This isn't what you might expect. Most articles on the subject of starting a business are about how you first need to get your business license, that you immediately need to take out a loan, or that you probably can't do it at all because...what do you know?
This article is different. I am only 20 years old, and I have recently taken the leap into business ownership as a wedding and event planner. I don't even have a college degree; I haven't taken out any loans or involved any investors. Clearly, I'm not here to say what dozens of other articles showing up on your google results have already said.
In my opinion, starting a business is more than coming up with a clever name, putting up a website and waiting for customers to knock down your door. It's also much more than investing tens of thousands of dollars in professional advertising and patenting your idea. Starting a business is an emotional experience--one that I feel is vastly overlooked by most of the other articles on business out there. For your business to succeed, I believe it is necessary for you to do the following five things.
1. Believe in your idea.
Confession time: when I was first toying with the idea of starting my own business, I was plagued with doubt. It was not myself, but my boyfriend, who originally built me up and made me believe in my idea. For a long time, I'd been making career choices that made financial sense, but didn't make me happy. I kept saying things like, "Well, I probably should keep my job at xyz..." but my boyfriend stopped me and asked (repeatedly), "What do you WANT to do?" ...Not what makes the most financial sense. Not what everyone expects. Not necessarily what is safe.
It's a very good question, one worth repeating. What do you want to do?
Here's another good question, one that I literally found after I googled "Should I keep my job or start my own business?", which--in the end--convinced me to take the plunge. In ten years, what will you regret more: not starting your business, or starting it?
I, for one, would regret not starting it...because I would be left to wonder what would have happened. Maybe I would've been successful. Maybe I would've become a much better person. It made me realize that the worst that could happen was failure, and even failure isn't so bad.
My biggest hurdle has been to convince other people that starting a business at the unripened age of 20 is a sane idea. I've managed so far by reasoning that--sure, I'm really young--but I'm also the most financially stable that I will be for the next decade. Think about it--I still live at home, and nearly all of my expenses are paid. In five years, I might be more experienced, but I also will be living on my own with a handful of bills that need paying. Is it really smart to start a business then either? A better question--is it ever circumstantially ideal to quit your job and start from the bottom with nothing but an idea?
The truth is that there will always be people who think I don't know enough to start my own business. And the odds are against me that it will ever appear to 100% of people watching that it is financially-wise to invest money into starting up my own gig. No matter which way the dice rolls, it will most-likely always take a lot of time and effort to get a business off the ground. No matter how many years older I get. You see? The hurdles don't go away, so why wait any longer?
With this in mind, as a start-up business owner, it is imperative that you become your own cheer-leader, and believe that you can do it. Believe that you are valuable asset to the economy and smart enough to start your own business. Believe in your idea! After all, every great idea we have today started out as...just an idea. And yes, for every single one, there was somebody who thought it was rubbish.
2. Get a support group.
Being your biggest fan is the first step, but the second is to surround yourself with other fans. It is frightening true how similar to the people around us we eventually become, and if you're constantly around people who think your business is stupid, you're not going to feel empowered to keep going when the newness hype wanes and your website gets no visits for a month straight. Networking with like-minded individuals is essential to your mindset, which sometimes means networking with fellow competitors. Friendly ones will understand perfectly the struggle you're experiencing, and may be able to share advice, research, and much-needed encouraging words. Remember that hater's gonna hate, but you don't have to listen to them.
3. Be fierce.
Starting your own business takes guts and determination. Quitting your job is hard. Explaining to everyone who asks why is sometimes harder--it sure has been for me. This is just the first hurdle you'll be dealt, however. You must be brave enough to invest your money and time into making your business real. Research what you need, travel to necessary offices for that paperwork, network with everyone you know. Everyone. Dedicate yourself to working at your business everyday, even when you feel like it's stagnant. Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself, your idea, your services, and everything that your business offers. Even when dealing with a personal confrontation, take it in stride--he won't be the last business confrontation you're likely to deal with.
4. Be creative.
Don't depend on others to make a huge part of your business take shape. Be willing to work hard and use any resources you can (hello Google) to figure stuff out. Take advantage of all the social platforms we have available through the media. Advertising doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Reddit, Tumblr... They're all free. And they're all easy enough for YOU to use to market yourself and your idea. Consider building your own website, writing your own ads, creating your own logo, investing in the tools necessary to build your own product, etc. You might discover some new talents in the process of saving yourself a load of money. Use the internet to teach you everything you need to know, because it's ALL out there. You don't need a business degree to start your own business, because everything a business degree will teach you is out there somewhere on the internet; the only difference is that a business degree has gathered all the information for you, and gives you a diploma once you learn it all. Not convinced? Consider buying books, even old editions of college textbooks on Amazon, Half-Priced Books, or other sites for sometimes pennies. Don't get played by the businesses that make their money off of convenience. Be resourceful. Do the work and save your wallet.
5. Be patient.
Building a network takes time and continuous effort. It's important that--in the process of starting your business--you continue to cultivate it even when things get slow, look bleak, don't get any attention, or even face ridicule. It's okay; just wait. This doesn't happen overnight, most of the time. In the meantime, keep busy. Set new goals, keep on researching new ways to market yourself, improve your product or service, and make sure that the whole process is shaping you into a well-developed, fully-rounded person. Focus on your process, not just the results. For inspiration, learn about other great thinkers who developed ideas and experienced failure along the way. Did that stop them? Where are they now? Can you see yourself grouped amongst those people?
You should. We need more people like them in the world.
As emotional as the business-ownership terrain can get at times, when all is said and done, you've started a business, so you're pretty cool. Speaking of cool, let's network! If you're just starting out with your business, send me a message, or connect with me on LinkedIn! If you're local, maybe we can swap business cards.