Are you thinking about starting your own business but are afraid to take the leap? Depending on where your passions, experience, and skillsets lie, there may be several paths to take. Whenever I am asked the question, I offer advice that applied to my own personal journey. After all, what worked for me may not work for everyone, but I do believe that there are a few key points that can be applicable to any aspiring business owner.
The first and most important piece of advice that I will give is to find an opportunity in the market and fill it. Your solution to the problem has to be a good one, and one that a lot of people can get on board with. Sure that may sound daunting, especially if you don’t peg yourself as someone who can think outside of the box. What I will say to that is, let your past experiences and knowledge guide you towards an opportunity. I didn’t just pull the idea for Style Nine to Five out of thin air. I got the idea for it after working as a retail recruiter in the fashion industry and being so frustrated with what was available at the time to help me do my job. I was posting on general job websites and advertising in newspapers with no return. I wasn’t getting the qualified applicants for the roles I was trying to fill. It was actually one specific role that gave me the nudge. I couldn’t find anyone to be a visual display associate in Calgary. A job that was so easy to fill in every other market! I thought, WHERE are all the fashionistas?! Why aren’t they jumping on this opportunity? How can I find them? From that frustration, I thought to myself, I couldn’t be the only one that was experiencing the problem of lack of qualified applicants for the job openings that I was recruiting for. That was my lightbulb moment. I realized there was no fashion specific job board. I called up a web developer and quit my job three weeks later. After all, the fashion industry is huge, and there clearly wasn’t a job portal that was tailored for what everyone in the industry needed. Armed with that knowledge, I knew that I could be the one to solve that problem once and for all. And from that, Style Nine to Five was born in 2010 around my 30th birthday.
I think the moral of my story is that looking to solve a problem or to create the next best thing regarding a topic/area/industry which you know absolutely nothing about, will likely be a lot less feasible than trying to address an existing problem in an area that you are familiar and passionate about. If you are knowledgeable in an area already, then you’ve done half the work of figuring out how everything works, what’s lacking, and most importantly, what COULD work in tackling the shortcomings that you’ve identified. You’re much more likely to succeed with your idea if you’ve already paid your dues, and have an applicable and relevant knowledge to draw from.
Another thing I will say is, don’t start your own business for the sole purpose of making money. Of course we all want to make money, but if you begin your journey thinking that the money will just come pouring in, then you’re wrong! Be prepared to be broke for a while. Before jumping into anything, make sure you have at least 6 months to a year’s worth of savings to live on (or more but that’s what I had), as you probably won’t start to see positive cash flows for at least a year.
Don’t be afraid of applying for a business loan. You will need cash flow in order to grow. It’s everyone’s hope that you will have enough saved up or borrowed from family to never have to take out a penny from the bank, but not everyone will be in as fortunate a situation. I didn’t take a loan out until 4 years into running my business when I decided to expand into New York (that’s a whole other blog post). Although it’s important to not be reckless with your spending, DON’T be afraid to spend money to make money. Running a business can be expensive (website updates, advertising, hosting fees, etc.), so make sure you’re prepared for that before sending in any resignations.
The final piece of advice I will give is to be prepared for a lot of hard work. While you may be able to start your business while still doing your day job, there will come a time when you will have to dive in head first. In order to grow your idea into a full-fledged business, your business has to become your life. I work on Style Nine to Five from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep, with mental breaks, gym classes, a few events, and the odd nap in between.
Don’t be afraid of failure and don’t expect it to happen overnight. For many types of businesses, you will need time to build up your credibility; I know that was the case for Style Nine to Five. It’s those that give up within the first year of running their business that ultimately don’t make it. Just when you feel like giving up, don’t. Remember, on the other side of that hardship, is where you’re supposed to be.
– Christie Lohr
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