7 Things You DON’T Need to Start a Business (and 7 Things You DO)
Starting a business can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be that way. I think the thing that often holds people back from taking the leap is often based on assumptions about what it means to start a business, instead of reality. When we first started Rusty and Ingrid Creative Company over 5 years ago, I felt overwhelmed by all the things I thought we needed to do and to know, the hurdles to get over, the things to buy, etc. However, we learned very quickly along the way that to start a business, you probably already have most everything you need. If we had let our limitations hold us back, or prevent us from even trying, we would never have gotten anywhere.
I'd like to shed some light on the things you'll need to start your business. They aren’t quick or easy, but they're probably things that almost anyone who is determined to be an entrepreneur has already.
But first, here are some of the things that you might think you need to get started, but you actually don't:
3. Business degrees
4. Business experience
5. A developed product line
6. A commercial space
7. An outlined business plan
Here are some of the things that you do need:
- A Goal
When Rusty and I started our creative business, our original goal, the light at the end of the tunnel for us was simple: to be able to move our family out of our tiny condo in downtown Gloucester, where we were cramped for space and also plagued by difficult upstairs neighbors. It took us over 3 years to reach that goal, but working towards it kept us going and gave us hope.
- Work Ethic
You must be ready to do what it takes, and to put in the long hours, especially in the beginning. We worked round the clock many days as we strove to get our business off the ground, and we often had to swap out family events for weekend selling events.
When we first started making products to sell, we set deadlines for ourselves in the form of booking many craft fairs and outdoor markets. Even when an event didn’t go well, we knew we had accomplished something, creating a bunch of new work, which gave us the momentum to keep moving forward.
Find people who are experienced in your field or in business in general, especially in areas you are least knowledgeable in. Since day one, we have sought out mentorship from various sources. This now includes friends, other makers we meet, and monthly meetings with volunteer SCORE counselors (a national organization that connects volunteer business experts with start-up small businesses. Find them in your community!)
Try and identify who your customers are and keep them in mind as you create products and market them. Starting out, we saw our customers in ourselves and worked to create products that we would like. As time went on, we got more and more feedback from our actual customers, and reacted to what they responded to, and understood better which direction to take our work.
- A Unique Value
This is basically recognizing a problem you see that needs to be solved, a point of view, a unique style of art, and using that to differentiate yourself from other people and other products. As artists, everything you make is a unique thing with some inherent value, and this sets creative businesses apart from others. For us, we were trying to create high quality, handmade artwork that people like us (not wealthy) could afford.
- What you are already doing
Depending on who you are, this might seem either the most or the least obvious. If you're wondering where to begin, start with what you love, what you're already doing and spending your time on. Rusty and I were artists before we started our business. We loved making art, and we were doing it whenever we could make the time, but we had to see the potential our passion had to become a viable business, the thing we would make a living doing. When you do something you're already interested in, you can lean into the knowledge, passion, and skills you already have, which will give you a head start.
This list was not taken from any kind of business manual or college course (although I'll bet it holds up to any professional advice). It's based on my own experiences, as well as the advice and experiences of other successful business people I know personally. For anyone starting out (or even just thinking of starting out), these seven points are a good place to start. I know that at my own starting point, this type of advice and encouragement helped to propel me forward from a place of apprehension to confidence and hope for the future.