Part 1: Finding your passion
The majority of students struggle with money when in school. We eat noodles and Kraft Dinner when we must and rarely have money to treat ourselves. Most resort to a part-time job for a little extra spending cash, but what if you could figure out how to make money without having to report to someone every day? What if you could be your own boss? Starting your own business would allow you to do just that.
Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. A business can take a lot of time and occupy your mind always. Instead of working 9-5, you would now be working 24/7. This is because being a business owner, more times than not, means that in the beginning, you are taking care of everything yourself. You are the customer service representative, social media manager, accountant, and creator. Although it’s a lot of responsibility, it can also be very rewarding as the success of your business grows because you experience the triumphs firsthand. You know that you are the one that made those wins happen.
So, as a student, is this the right path for you? Just like any other job, having a business requires commitment and time. You have to be dedicated to it to be able to make it work. Take a look at your schedule. Are you taking a lot of classes this semester that will require a lot of your time? Do you have any other commitments in school or outside of it? You have to figure out if you will be able to have enough time to balance not only your school life, but your work and personal life as well. It can be a lot for one person, so take the time and consideration needed to make your decision about whether or not it is right for you.
Now, let’s say you’ve thought about it and have decided you want to start your own business; the first step is already done. The next thing you want to figure out is what that business will be. This is the most important and crucial step. Maybe you are a creative person, you could sell your art or maybe you are good at math, you could become a tutor, or maybe you want to start a tech startup with your friends. There are endless possibilities of what you could do depending on where your passions and strengths lie. Although, whatever you choose, make sure it is something you enjoy doing. That way it won’t feel as much like work but rather like a hobby you get paid for.
When choosing your idea, don’t forget to also be realistic. Do you see it being successful? Are you able to reach your audience? What is the competition like? These are all things you should consider. It is important to remember that a business’s success also depends on its ability to solve people’s problems, fulfill their needs, or give them what they want or didn’t know they needed.
Here are some questions you could ask yourself to decide what kind of business is right for you:
Where do my skills lie?
How much can I afford in startup costs?
Do I have an area of expertise in an industry?
What is something I am passionate about?
Will my business allow me to live the lifestyle I want?
Will I be able to manage my time with school and other activities?
You will be spending a lot of your time working and thinking about whatever your business will be, so choose wisely.
Part 2: Develop a plan
Imagine you are writing an essay with no outline. You are just writing, writing, writing, with no flow and no structure to your ideas. You jump back and forth between topics, realize you have focused too much on one area and not the others, and your conclusion is inconclusive. Do you think this essay would get an A+? Absolutely not. A business is the same way; without a plan it is going to be much, much harder to be successful.
A business plan is a map or outline that will guide your business through its journey from startup to established. It is one of the key elements of organizing your thoughts, goals, projections, and future endeavors. This is going to help you to have a clear overview of your business, not only for yourself, but for anyone who might want to invest in your business or learn more about it.
Here are some of the key elements to putting together an effective business plan:
Write down the name of your business, the year it was made, and label it “business plan.”
This is the outline of your business plan and gives readers a general idea of what is included inside: what your business is, what problems you are solving, and how you are going to solve them.
Tell your story. How did you get into the business and why are you doing this? Who is your team, and what services/products do you have to offer? You can also go into what the industry looks like now, what it will look like in the future, and where you think you will fit in. You can use business tools such as a SWOT analysis or Value Proposition (which are outlines that can be easily found online) to determine where your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats lie as well as determining other things about your business’s overall outlook.
What tools will you be utilizing in your business? Is there a platform you need to do business? Note anything you plan to use to help run your business here.
Give an in-depth analysis on your industry, ideal customer, target audience, and how you plan to reach them. This may require outside resources.
How do you plan to let people know about your business? Outline your strategy, channels, and budget for reaching your customers.
Financial Planning & Projections
Give an overview of the products/services you offer and how you plan to do/make it. Then, create a budget of what it takes to create/offer that product or service as well as your revenue projections for the future. This is a crucial component that will help you as well as others determine if your business is profitable.
How will day-to-day operations run smoothly? Are you a solo business or do you plan on working with others in the future? Show readers that you know how you will manage your business.
