Don’t wait. Do it now.
Step 1: Come up with a cool idea.
Do you want to start your own clothing line? Sell food at the farmers market? Pet sit? Make your own app? Create something totally new that no one has ever thought of before?
A good business idea is:
- Something you have knowledge of or interest in
- Something people need and are willing to pay for
- Something without too much competition in the area
- Something that gives you room to build a bigger business/customer base
Step 2: Do some research.
I know, drifting back to not fun, school territory. But it’s important, I promise. You need to look into how many businesses there are around you that do the same thing, so you can figure out how you’ll be different than them. It will also give you a chance to see if they make money doing it, or if you’re just setting yourself up for failure.
- Who will buy from me? How many of them are in the area? What do they do for work/fun/information/entertainment?
- How much should I charge? How much will it cost me to run my business?
- Do I have the ability to make/offer whatever my idea is, or do I need to hire someone else to actually build it for me? If so, who could I hire and how much do they charge?
- Am I legally allowed to do this? Or do I have to have an adult partner?
- Do I need any licenses, permits, or anything else?
- Are other businesses like mine growing, or starting to go away?
Step 3: Get help.
Business is tough, but you don’t have to do it all on your own. Your friends, family, other adults, and organizations in your community exist to help you and anyone else who wants to start a business.
If you work with the You – Here – Now program, we will assign you a mentor, someone in the community who has owned or run a business for at least three years. They will be there to answer any questions you have, give you advice when you ask for it, and provide wisdom they learned from running their own business. They will not take your business from you; they will only do what they can to help you succeed.
Your local library is dedicated to helping your business. At Sno-Isle Libraries you enter, you can find:
- Computers with software, printers, and web access
- Classes, workshops, and other learning opportunities
- Business research tools such as the DemographicsNow and A-to-Z Databases
The EDC is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping business on Whidbey and Camano Islands. We can connect you to mentors, answers to your questions, business planning help, workshops, anything you might need to start your business. And we will never charge you a penny for our help.
Step 4: Write a business plan.
A business plan is not a school paper! You are not going to be graded. It is a tool to help you think through everything before you lose any money on it.
A good business plan includes:
This is your business pitch, or your “elevator pitch.” How would you describe your business in 30 seconds. What are you selling? What needs will you meet? How is your business different than your competition?
Definition of the Market
The biggest mistake you can make is thinking your business will serve everyone. A three year old is going to buy from you? A retired person who can barely leave their house? The person who swore off all technology and is living in the woods? Really?
Think of your target customer, the person who is going to give you the most money with the least amount of effort from you. How old are they? What do they do for a living? How much money do they make? What are they interested in? Why would they care about what you’re doing? Where are they located (in your town, a nearby place you can get to, or online)?
Description of Products/Services
Get into more detail about what you’re selling! How much are you going to charge? Is that an amount people will actually pay you? Why would they give money to you, instead of your competition?
Organization and Management
Who is going to be involved in your business, just you or others? Are you qualified to do the work? If you have multiple people involved, who is in charge of what? Laying this out in advance will help keep you from in-fighting later.
Marketing and Sales Strategy
Where are you going to sell? What’s the best way to get the word out about your business (online, flyers, in person at events and farmers markets)?
You need to figure out your cashflow before you start. How much money will you need before you even start your business? How much money will you make per customer, and how many customers will you have each month? Do you have ongoing costs like materials, rent, salaries? Does the money you’re making cover all the costs you’re going to rack up? If not, you should charge more, or get rid of some expenses.
Step 5: Find the money.
If you’re lucky enough to have stumbled on a business idea that you can start without needing any money from anyone else, congratulations!
For the rest of us, starting a business usually needs money up front. Whether it’s to develop your product, start advertising, rent space, or anything else, business can cost you a lot of money before you can even hope to make any. How does that work?
You have a few options:
- Savings! That piggy-bank you’ve had stashed in the corner for years? The money you have saved up from allowances, or summer jobs, or chores? That is the easiest money for you to get. I know it’s painful to lose some of that, but if you’re confident enough in your business, you should know that the risk is worth the reward.
- Friends and Family. Going to those that love you best and asking for a donation or a loan to your budding business is the next easiest chance you have at your startup money. This is different for everyone, though, and not everyone has families that can pitch in before you open your doors.
- Banks, local lending groups, and other lenders. Getting money from people you don’t know is tricky and tough, but not impossible. If you’re going to one of these groups, you absolutely need to have that business plan we talked about before. They also usually want to see you put some of your own money into the business, so these guys are mostly only available to you if you have some, but not all, of the money you need to start.
- Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding takes a lot of work and asking on your part to make any money. A lot of crowdfunding sites also have rules that you have to be 18 or older to raise money on them, so you may not qualify.
Watch the video to the left for more information. Not all of it will work for you (example: you have to be 18+ to qualify for any credit cards), but it might give you some ideas.
Step 6: Develop your product/service.
Now you know where you’re going. You’ve got the money to get started. Now it’s time to do the work! If you’re making the product yourself, it’s time to start stocking up. If you’re getting someone else to make it, or buying it in bulk from elsewhere, do so now. If you have a service with nothing physical to sell, this will be a quick step! But it is a great time to get some extra practice in, put together professional-looking examples of the work you can do on a website or a physical packet you can hand to people, whatever you need to show off your stuff!
If you are required to, you also need to apply for a business license, permits, and a tax number. If you go to Business.WA.gov, scroll down to “Start Your Business,” and then click on “Licensing & Permits,” you can open the business license wizard. This is a handy tool that lets you put in what you’re doing and where, and it will spit out a nice list of the licenses and permits you need, and the websites of the places you can get them from.
Step 7: Market.
You are ready to open your doors! Now it’s time to get the word out! Remember back to your business plan when you did all that work? Use it. Get those flyers out, make posts on social media, send out postcards, go door-to-door, sign up for shows and events, whatever it is that you discovered through research would get you the most attention from your target customer.
Whatever you use, the most important information to share is:
- Who are you/who is your company?
- What are you selling?
- Where can people find you?
- What’s the most important thing they need to know? Are you affordable? Trendy? Local? What makes you stand out from your competition?
If you need help with your marketing, the EDC can help! Come to a workshop, ask for individual help putting a plan together, or have our staff help you actually design and put together your marketing pieces. Visit the EDC here.
Step 8: Profit!
You’ll hit bumps along the road, sure, but you’re now an entrepreneur. You’ll find a way through to come out successful. We can’t wait to see where you go!