Entrepreneurship basics

Hello! I hope you have enjoyed the BIP posts that I started a few years ago. I have recently been asked about new Ideas and asked a lot of questions about my pots. I have more prompts to come, but I wanted to share my experience and opinions about entrepreneurship basics; it’s not just tech start-ups and you may not need a huge budget to get started. I truly believe in dreaming big and encouraging everyone to do the same. I believe in starting with the skills, experience and resources you already have and growing from there! I encourage everyone to start…simply start. Make time to dream and plan….period.

First, let’s define entrepreneurship. Wikipedia defines – “has traditionally been defined as the process of designing, launching and running a new business, which typically begins as a small business, such as a start-up company, offering a product, process or service for sale or hire.” So even if you are offering computer repair, house cleaning, landscaping, child care, writing services, web design, handmade items at local farmer’s markets, car maintenance, or any of a number of other services or products you are an entrepreneur!

I believe anyone focused on sharing their skills and talents, full-time, part-time, or whenever they have time, is an entrepreneur! Whether you are thinking of starting your own full or part time business, expanding an existing business, interested in starting a side gig, or advancing from your current position at a company then you definitely have an entrepreneur spirit and it starts with a single thought.

So, what is the basic process to turn thought into action? Once you define what you want to do you can start to take action. I wrote about focusing on your interests; defining possible side gig opportunities that fit your interests. You can read that here.

Something that always works for me is to write down my focus. Once I see it in writing it helps me work through the steps needed to accomplish it or adjust the idea, etc. For example if I want to expand my photography hobby and offer small event and senior photos as a side gig on the weekends there are obvious first steps that need completed before I go rent a huge studio space, contact a publisher for a coffee table book deal, or buy thousands of dollars worth of equipment. I need a plan..I need to focus…I need clients!

I made my list and actually had a very successful part-time photography business for about a year until I found a more time demanding job and decided to stop. I photographed families, high school students, corporate golf events, pet photos, a local small band, and even a few shoots for dating profile photos. I decided on photography, because of my love for taking nature photographs. When I started brainstorming about side gigs I decided to focus on what I had to help me define my focus. I already had a nice digital camera, I enjoyed photography, I love being around people, etc. Next step was my action list, which I’ve shared a general recap below:

  • Create a web page (I used the free service through Shutterfly to display samples of my photography and create online galleries for clients)
  • Come up with a business email (another free action item. I used gmail)
  • Advertise and find business/clients; business cards, flyers, I reached out to companies for corporate events, word of mouth, browsed ‘ads’ online, posted cards and flyers at laundry mats, libraries, community boards, online, etc.
  • Set fees and define what is included (I researched the average hourly rate and cut it almost in half because I was not a professional full-time photographer and I wanted to use this opportunity to enhance my photography skills as well as provide an affordable alternative.)
  • Research tips for family and senior photos and offered those on my site and when discussing details with clients (I read a lot about family and corporate photography to enhance my knowledge and help clients decide not only on settings and poses, but also on package options, professional photography terms {to ensure clients I was at least semi-professional}. I also practiced shots with lighting, angles etc. to gain skills and experience.)
  • Set up a payment method. I accepted checks, cash and PayPal payments since I already had a PayPal account from selling some online items
  • File system and organize jobs. I had a ledger with names, packages, dates, costs, and notes to help me track everything. I also kept electronic files for tax purposes, keeping record of payments received and mileage with other items I needed for taxes (there is a limit you can make before needing to file taxes, but I wanted to start off tracking my revenues and spending)
  • Offer incentives. I offered all clients incentives for repeat business or referring friends, either a discount on their next purchase/photo shoot or a gift card if they didn’t have any other photography needs (a $5 to $10 Starbucks or other gift card)

That was my general list and action items. It was low investment, I didn’t get rich, but I made extra money and had a blast doing it! I also made some contacts that I worked with in the future when exploring other creative income options.

I also kept an open mind about input from clients and friends. For example the pet photography came about from a request. I had never even thought of pet photography. That is something I’d enjoy starting up again! I even kept making time for photography trees, skylines, etc. and made photo cards as gifts out of those and through word of mouth I was able to sell some for a small profit!

Are you an entrepreneur? Do you have an entrepreneur spirit? Do you have tips to share or questions? Please comment below or email me at successencourager@gmail.com

Dream Big, Set Goals, Take Action, concept, tags on the table.

Dream Big, Set Goals, Take Action, concept, tags on the table.

Do you need a mini business plan?

