear many of you saying to yourselves, “I would love to start a business, but I have a full-time job or I work multiple part-time jobs just to make ends meet.”
Starting a simple business now can be a stepping stone for later.
Get your feet wet with a low-cost, part time business. In my Amazon.com best-selling book, 25 Money-Making Businesses You Can Start in Your Spare Time, I share 25 business opportunities that you can start part-time, and in most cases with very little capital. These are businesses that can put you through school, provide extra income, or lead to bigger and better opportunities down the road.
Just a few examples include providing virtual assistant services, affiliate marketing, writing ebooks, offering tutoring services and even selling physical products on Amazon.com.
Most of the ideas in my book come from my own personal experience or that of my clients, colleagues and fellow entrepreneurs. I have met many individuals who started with a hobby or a passion and turned it into a full-time business – one that exceeded all of their expectations. In many cases they were able to leave their full-time jobs as the business grew.
To read up on even more business ideas you can use today, feel free to check out my book on www.amazon.ca or www.amazon.com, available in paperback and Kindle ebook.
If you’ve ever considered starting your own business, now is the time. Take the next step…get started today!