I’ve decided to do it. I’m going to make a business out of my new hobby—Soaping! I’ve been making infused natural oils for your body and hair for years and giving them away and recently began making soap. I’d been considering starting a business, and the other day just decided to go for it. The grand opening of my new business is still a ways off, but it’s coming.
Don’t think that I took starting a business lightly. Nope. I started one fifteen years ago that is still going strong and mentored others over the years. I know what I’m getting into. I see people deciding to start businesses and think it’s great. Just know that the majority of businesses fail in the first two years. You must be realistic. I say set yourself up for success. There are no guarantees, but there are things you can do to help you stay on the positive side of the odds. Anywhooo, I thought I should give a little insight into what I do to start a new endeavor in case you’d like to give a swing at it some day.
Research: My first order of business was to do research on the product, market and business. This requires more than an Internet search on whatever it is you want to sell. Read books about your product, take courses, interview others who are already in the business you want to go into to find out the pitfalls and how to avoid them. Do your research on the market—both locally and extended. Know what all goes into setting up a business, including costs. There should be more to it than setting up a website and Paypal account. Did you start an LLC or incorporate? Did you open a business banking account? Do you have Terms of Service on your website? What is your return policy? What are the tax laws in your state? Are you supposed to charge tax in your state for online sales?
I could go on and on about the research. Check to see if there is a local Score chapter in your area. They give free workshops and advice to people who want to start small businesses. The website also has a wealth of information. It’s a great place to start your research about business so you’ll know what you’re getting into: http://www.score.org.
Business Plan: I think of the business plan as the what and how. What goals do I want to achieve and how do I get there. The business plan lays out the vision for the company and the steps needed to get there, which is why it’s important to do your research. I know what my start up cost are. Cost to make the products. Who my suppliers will be. How I’ll ship. What services I’ll need. How I’ll build the brand. Timelines. Taxes and accounting. Events. Goals…. And a whole lot more. I’m going to mention Score a lot because I think it’s a fantastic organization. Lots of useful information and they have mentors and free courses. Guess what else they have, yep templates. Here’s one for a business plan: http://www.score.org/resources/business-plan-template-startup-business Don’t just open the template and become overwhelmed. Once you do your research first, this will be much simpler. And you can probably get a Score mentor to help you.
I’ll be honest, you do not need to have a business plan as detailed at the attachment to start your business, but should have a plan of action that covers at least those first two years.
Networking: You see me online a lot, but I’m an introvert. Networking is a key to success in any business. I haven’t done it yet, but I will be joining a local women in business group. I’m also becoming part of the “soaping network.” Whatever business you go into, there are others who are in that business. Seek them out. Learn from them. What events do they attend? How do they connect with the market? Listen but verify. Always do your own research. Use what others teach you as a starting point. Including me.
Branding: What do you want your company to be known for? It takes a long time to build a recognizable brand. What image do you want your company to portray? What will you sell? What is the name of your company? Do you have your logo? Have you purchased your domain (website address). Please, please, please do not use those free websites for your business. Why would you put someone else’s business name in your web address?
Customer Service: How will you ship your products? When will you ship the products? What about returns? What about complaints? What are your hours of operation? Mailing list? How will customers contact your business and how timely will you answer? Write (or have written) a few standard letters. As new issues arise, write an additional letter for that situation. You will want consistency. Don’t tell one customer one thing and anther something else. Standard letters will maintain consistency. If you have a website (and I hope you do), have a Terms of Service, Privacy Notice and Frequently Asked Questions pages.
Website: I think free websites are the rope many small businesses use to hang themselves. What is the purpose of your business? If it’s not related to your business, then it shouldn’t be on there. Think of your website as your online storefront. Make it easy for users to purchase your product. I like to buy from small businesses and it drives me CRAZY when I can’t find out how much something cost quickly. Some sites make you go through hell just to get to the ordering page. It’s crazy. I’m also into natural products so I need an ingredients list. If you are making something that people eat, drink, or put on their body, you should ALWAYS have the ingredients listed. I go natural because we have bad sensitive skin and a lot of allergies in my family. But I digress.
When you create or have your site created, remember the main focus is your product. Anything that will distract from the product is not good.
Customer Base: You’ll be selling a high quality product, so your customers will want more of what you have to offer. Your customer base will grow as your brand grows. Will you have a newsletter, blog, members…? How will you stay in contact with your customers? How will you make your loyal customers feel special?
I absolutely love loyalty cards. Will you be implementing some sort of loyalty card?
Okay, that’s enough for today. I started writing this thinking it would be a short checklist and got carried away. There’s more that goes into starting your own business, but I think this is a good base. If you are interested in starting a business or already have, I HIGHLY suggest you check out Score. http://www.score.org.
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