If you’re a woman interested in starting your own business, you’re in good company. An astonishing one in 11 adult women in the U.S. is an entrepreneur — and the number in our state is on the rise. A recent American Express OPEN report shows that Connecticut women-owned businesses have increased 56 percent over the last two decades.
While the opportunities and the rewards of being an entrepreneur are limitless, the stakes of launching any new business, whether it be male- or female-owned, are high. As CEO of the not-for-profit Women’s Business Development Council, my team and I are focused on helping Connecticut women entrepreneurs mitigate the inherent risks involved in starting their own businesses while preparing them for success and sustainable growth.
If starting your own business is part of your New Year’s resolution, consider the following five tips to get you off on the right foot.
PLAN TO START — WITH A PLAN
Not all businesses require a business plan, but entrepreneurs do need to develop some kind of preliminary plan to define their business concept and develop it on paper.
Before you put out your shingle, consider your motivation for starting your business. Is it money? Is it more flexibility? Is it a necessity or opportunity? Understanding your DNA as an entrepreneur is just as critical. Are you a risk taker? Can you deal with uncertainty? Your answers to these basic questions are the foundation upon which your business plan can be built.
SCOPE OUT THE MARKETING
DETAILS — AND THE COMPETITION
Define exactly what you will offer. Who wants or needs this product or service? Do you know how much your prospective customer is willing to pay? How will you reach your customers? What distinguishes you from the masses? Learn as much as possible about your competition and their pricing and marketing tactics. If you plan on opening a shoe store, for example, what do you know about shoes? How will you attract customers? What brands will you sell and to whom? Are there other stores of the same type in the area? What is their experience like and how will you be different? What is the foot traffic in the location?
CRUNCH THE NUMBERS AND DEFINE YOUR FINANCIAL GOALS
When it comes to determining the true costs of opening your own business, there’s a lot more involved than simply determining what to charge for your service or your product. Will you need to keep your day job? How will you support yourself before your business starts making money? Are you covered by a spouse’s health insurance? Factor in the cost of rent and business owner’s policy. Determine how much money you need to invest, and in what. Will you be able to access the capital needed to get your business off the ground? And most importantly, what are your own personal financial goals?
IDENTIFY YOUR PERSONAL “BOARD OF ADVISERS”
Find colleagues, friends and other professionals like accountants, lawyers and marketers who you can trust and rely on to guide you as you embark on this journey. Surround yourself with people who have expertise in the areas that you do not and fill in the gaps. Make sure these folks are willing to tell you the good, bad and ugly about your concept and be willing to accept their advice.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
Seek out the resources you need to execute your concept and address important items like your marketing plan, creating financial statements, determining the form of legal entity and all those pesky details, like why do I need a separate checking account? A resource like the Women’s Business Development Council offers free and low-cost one-on-one business counseling to help you answer these questions.
Fran Pastore is CEO of the Women’s Business Development Council in Stamford, a nonprofit that has served nearly 19,000 clients and assisted in the creation of nearly 1,800 businesses and more than 4,900 jobs. She can be reached at email@example.com.