I add the word ‘mini’ before business plan because I think a personal or mini business plan is important for anyone wanting to work for themselves, start a part time or ‘side gig’ business, expand a current small business venture, etc. Typically, if you want funding for a larger start up you must submit a business plan, so I have downsized the larger multiple page document to fit into a personal sort of mission statement for anyone wanting to (or simply thinking about) starting a small business, earn some extra money with the creative professional talents you have or explore the BIPs I’ve previously published on this same blog!

Benefits of a Mini Business plan: A mini business plan can help you even if you are not asking for funding to build your business. It’s a good opportunity to fully grasp what your idea for a business will look like, confirm it’s what you want, and help you take the steps to achieve it. Most small businesses start without large expenses, but if you are requesting funding, this will help you with the basics and prepare for the professional business plan you may need to present to lenders, funding sources, etc.

Grab a notebook or create an electronic document and keep all of this information in one place, along with notes, advertising ideas, goals, etc. Your notebook/electronic file is a good place to keep all receipts related to your business including mileage (if applicable) and other forms, and general information. This will be a ‘living’ document/notebook; ideas will expand, etc. and you need to capture those thoughts on ‘paper’.

Below is a basic mini plan outline. I will provide a mini plan example in a future post as an additional resource.  If you have any questions please contact me!

Executive Summary – This is the first basic section of any type of business plan. Once you have an idea swirling around your head, you’ll want to write your executive summary. Even if you don’t complete the next sections, this is typically the most important for anyone at the start of planning a business. This section will allow you to explore what you want to do, how to do it, and if it’s really what you want. It is your opportunity to shine and describe your focus well. Typically, it’s about a half page (up to a full page). The main reason for this section is to explain your idea; what is it, who will need/want it, what makes it unique or in demand. Include the company name and a one sentence mission statement if you have one A mission statement is typically a brief definition of your business/idea.

Company overview – This is for company goals and to find out which business type you want; sole proprietorship, Limited Liability Corp (LLC), etc. these will be defined in an upcoming post labeled Types of businesses. Since you may not be ready to define your business type, don’t dwell on this section, just make a note that you may need to define it at some point in the future. Include an overview of marketing ideas and and business goals. Include a brief statement on expenses, and what costs are required up front to get started. Explain how you could expand the business; a brief statement about future growth. Include any experience you have with this idea and any experience with business in general including achievements and goals met (if any). Remember, this is all for your eyes only right now, to encourage you to turn that thought of a side business into possible reality!

Market Research outcome – Overview of the industry in general and research results of  competitors, give details of customers interested in your services (demographics, etc.), highlight the market strengths and weaknesses in general (nation and world wide) and focus on the same for local competitors. Include any statistics you can find on this particular market/idea/business.

Product/Service Description – Focus on what your service is and how it will benefit the client. You can start including projected net revenue information and details about vendors you will purchase supplies from. You can add graphs and diagrams here if feel it will better help explain this section. Touch base on competition and why you are different or plan to excel even with competition out there. I find reading reviews of customers about similar businesses can help you see what is working and what is not.

Highlight ideas to expand products or services; give more details than before and how often you can provide this service to each client (can you do repeat business?). This is an opportunity to show your unique twist on an existing market (do you have a unique skill, unique target audience or additional service to combine with it, etc.?).

Marketing Plan – This section is to give details of the operation; purchasing supplies, marketing to clients, list of services or products provided, ideas for following up with clients, and specific details of word of mouth and repeat customer options. Explain how you will find customers; details of how to reach out to them, advertising options, and costs. Include promotion ideas and pricing, email or flyer campaign ideas, etc.  Include the days and hours you plan to operate. Again, some of this may not apply right now, don’t dwell on the details, until you find it necessary as your business idea grows!

Organizational chart – If you plan on having employees you will want to detail why, who and what they will bring to the company; their skills, etc. Explain why a certain person is experienced and skilled to be in a certain position. If you can provide the service or product by yourself describe why and how.

Financial Section – This section will give you an idea of what the start up will cost with possible profit. Write out a complete list and cost of materials, hours it will take to complete each job, number of people and pay for each ’employee’ (or yourself), recurring expenses, up front equipment expenses and maintenance, etc. Once you have this, you will have a base price for your services to just break even, so it will help you determine what to charge. For professional plans you will need to outline your budget in details listing assets, cash flow chart, expenses, current profit, expected profit, etc.

This may seem overwhelming, but allow it to be a focus catalyst. This is a large step toward taking your idea seriously! This makes it real, not just a dream floating around. The executive summary provides you with concrete details and confirmation it’s the right business for you. Some people will decide to change their focus once they write it out and see the time restraints or spend time researching competition and end up finding another focus they feel more comfortable with. Others will be even more determined and inspired by seeing it on paper, knowing it’s what they want to do.

What’s your idea or business plan? Let me know!

