In these two weeks we are discussing the special situations of any business. Chances are that your business falls into one of these circumstances. Today, we’re focusing on the upstart.
I started mmm… paper in a one bedroom apartment in Hollywood. My husband also worked from home so between the invite assembly zones in the living room and dining room and his skype calls with the UK, our little abode was insane. But it was fun and magical and I have awesome memories of my entrepreneurial onset. And, eventually it led me to being in business for 5 years with an awesome studio full of gorgeous drawers of paper. I feel very fortunate.
So now… onto you…
Congratulations! You have made the decision to start a business! Woohoo! That first step is sometimes the hardest. It takes courage. So, now what!? I’ll break this down into a three parts: Organizational, Strategic, and Inspirational.
Organizational Advice for the Upstart
You will need some “official stuff”:
- a business license
Check with your state and/or city’s requirements for business licensing. My tip is to google “(state name) business license”. Skip all the services that want to do it for you, and go straight to the state website and do it yourself. (You can do it yourself rather than paying a service to do it. It’s quite simple once you find the site.)
- a business bank account
Since you are starting out I recommend a free checking account. Shop around to see which banks offer this. (Wamu-now-Chase and Bank of America both offer free business banking as do many federal credit unions.) If your banking becomes complicated, you can change to a bank that has more options.
- a brand name
What is in a name? A LOT! Spend some time working on this. You may think that your name is original, but a little research may determine that there are 45 other photography businesses with your ideal name. You’ll also want to run your name off friends and family: Is it easy to say? Does it communicate what you do? Do you have to explain it to people?
- a logo and business cards
Once you have a name, get a logo in place. Paying for branding can be expensive when you don’t have any income from the venture, but it is vital to the success of your business. If you want something temporary until you can afford Crispin Porter, start small. Check Craigs List. There are numerous budding graphic artists who are trying to grow their businesses and you may find a talented one at a discounted rate. (There are also a large number of talented people right now who are underemployed and looking for “side jobs” on Craigs List.)
- a business email and url
If you thoroughly researched your name, you’ll see that no one has purchased the domain. Buy the domain (through godaddy or another domain service) and setup your email accounts.
Strategic Advice for the Upstart
You will need to strategize a bit…
- You will need a business plan
You may hear people say that they launched their business without a business plan and have been successful for the last 25 years of wedded business bliss. Here’s a note of caution: these businesses are NOT the norm. The norm paints a not-so-pretty picture of small business. Statistics (from Small Business Administration) show that two-thirds of new employer establishments survive at least two years, 44 percent survive at least four years, and 31 percent survive at least seven years. And, these same statistics show owners with a plan, have much more likely hood of succeeding. Write your business plan. Give yourself an edge over the others that will unfortunately fail in this industry. If you feel overwhelmed by it, it is OK. Start somewhere. Even if it’s just random bullet points with goals for the next year. It is a start. Revisit the plan every few months. Here is the Sage Wedding Points 13-point business plan.
- Where will your business be based?
You’ll need to determine where your business will be based. Most will start their businesses at home. But, if you are setting up shop and taking on a workspace or retail environment, make sure to research. This should be comparable to buying a home.
- How will your business be financed?
Your investment into your business may be small or large, but you will require some funds to get started. How will you finance your upstart? Here are some recommendations:
- Keep your dayjob until you can go out on your own 100% (we’ll discuss this in the next few days) and squirrel away some savings to invest
- Seek an investor. An investor can be a major player in the market or a small micro-lender (link) who is excited to help an entrepreneur. Write your business plan. They’ll want to know what your plans are.
- Talk to your family members. Ooooo… this one is the scariest to me, but if done right, it can be very helpful. If you have a family member that is passionate for your upstart dreams, they may be interested in helping you with your seed money. But, do it right: make sure it is all on paper and make sure it is an amount you can pay back. Virgin Money (one of Richard Branson’s babies) has a super-cool service to negotiate loans between loved ones.
- Take out a loan. It is hard to get financing from banks these days. But, if you have a business plan, you can still get financing. Credit Unions may have a bit more flexibility right now and you may be able to get a better interest rate.
- Should you use a personal credit card? My advice is not if you can finance the business otherwise. I think credit cards are purely evil and that starting a business on a personal credit card could be damaging in the long run. But, if you must (and god knows we’ve all had to do this in the start up of our business) set a reasonable “MAX” for how much you will allow on your personal credit card. If you think $3000 is enough to start out and feel confident you will be able to pay it back in less than a year, then maybe using a credit card is an option. But, watch out how much you lean on that credit card. You may end up financing much more than the start-up.
Inspirational Advice for the Upstart
- Learn from others
There are a number of AWESOME resources in the wedding industry. Learn from these experts. Many of them are detailed on the right of this blog. Check them out and learn from their awesomeness. Also, reach out to small businesses in your community. Some people will be hesitant to share proprietary details and you should be respectful of that. But, there are a lot of businesses that are happy to help a new one get off the ground.
- Find a mentor
A mentor can be sooooo helpful. If there is someone you trust and look up to, ask them if they will help guide you in the maze of entrepreneurship. If you don’t know anyone, SCORE (Counselors to America’s Small Busineses) offer a mentor matching service.
- Join a networking group
A networking group such as Business Networking International does not only provide you with a network of professionals that will help you sell your services, but also gives you a net of people that will support you and your endeavors. This can be like having a mentoring group.
- Start a support group
When I started my business, I just wanted to be around other people that were having the same trials and tribulations of starting a business. I started a little support group. We met every couple weeks to talk about our challenges and how we were going to make our dreams a reality. I loved it! When, I moved to Seattle, our group disbanded but those women continue to inspire me.
And… my biggest lesson is this… you are not alone! Every single business was an upstart at one point. Use your passion to fuel you and your determination keep you charged. Welcome to the club!