Start Ups; Sharing Tales and Tips from the Trenches
According to Entrepreneur, there are an estimated 600,000 businesses that are started annually in a wide range of industries and that number changes very little due to economic conditions at hand. In other words, in good times, starting up your own business occurs because ideas as well as funding flows more freely and, in bad times, increased job layoffs and business closures provide incentives to starting up your own business or to buy other struggling operations and to re-launch them. The road to starting up your own business varies and it requires a certain mindset and tool kit to survive the critical early days.
“The challenge to anyone starting a business today is to understand the steps,” states Mike Green, founder and CEO of Vizitnow3D, an Internet innovation start up in Oregon. “Get your idea vetted. Show it to people you trust for honest feedback. Show it to people in the industry you’re targeting and let them provide you with suggestions and cautions. Establish a team: If you’re planning a do-it-yourself business, that’s OK. Any idea requires a good dedicated knowledgeable and experienced team. There are exceptions, of course. Create a plan: Sure, you can start with a napkin, a piece of paper or even a whiteboard. At the end of the day, you will need a well thought out business plan. Then show it to people who have the ability to vet a business plan. And listen to their feedback.”
The plan and team provide the infrastructure for starting up your own business and it also provides the model to outline the funding to help to build and grow the operation. Many start ups never get beyond the drawing board or they have the funding and no real future. “Put skin in the game: You have an idea, a team and a plan. Now you need funding to get to your first milestone. Dig deep. It starts with you. No entrepreneur can ask other people for money without taking the first risk,” Green adds. “Look for alternative funding sources. Angels help entrepreneurs reach milestones of success, but that funding costs a lot. You have to sell a part of your business. A preferable approach is to find a customer for your idea. In the vetting stage of your idea, that’s a good time to find out if your target market and potential customers are interested and willing to pay for it. If you’ve done your homework, you will have customers already when you develop the service or product.”
With the many barriers to entry that impact starting up your own business, especially those launched by Black entrepreneurs, some times the major obstacle is closer than you think. “As a journalist-turned-entrepreneur in the digital pioneering space, I have developed an innovative platform upon which content and advertising will create new user experiences. Yet, while I’ve been invited to speak to numerous angel groups who are interested in my company’s idea, I can’t even get an email response, much less a meeting with media,” notes Green. “Even Black media, many of which are far behind the digital technology curve, can’t muster up a reply. But entrepreneurs must be flexible enough to go around obstacles. And we must be patient enough to persist down the path of our passions and persevere. Today, there are so many paths developed and many more are being developed for tomorrow. These paths are tools developed for enterprising entrepreneurs, made available by other enterprising entrepreneurs. In this age of innovation, the biggest asset for starting (up) your (own) business is the spirit of collaboration and cooperation.”
Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.