STARTING YOUR OWN PRODUCT-DRIVEN SMALL BUSINESS
More and more, we hear, "Hey ladies, you've started a few successful small businesses. I have an idea or two. How can I do that?" In fact, I was recently asked to present to a merchandising class at Ursuline College about this very topic. Being a doodler, I doodled my lecture notes - and now, for your enjoyment, and maybe enrichment, I'll break it down below and make it available as a downloadable too - for the love of the hustle. If we can do it, so can you.
OKAY, SO YOU'VE GOT AN IDEA
Basically, there are four factors that will contribute to the formation and success of your idea. Money, Research, Skills and Implementation. They're not stand-alone; they'll likely have some shared elements, some crossover. However, if you neglect considering one or more of them, I'd say you'll be hard-pressed to make your idea a reality. Let's start with what should come first: RESEARCH.
Before you invest any time creating a prototype, purchasing equipment or materials, creating a website, seeking out skilled partners, etc., stop. Walk your idea over to the internet and search away. Is there anything out there like it? If so, how's it doing? Your idea might be totally original or you may find that the market is already saturated with it and it's better to head back to the drawing board. Maybe your idea is in response to something done poorly or it might be an improvement of an already decent idea that's out there already. Is there room for your version in the marketplace? Could you improve upon what's out there and/or how to get it in front of those who want it? If so, how? And most importantly, who are the people who'd get excited about your idea? Those people, they're your target market. Create a little sketch of who they are, what else they like, where they hang out, their age, their sex, what part of the world they're in and what you all have in common. This information is what will drive your marketing approach later on.
Before we talk about implementation, it's good to mention SKILLS. You'll see below, it takes a diverse set of skills to bring an idea to market. Of course your'e awesome but you can't do it all. So, identify what you do well, and then plan on finding free assistance (volunteers, friends, family), paid professionals, or share the business with one or more people that can contribute needed skills and share the workload- because there's going to be hella work to do.
So let's say you decide that your idea is super. Next, let's talk about MONEY. Rarely is a small business instantly lucrative. A certain amount needs to be invested in order for your idea become a real thing and get out there. Basically, if you have it, you can front the money out of your own pocket. If, like most of us, you don't have the extra dough laying about, you could:
IMPLEMENTATION. Yeah, this is the big one. It's all the things. I've tried to think of all the roles that come into creating a small business. I'm sure I've missed some, but it's a good start. Basically, you can be some of these things. Someone else needs to do the rest. Ask for help. Hire good people. Form relationships. Don't cut corners. These are all the things behind making your idea real. Do it right, damn it.
- Operations/Logistics - how will you handle returns, ordering, shipping, quality control, customer service, expansion
- Manufacturing - what equipment and supplies are needed, who makes it (you or a fabrication partner), where is it made, where do the materials come from, how is it made, expansion
- Legal - will you be an SCORP or an LLC, do you need to copyright, trademark or patent your brand, designs or product
- Accounting - EIN (tax identification number), business bank account, vendor's licence, city tax payment schedule, state and federal tax filing, deductions, state and county sales tax
- Design - brand identity, marketing materials, packaging, web, product, point of purchase
- Photography/videography - product, marketing, instructional
- Writing (voice) - blog, website, product descriptions, social media, correspondence
- Public Relations/Marketing - online, tv, print, market research, promotion
- Retail - online, brick & mortar, consignment/wholesale
That's it. We hope all this is a helpful summary. You can download the whole ridiculous doodle (8.5x14" printable) below. Just don't say you made it (that's not nice), give us props if you use it for anything (a link back, a footnote, a shout out, etc.) and get moving! Find your passion, find a need, and make it happen! Love, MoxieDori