You’ve dreamt about starting your business for years now and you’ve decided to strike now while the proverbial iron is hot. But what do you do? Where do you start? How can you set yourself up for success?
Know (or Learn) Your Customer
Make sure you understand your product and which customer base will want to buy into that product. If your niche is homemade, organic skin care products, your customer base might consist of women 17-50. Always keep your customer and audience in mind. They will guide decision making on everything from marketing to product offerings.
Choose the Right Location
Choosing your location is one of the most important choices you will have to make. If you want your business to succeed to its full potential (and who doesn’t), choose carefully. Identify your customer base. Find neighborhoods that fit your budget. Make a match between the two. Forbes.com offers a more in-depth look at the process of choosing and leasing a commercial space.
You won’t last long if you’ve set up shop where your customers won’t venture. Look at the demographics and scope out your competition. Inspect the property thoroughly and research any and all borough, city, state or county laws and taxes.
Figure Out Financing
When starting your business from the ground up it’s common to apply for loans. You may also borrow money from yourself, investors, friends or family. Opening up your own business takes money, and lots of it. But using your own personal finances or credit card to purchase supplies and a down payment on an office building is a big mistake. Do research to get an accurate picture of what you’ll need to invest in and ask other professionals in the business for advice if possible. You can even get advice from others online. For example, here are 10 tips for photographers looking to offer product photography services.
Not only is it risky for your personal debt to credit ratio, it will seriously complicate your personal and business tax filings. Instead, maintain separate finances and accounting. Start building business credit by applying for a small business credit cards. Don’t be shy about looking for one with benefits that match your needs. The Plum Card from American Express, for example, offers a few flexible options for businesses. You can opt for a future discount (of 1.5%) when you pay your bill early. Or, you can have 60 days to pay your bill without incurring interest charges.
According to SBA.gov the 7(a) Loan Program is the most common loan program for small business owners. The 7(a) program also provides assistance for businesses with special requirements. With this loan program you will be able to provide for short-term, seasonal or long-term needs.
The SBA 504 Loan Program is another option for small business owners. SBA.gov calls this a “powerful economic development” program that aims to provide financing for business growth while promoting job creation. As of February of 2012, a reported 2 million jobs have resulted from $50 billion in 504 lending.
Be Mindful of Marketing
You’ve created eye-catching and clever business cards. You’ve decorated your business down to every last detail. Now what? Invest time into social media. Internet marketing company Hubspot reports on their blog that 77% of Business to Consumer operations have acquired customers via Facebook engagement.
Accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest will help you find and engage your customer base. Social media marketing is also a low-cost tactic, making it perfect for entry-level entrepreneurs.