If you are in school while you want to start your business, think of your business plan as another assignment that must be done. They do generally take a bit of time and effort to complete, so don’t slack on this assignment–shoot for an A+ and set a deadline for yourself for completing it! Doing this before even starting your business will help you figure out everything you need to plan your future accordingly. It’s also helpful to refer to it to check if you are in line with your plans and goals once you start. You can easily find business plans or templates for reference online to start yours today.
Part 3: Before Launch
In our previous articles in this series, Parts 1 and 2, we talked about determining whether starting a business is right for you, what kind of business to start, and creating a business plan (see those articles for more details). Now that you have a clear idea of what your business is and how you plan to succeed, it’s time to execute your plan and start working! But don’t start selling just yet. Before you launch your business into the world, there are still some housekeeping items that are very important.
Develop your product/service
Create the products that you want to offer your customers. Without that, you have nothing to sell!
Test your idea
Ask people to try your product and give feedback. It’s not enough for you to think that your product is good; you have to actually test it in the market. This can give you an idea of what you need to do differently to please your audience so you can give them something they actually want to buy. Once you feel that you have a final product, you can be ready to sell, but remember, the market is always changing. Ask for feedback often. Change and improvement doesn’t end after your first launch.
Register your business
Registering your business with the government will give you credibility and help you avoid fines, investigations, or any other legal trouble. Not only that, but registering your business helps to show you actually mean business and can sway whether clients, investors, etc. will decide if they want to work with you. It’s best to register your business as soon as possible, even before you start operation, because, in Canada for instance, you are legally required to inform the government within 60 days of any business activity. This may vary from province to province so be sure to research how to register your business in your respective area.
Secure your investment
Every business requires a little investment capital to start you off. At first, most of it might be out of your own pocket. Make sure you have enough money saved to get everything you need to start selling. Another alternative to this might be borrowing. Since you are a student, you may not be able to come up with all the investment you need out of your own pocket since you are already paying thousands of dollars to attend school at the moment. If this is the case, you could ask your relatives, friends, or even an institution such as the bank or other company to loan you the money that you will pay back at a later date. Of course, someone you know would probably be the easiest choice given that you may be able to get it faster and at a very low to no interest rate. Getting a loan/financing from an institution, on the other hand, will usually take more time to secure and will require you to pay the borrowed money back with additional fees or interest added on to what you borrowed. It’s up to you how you choose to cover the upfront costs.
Establish your brand
Branding is key to a business’s success. If you look at other businesses, there are ways to tell one apart from the other. When you think of the big yellow ‘m’, for example, you think of McDonalds, or when you think of your favorite sports team, you know how to tell them apart from other teams. This is what is called branding and it sets you apart from other businesses. Branding usually includes a logo, specific colors, and typography as well as other things such as how you package your materials or even the feeling you want to give your customers when they buy your product/service. This is what is going to make your business recognizable among your competition in the market. You can do this yourself at home on your computer or you can outsource it to a branding professional.
Create your online presence
We already know that, in this day and age, if you need something, you ask the internet. Without an online presence you are going to bring traffic to your business down significantly. An online presence can be in the form of a website, social media, or both. Having it is an easy and affordable way to build your brand since in most instances it’s FREE and it allows you to build a better relationship with your customers. Make sure this is established before you launch or you might be disappointed in the results, especially if your business requires an online store.
Gather your marketing materials
Your online presence is not the only source of marketing your business. You can also have business cards, custom packaging, thank-you cards, signs, and posters to spread the word about your business.
Have your finances sorted
Be sure to have a way to keep track of your finances before you start. After all, how will you know if you’re actually making any money if you don’t? This also helps when you are doing your taxes for your business at the end of the year. Without a proper way to keep track of your finances, your business will not thrive. Opt for hiring an accountant if you don’t trust yourself to do it and keep your business money separate from your personal money.
It is very important to be prepared for your first launch. Ensure you have your product ready to be shipped along with everything you need to carry out your services. This will not only lessen your stress, but it will also create a better customer experience if you are prepared. You don’t want to be running around at the last minute getting everything ready.
Once you feel fully prepared, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: time to start selling!
It’s important to remember that everything you need may not be on this list. Do your own research and take it upon yourself to make sure you have everything you need before you launch your business to the public. Be sure to set yourself up for success when starting a business and, most importantly, try to have fun doing it!