Start Up

Help! I Have An Idea For A Business. How The Hell Do I Get Started?

Thinking up a brilliant idea and putting it into action are two very different things. Here’s what you'll need to make your idea for a business a reality:

Thinking up a brilliant idea and putting it into action are two very different things. One takes little effort and the other takes some elbow grease. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t impossible!

Take a deep breath. Here’s what you need to know to turn your idea for a business into a reality:

Get your resources together.

First things first. What is your business idea? What industry is it in? What are those current industry trends? Do your research. Find out what it takes to get your idea rolling (costs, supplies/materials and local, regional and national trends).

After you’ve conducted some hefty research. Find people familiar with your business and talk to them. For example if you want to open a killer boutique – talk to people who have a shop in the area you’re eyeing. What’s foot traffic like on certain days? What types of residents live and professionals work around here? Rent costs? Utilities? What type of cash register systems are they using? You get the idea.

Then you want to chat with people who own boutiques to find out their hits and misses. Talk to manufacturers who supply clothes. People who work in sales. Those with window display experience. You want to get an idea of what works, what doesn’t and what you’ll be up against.

Places to visit:

  • Your local SCORE chapter. They provide help with business plan writing, free advisors and loan information.
  • Your local startup/entrepreneur groups and communities for networking and training.
  • Network with women-specific groups that can offer additional, focused help for women in business like you.
  • Join a mentoring program for women in business.
  • Check with colleges and universities. Many of them offer free business clinics and classes.
  • Schedule conversations with accredited companies who give small loans to startups so that you can create a checklist of what you’ll need to have if you consider seeking funding down the line. There are a variety of programs that work with first-time business owners and those with not so great credit. There are also a zillion articles online, including here at Lioness, that talk about what you should keep in mind if you intend on pursuing venture capital.
  • Read your butt off. There is a ton of information out there for people just like you. In fact, you can get lost in opinions. Narrow down a few sources that you trust and invest time in studying what it takes to launch your particular business from start to finish. It is very important that you take and find advice from people who have already done what you are trying to do. Consuming advice from professionals in other industries is OK, but not the right strategy for getting concrete examples. (Yes, I know we like to think that what we are about to do has never been done … yada, yada, yada. It has, trust me. On one level or another, someone somewhere has been exactly where you are. Find them.)

Get your idea down on paper.

Writing your ideas down helps you find loopholes quickly. You’ll be able to decipher what you don’t know and what you do. Writing a business plan can easily be a deterrent when starting out. However, there are a few things that you need to get down just to see what’s viable: your mission, startup costs and your revenue model.

As you get those things down, you can go back and develop a marketing strategy, operations plan and more.

Don’t rush with coming up with a brand. Take some time to really think about it. What do you want the name of your business to convey? What colors go along with that? We often rush into this area without giving it much consideration. Branding is very important. I won’t go into it here, but feel free to delve into that topic with our free guide: How To Brand Your Startup.

Get a timeline together.

Decide what is possible and when. It’ll keep you on track and give you some structure. Entrepreneurs’ minds drift all over the place and focus is important if you plan on bringing this thing to fruition. Get a calendar and create some soft deadlines. For example, do a particular type of research for six to eight weeks. Check your calendar date off, then move on to the next.

Plan out visits to your resource sites and set deadlines for business planning. Depending on what your business is, test and launch dates will differ. Funding also plays a key role in getting your idea to market. Spend time evaluating your startup costs, how you will fund them and how long it will take you to do it. There are tons of funding options out there – from crowdfunding to small business loans. You can find a few suggestions in our Finding Funding section.

Execute.

Some people do all of the above and still never act on it. It’s usually fear of the unknown that holds us back. We can get everything in order, but it’s pointless unless you act on it. Here’s how to get going:

  • Do a trial, small version of your product or service. Get others to try it or use it and get their feedback while keeping track of successes and failures.
  • Find a few good friends who will show you some mercy and help you get started.
  • For the love of God keep your day job!! Don’t go out on your own until it’s time. We’re putting the finishing touches on a detailed guide to help you accomplish this in two years. In the meantime, read the highlights.
  • Don’t let setbacks derail you. You’re going to need to develop a tough skin (especially in the feedback area). Take in what others say, digest it and evaluate. If you need to cry, do it in your pillow at home.
  • Work on it a little every day. Don’t let long spans of time lapse. The longer you go without working on your passion project, the more likely you are to give up. One of the most important things when launching a startup is consistency.
  • Stay motivated. I don’t care if it’s daily affirmations, prayer, meditation, kissing an Oprah poster every day, YouTube motivational videos – you better find something that puts a fire under your ass. I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs get fired up and then burn out quickly. You need to stay inspired on the daily to pull something like a startup off.

What are some other startup decisions you need help with? You know the drill, hit us up in the comment section or email us and we’ll do our damnedest to get you the answer.

Until next time,

Unleash the Lioness Within!

Photo courtesy of Rikard Elofsson [FLICKR]

About the author

Natasha Zena

Around age eight Natasha Zena was told it was a woman’s job to take care of the home and since then she has built a career out of telling women they can do whatever the hell they want to do. She is the co-founder of Lioness, the go-to news source for everything female entrepreneur. Natasha was recognized as an emerging leader in digital media by The Poynter Institute and the National Association of Black Journalists. She has mentored women entrepreneurs and moderated panels at a number of national accelerators, Startup Weekends and conferences such as The Lean Startup Conference, the Massachusetts Conference for Women, Women Empower Expo and Smart Cities Connect. Natasha is also the author of the popular whitepaper, "How To Close The Gender Gap In Startup Land By 2021." In her spare time, she writes short fiction and hangs out with her son, Shaun.

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