JumpStart Senior Deal Flow Associate
Entrepreneurship has its perks. Owning your own business can put you in control of your life, your career and your financial future. But as any small business owner knows, entrepreneurship has its challenges too. It can be risky, stressful and even lonely, which is why JumpStart advisors are here to assist! JumpStart helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses (at no cost) because approaching entrepreneurship with knowledge can make a big difference in your success.
In my role at JumpStart, I work directly with our entrepreneurs, preparing them to take the next step in their entrepreneurial journeys. Starting a business starts with a leap of faith, but there are also several things to consider before you begin. Here are five steps to get you started.
1. Research your business idea
You’ve decided to sell a product or service because you believe it’s great and you’re sure others will agree. But what makes your business unique? Is it better, quicker, cheaper? What problem does it solve and how does it add value for your customer?
Entrepreneurs need to validate their hunch by making sure there is an audience and a demand for the product or service. Ask your customers and friends – they can help you gain better insight into your idea. Next, head to the internet and conduct a few simple searches to see if there is a similar idea already competing on the market and to gauge consumer need. Finally, test your product out on customers, it will help you perfect your product pitch and maybe even refine your product in the process.
2. Understand the basics of business finance and funding
Start with your personal finances. Know your credit score because good credit may help you secure loans at a lower rate and allow you to get small business loans if needed. Have a budget for your personal finances.
Next, consider your business finances. Prepare a budget and financial projections to help avoid financial pitfalls and to determine the scale of your initial offerings. Then decide how you’ll fund your business. Will you raise the funds on your own, or do you need a small business loan? Borrowing money can be risky and it might not be right for you. Know your options and the risks of each. Make sure your personal and business finances and accounts are separate!
3. Consider the best business structure and selling platform
Sole proprietor, corporation, partnership, or LLC? These terms are tossed around but what are the benefits and challenges of each? Understanding the basics of business structure, and how it affects your tax and personal liability, will help you choose.
Speaking of structures, will you need a brick and mortar storefront or commercial location? Or is internet-based e-commerce the way for you to go? These considerations will determine your startup costs, your business projections, and your marketing strategy.
4. Set your marketing strategy
How effective is social media for promoting your product or service? What about paying for advertising, a public relations professional, or influencer marketing? How much do you really need to spend to reach your audience and still turn a profit? Start with your own circles of influence to reach potential customers, using social media and word of mouth. Marketing can be expensive for a young business so be sure to take advantage of free tools like website and other design templates to cut costs and save time.
5. Get expert help
If all of this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry; you’re not alone. There are local organizations that support entrepreneurs like yourself, including JumpStart. Our business advisors and partner organizations offer no-cost, one-on-one business assistance to help you start and grow your company. You can also access free business resources, workshops and programs to help you accelerate your growth.
Additionally, twice per year, JumpStart offers the Core City: Cleveland Impact program to entrepreneurs in the city of Cleveland. This intensive,12-week business assistance program helps you master all of the above and more. It uses collaborative learning and individualized advising to accelerate your small business growth and culminates in a pitch competition where participants have a chance to win up to $10,000 for their business.