Happy Hump DAY friends! (you have to say it like the camel on the commercial..)
Lets get right to it. So I now have a great idea and some great resources to boost my confidence. I joined the 4 week course at the azsbdc.net that explores the inns and outs of starting a business (Rocket business launch workshop series). They pointed out that at some point you will need to create a brand, protecting your ideas, yourself and your assets. After this course I was a little embarrassed I was meeting so many people who could potentially contribute to my success and I didn't have any proper contact info to hand out. I needed to brand myself, although a little preemptive, a lot of these things go hand in hand. While you can do one or none of these things (depending on your business) I wanted a joined branding front that would all reflect the same information and conformity across the board.
Take what I'm saying next with a grain of salt. You can easily pay someone to do these things for you, but I did a little extra work and research to save a HUGE amount of money. Do your research and see what works for you. An expensive business card doesn't mean you'll be successful, however, you do want people to know that your serious and not just working on a hobby.
Before ordering cards I had I had to think of a bigger picture, sure I could order cards with just my name and contact info, but why would someone want to contact me? This created urgency to address the following: 1) a name 2) a logo 3) a professional email 4) some form of professional social media 5) a website and... wait for it....5) business cards!!
Getting a name: First I made sure nobody else had my business name by checking with the corporate commissions office. Then registering and published an L.L.C is all laid out in a step by step process by the commissions office. The L.L.C. cost $85 and then I paid $40 to the Arizona Business Republic to publish and legitimize my name. An L.L.C is the most readily available way to protect your personal assets should you business go south. As for tax purposes you can always file later as an S-Corp that I don't fully understand but know is more of a tax break.
Getting a logo: This was SO fun for me. Having a logo (to me) legitimizes my business idea!! Again not that it means I'll be successful but DAMN does it feels good handing out cards. Ok-now I have rights to this name! One of the girls in my class recommended a place called 10alogo, where you can literally get a logo for $10!! I ended up spending $15 because it included text and an image. Their site is super easy to use. They ask you some questions about what you want (you can also upload images or sketches) then they send you a proof. I asked that they change one thing, then I had my logo! I've used my logo so much since then! Best $15 I've ever spent!
Getting an email: I feel like this is obvious but I'm saying it anyways. No your cute girly high school email is not appropriate. I once had an email that was kissesofaneskimo, cute right?!? Not for starting a business. You want your email to read firstname.lastname@example.org. To do so you have to first purchase a domain name. This is purchasing the ability to have your email tied to your business. Worst case scenario if you can't get the email you want, a generic Jordancamomile@whatever.com will work. So I went to register my domain name (tons of places like GoDaddy and Google offer this, I paid $12) and found that even though nobody had a business registered as "Salad Dash" there was a website with that domain name! I was so mad because it wasn't even a used website, it just said "under construction" so I had to make my domain name @saladdashAZ. I just found from a different class that there is a way I can get the other domain as well where GoDaddy in my case will walk me through it. Anyways, I got a professional email Jordan@saladdashaz.com.
Social media: Maybe your a millennial like me but I had NEVER used Twitter before. I found another class at the SBDC "growing your business using Twitter" and learned how not to look like an idiot but also how to efficiently create a targeted following. Once I got comfortable with Twitter I created an Instagram for my business and I just actually created a LinkedIn account (don't look at it I'm not done yet!). Again I'm creating uniformity and branding. I don't have a brick and mortar but I do have a few followers who are like minded and aware of me.
Building a website: With that domain name that I purchased I can now have a website, I just needed to find a host. I was referred to a website building class hosted by Weebly. This class did what I expected and walked us through starting a basic website. They offer free DIY sites that you can alter and publish again any time. I already had my domain name that I (painstakingly) had to re-rout to Weebly, from GoDaddy, but you can purchase a domain name directly from them. I actually pay a little more ($40) to get a few more features. I haven't used other site editors (i'm sure this is common) but I love that I can see exactly how many people are looking at my page everyday and where they're coming from. This helps me to see how effective my tweets and posts are. There was one day that I posted a picture of my beloved business cards and my site views tripled!
Ordering business cards!! Yes I am again geeking out on having cards. My favorite quote right now is the infamous "fake it till you make it". I may or may not have a running business yet but if I meet someone important that I need to keep a connection with, you bet your ass I will professionally present myself and hand him/her my beautiful card. They don't need to know that I'm in the planning stage and sometimes stress cry to my husband when I overwork myself. When the time comes they will remember the girl with red lipstick, long dark hair and my great (SUPER CHEAP) logo. I ordered my cards through overnight prints after some research on different places. They're not the cheapest but you can design your cards online yourself which I really like. You can play with thickness, matte, shiny, round edges, colors, full picture ect. and it keeps a tally of your order total as you go. I paid $34 for 100 matte white cards with round corners, my logo on the front and my name and contact info on the back.
