Chances are you have had an “Aha!” moment while sitting around with friends – or solo (but what mother gets solo time these days?!), when you’ve thought, “This would make a great business idea!”
In my Year in the Life Series, this happened to the company Lunchskins. As the mothers sat around the kitchen table they heard a statistic on how many plastic bags go from lunch box to landfill each year due to school lunches. The women took this statistic, turned it into a business idea, and were recently featured in O! Magazine (you see, it does happen!)
How do you get from one place (the kitchen table) to another (featured in a national magazine)? With women starting businesses at twice the rate of men and generating nearly $2.5 million in revenue each year, it’s no wonder mom might be thinking about turning her jewelry making hobby into a full blown business, or taking her pet grooming skills on the road.
I recently chatted with Thomasina Tafur, whose job is to help women grow businesses, and she offered the following tips to mothers who are considering starting their own companies:
- It’s not what you make, says Thomasina, but what you keep. She suggests starting with friends and family to see what it is you can save on in the upstart of the business. “Who can help you create presentations, or write up your business plan?” Thomasina asks. “Who can babysit for you so you can think straight without interruptions from kids!” By looking for people to help out in the ways that they can. This doesn’t necessarily mean ‘free’ help – perhaps your best friend is a graphic designer who can design your business cards more cheaply than another company, or your sister’s boyfriend is a writer who can generate great copy for your web site.
- Research, research, research. Says Thomasina, “Research all the facts and try to think of every negative scenario in
advance so as to not waste your precious time and initial capital.” One huge mistake a new business owner can make is to think that their idea is great and then jump in without doing any research. You might find seven other companies in the area offering the same service – and none doing well because of all the competition – or you may discover the business idea wouldn’t work because of certain laws, rules, or other problems. Find this out before you spend too much time or money.
- Make a plan. “Draw up a plan for the first 6 months with goals. If it still seems too
difficult, then perhaps you do need to rethink your options.” Understand it will not be easy, though. Starting a company is one of the most time consuming ventures you can do, besides child rearing. You will need to dedicate many waking hours (and probably some sleeping ones.) to this company. Don’t expect it to run smoothly from the start. In fact, don’t expect it to run smoothly ever, and you won’t be unpleasantly surprised. (But trust me, it will get better.)
- Hire others when you can. Says Thomasina,”Most of my clients would prefer to spend their creative time dreaming up
new recipes or sketches for their business than investigating legal
matters, searching for capital, and .” I have to agree with this. This was one of my biggest failures when I started my company. I felt I could ‘do it all’, even those things that were not my strengths. I’ve since gotten smart (that’s what six years in business will do for a gal.) and I’ve hired a great graphic artist to take care of my graphic needs. She’s quick, she works for a great and fair rate, and she’s good – much better than I. You need to devote your time to YOUR strengths and let others devote their time to theirs – even if you have to pay them to do so! (Believe me, the time and frustration you save in the end will be worth it.)