Are you struggling to come up with an idea, but want to start a business? Visit the Business Idea Prompts (BIPs) listed throughout this blog. The prompts provide detailed business ideas with specifics on how to turn a hobby into a part time or full time business! Marketing and additional information to get started and grow are included!

Thank you for reading and again, please contact me if you have any questions!

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Business Idea Prompt (BIP) – Event fun!

Today’s BIPs Event Entertainer, requires little start-up costs, is flexible, can be full or part time, and does not require extensive skills or experience to succeed. Most skills needed can be easily learned through practice or may already be known by most.

Please see the Business Idea page for detailed information about my Business Idea Prompt (BIP) posts! Also, if this not your area of interest please explore the other BIP posts including ‘garage sale’ professional, house call canning and teaching your talent!

I hope you enjoy this BIP and you are inspired to explore your own possibilities!

Business Idea Prompt (BIP) – Event Entertainer (get paid to have fun!)

Details Details – There is a growing demand for entertainment at children’s parties, family gatherings, and other events. Party planning can be costly and time consuming to start up, but focusing on entertaining alone, can be a very profitable business and fun.

The demand for finding ways to entertain children and adults during gatherings is growing more than ever before! Such fun entertaining opportunities include caricatures drawings, clowns, balloon art making, dressing up as a super hero or princess, etc. I spoke with a woman that is a professional face painter and balloon artist (she has attended years of training and conferences, etc.), she said people ask her if she knows anyone that can draw caricatures for parties or other unique entertainment options.I’m going to focus on two options here, but as you can tell there are many possibilities to fit many different skill types. The common skills required for most of these opportunities are enjoy being around people, outgoing and friendly personality and evening and weekend schedules, as that is when most events occur.

The two main focuses today are caricature drawings (cartoon type drawings of people and animals) and nail art.If you’re thinking you are not an artist and caricature drawing isn’t possible, keep in mind this could be expanded (with some additional costs) to picture taking and on-site printing business; using fun photo graphic programs to add backgrounds, color enhancement, etc.

If you do have drawing skills caricature drawings can be performed for any age group, any event type and even include corporate events.

What is nail art? This is a bit more limited in marketing as caricature drawings, but not much! I overheard two mothers talking about nail art parties they were planning for their daughters. I had never heard of this, but it is a growing business and in high demand! Nail ‘artists’ charge around $15 to $20 per person, with a 10 person minimum to paint designs on fingernails (sounds fun to me!). This can easily expand from girl’s birthday parties to ladies night out and adult birthday or other celebration events and even mobile pedicures.

Experience/Skill Needed – For caricatures – drawing ability; turning photos or real life into fun cartoon caricatures. I’ve seen prices range from $20 to $40 for basic one person drawings; couples and groups cost more. If you choose onsite printing of fun photos then some photography and computer skills are required. If you are not an expert at nail art, there are many online tutorial videos that can teach you the trendy designs, tips, etc.

All opportunities require some creativity and to be personable, have fun with guests! Enjoy children (most likely a lot of customers will be parents for children’s parties). Transportation to travel to and from events. Determine payment method; cash, credit card options, checks, etc. To relieve some monetary burden from parents, guests could be charged individually if it was a larger event.

Marketing – Advertise with party planners, professional clowns, face painters, balloon artists; make connections with anyone who is typically paid to go to a party or event! Even corporate events pay for this type of fun so send business cards and flyers to select corporations. For caricatures purchase quality drawing paper, pencils, pens, etc. Put your contact on each portrait via a label or handwritten contact info on back. Keep in mind people may want to frame the work so making them 5×7 or 8×10 and easily frameable will be a plus. Providing a clear protective sheet to carry them home in shows professionalism and an opportunity to share a business card in the bag for future possibilities!  For nail art, materials needed include nail polish, design kits and supplies, polish remover, stickers, etc. For all business show your work via web sites, social media, even on your business card. Create a web page with photos of your work, price range, contact information and customer reviews (as you get them). Even free sites and a unique business email are great resources to help your business grow professionally.

Additional advertising ideas include – Posting signs in your own yard in the surrounding neighborhood(s) with your talent, phone number and web site. For a reasonable price you can place sale ads in local papers or online and encourage all customers to contact you for future events and share your info with their friends (offer a discount or incentive) and let parents know if you offer adult parties; ladies night out, baby showers, weddings, family reunions, etc. Leave business cards and flyers at libraries, post offices and on other community boards. Include your website on the cards and flyers and place a magnet decal on your vehicle with contact information. Wear shirts and/or hats with website or other helpful advertising information. Be open to taking requests from customers; themed parties, etc.

Research – The only research that may be needed is to find an average price for services and to see how many competitors are out there. Read reviews of other entertainment services to see what is working and what is not and focus on creating a customer friendly business.