TADA! Now I have 5 solid ways for people to get a hold of me or just keep an eye on me! It's easy to get out of control on cost ordering all of the cool new things and features but keep in mind your goal. I knew going in that my business cards will evolve eventually, so I just ordered 100 for now. I can easily order a new logo and design a whole new set of cards.
Please feel free to leave me comments, for some reason the text is going in white on white (I have a support ticket in) but I will still be able to see it. I would love to hear of what you're working on, did any of my tips help you?
See you next week!
Ok so I want to start a business! I'm going to kickk-ASS at this business, lets get to work.
I started researching anything I could about steps to start business most of which were about 5-10 steps. Easy enough. First up on most of these lists was an idea, CHECK. Next up research. This is where I started to feel a little defeated. At my current 9-5 I am constantly evaluating our profitability and maximizing sales so I figured I would only need details on location, populations/ marketing and funding. As I continue researching I found how difficult it was to even find this information. OK put this on the back burner. Next, create a business plan. Here comes Google with a huge amount of pages on how to write a business plan. As I'm sarting what I think is the beginning of my business plan I realize the information I had a hard time finding, is 90% of my plan. OK now I'm getting annoyed, new plan, lets find help!
I had always heard of the the SBA (small business association) http://www.SBA.gov and knew they provided small business resources so I started there. I found that you can apply for a free counselor so I applied at my local branch (http://www.azsbdc.net, Arizona small business development center) and within no time received an approval and was appointed a counselor. After my first meeting with him I felt so empowered and excited! I had a free advisor!
Just a little info about the SBA in case you don't know, they're a non-profit organization driven to help small business' succeed and in doing so offer rescources, courses, and counseling. If your under the good graces of the SBA they might back your business when it comes to financing time, guaranteeing up to 75% of your loan. This makes you much less of a risk to a bank therefor giving you a larger chance of being approved for a small business loan.
Since I've been working with my counselor my journey has been different but not in a bad way. At first I thought that he would just give me pointers on finding the research I wanted on my own but they had a different agenda. They give you the resources that they've found to be successful and you fill in the rest, if you get off course they'll kindly give you some tips to get back on track. They offer classes there ranging from free to $150, covering all aspects of starting a business. They recommended I register for their 4 week business startup course, so I did.
The courses were very thorough, they plan out a business using what they call a "business canvas". This is essentially a visual chart of your business plan. Theres a really cool free online course that goes into more detail about it on http://www.udacity.com. It's total of 8 hours or so but it's broken up into small courses that you can run through it at your leisure. The business canvas allows you to look at all important elements of your business at once. Once you take a step back you can see where you need more info or help.
The next key resource they use is a "Growth Wheel" and this dives a little further into the "Business Canvas". Here you start to take a closer look at things like business concept, customer relations, operations and organization. I'm a nerd and LOVE charts and organization and they provided TONS of it.
I found this course to be extremely helpful not only for the organizational and in-depth explanation but also as a networking resource. I met a few really cool people who I've kept in touch with since. It was really interesting to be in a class with other like minded people, all of who were in different stages of their business. One girl about my age and similar experience had been in business one year and was already franchising and profitable! Another had created her own business' in the past and sold them for profit.
The most important thing I've learned from these courses and my counselor is how important it is to get out and meet your customers. What if you open and nobody comes? One of the biggest problems with startups is that they're not proven yet! You can't just go to a bank asking for $100k for a really good idea, they need to know that they'll get their money back. The SBDC has really driven that a proper business plan in place is essential to be successful.
Another key point they've made is that not all business funding needs to come from a bank. Yes it's the most traditional but it's also the most expensive and important to pay back and on time.
This scared me at first thinking they wanted me to ask for loans from my family (there no chance in hell! This is my struggle not theirs!) but did open my eyes to other funding types like crowdfunding (Kickstarter, gofundme, ect) and investment angels. We'll go more in depth to these options another time.
Lets end on this note: Starting a business is scary, but you don't have to do it alone! Find local resources and networking events. Surround yourself with people who are on the same journey as you and learn from them and teach them something. I couldn't feel more secure having someone with as much experience as my counselor does, FOR FREE!
WORK SMARTER NOT HARDER!
Since I was young, I have always wanted to own my own business. I'm 26 years old and determined! Finally I think I'm onto something! My husband and I tried to force business opportunities in the past but this is something I am extremely passionate about. The journey will be long and challenging, but I know that the best version of me will come out of it. With so many hurtles ahead, I would like to document my journey and hopefully inspire other young entrepreneurs by giving advice, direction and motivation along the way.
I'm 26 years old and have always been a goal driven person. Growing up my parents always fought about money and struggled financially in general. I told myself at a young age that I would't let that happen. I believe strongly in working hard for what you want and have made myself very proud doing so.