Even if this is not your type of business, it sure sounds fun and in demand as well. If you aren’t interested in this topic, please read over it and brainstorm your own skills and interests. Ask yourself would someone pay money for this skill? Then turn that thought into action!

I know this was a long post, but thank you for reading and please share any tips or questions you have!

As with any business please check local and state guidelines to see what licenses, name registering, and other requirements may be needed before starting your business.

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Teach your talent – Business Idea Prompt – BIP

Please see the Business Idea page for information behind my Business Idea Prompt (BIP) posts!

Here is another BIP I want to share!

I enjoy sharing ideas whether they develop from an article I’ve read, trend I’ve heard about that sparks an idea or from my friends when they share their success with me. I love hearing and sharing these ideas! I hope you enjoy it and you are inspired to explore your own possibilities!

Business Idea Prompt (BIP) – Teach your talent

Details – Most likely someone else wants to learn about a skill or talent you have; knitting, painting, paper making, welding art, gardening, gift basket arrangement, dancing, writing, foreign language, computer program training, poetry writing, jewelry making, etc. there is a countless number of talents needing to be shared in the world! So, why not teach yours?

I have a friend that teaches a knitting class a few times a week in the evenings and on weekends. She is very personable and such a great teacher who really knows her craft, that she started turning people away due to her full schedule! I’ve seen fees for related classes range from $20 to $50, per person, for a one to three day/night session, typically lasting one to three hours. This same concept goes along with any of the hobbies listed above. You can also expand this idea by providing online tutorial videos and manuals (more on this below).

Experience/Skills Needed – This depends on what you are teaching. You need to be experienced, knowledgeable in the topic, have the ability to teach it to others, provide some supplies or a supply list and be customer service oriented and a take away recap with your contact information on it (for future business opportunities!). And you do not have to be an expert! Some skills can be developed/advanced with resources such as online instructional videos, reading material from the library, attending classes that others are teaching or by joining online groups associated with your particular topic/talent.

Location will be needed. If you don’t have a location available, look into rooms at libraries (some offer use of the room for free to card holders) or area coffee shops with large tables, ask if someone wants to host a class at their home. You will also need either a personal form of transportation to and from classes or a dependable ride service. Research and develop payment options; cash, check, ability to accept credit and debit cards in person and/or online, etc.

Marketing – Create business cards, whether you print your own or pay to have them printed (there are some reasonable priced option available). Hand your cards out to everyone you can! Leave them and flyers in coffee shops and libraries, post your information and class schedule on social media sites, online advertising available on free to post sites and even look into community classes through school districts or colleges offering community education, typically, they are always on the lookout for community teachers. Create a website, blog and dedicated email address (and possibly dedicated social media sites) to your business/talent.

Another marketing option is to offer group discounts (for birthday parties, ladies or gentlemen night out, friends/couples gatherings, etc.) Other offers or discounts could include a referral program; bring two friends, each receive a 10% discount or another percentage discount or offer a price break if they sign up for more than one class; say three months in a row they would get a discount on the third ‘month or class’. Also offer different levels of classes; beginner, intermediate and advanced options for all skill levels and to encourage beginners to advance their skills. If your talent includes craft type skills research craft shows, farmers markets, etc. and if the cost of a booth setup is reasonable attend with items you have made for sale and hand out cards about your classes. Create tee-shirts and/or hats with your company logo and/or name and contact information (phone or email or website).

Research – Price materials; supplies needed to create your projects, similar businesses, space rental (if you can’t find free or your classes outgrow free apace), marketing (flyers business cards, etc.). This will give you an idea of what you need to break even. Put a rate on your time per hour, choose a minimum number of hours and set your rate. Schedule classes an hour or two or even spread out over two or three days or weekends. Set a minimum number of attendees to ensure you make a profit, if you don’t have that minimum sign-up then think about canceling the class. Ask friends and community members what they would pay for this service, or give them prices and ask if that is reasonable to them as a consumer. If you need to update or advance your own skills, research resources to help you feel more confident about teaching your talent to others.

Bonus idea – This could easily grow into a larger business. Most talents can either be taught online through videos and/or downloadable manuals. You could post your basic skills instructions online and advertise your advance courses and/or provide a link to a downloadable instructions guide and charge a small fee. Set up a web site or blog (there are free options available). Collaborate with other talent instructors and create a weekend or one day teaching event; charge one fee and split the profits between instructors, allowing customers to go through a number of ‘mini’ courses/trainings and hand out business cards and web site information where you will post upcoming class schedules, etc.

There are so many options with this BIP! Please share any tips, ideas, and success stories with me!

As with any business please check local and state guidelines to see what licenses, name registering, and other requirements may be needed.

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