As many of you may know, before I retired and started working on this online business with my daughter Shannon (that's us in the photo below), I was a community college president. In this role I was deeply involved with economic development efforts and work to support the growth and success of small businesses in our community. It has been quite an experience to be on 'the other side of the fence' as a small business seeking the (significant) assistance offered by programs that our college traditionally offered -- most notably, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). There are other similar programs -- with different names -- as well. Call your local SBDC, Business Incubator, or check out the U.S. Small Business Administration's web site for more info.
Any of you who are seeking to develop a substantial supplementary income -- or better yet -- a viable work-at-home job, would be well-advised to use such resources -- likely available in your community. Many of these programs are housed conveniently at local community colleges, and are accessible and completely affordable -- and often free. The core mission of these organizations is to provide one-on-one business assistance and training to existing and start-up entrepreneurs.
Services include assisting clients with the development of their business plans, marketing plans, and financial projections. Often, the process of creating a business plan is as valuable as the actual finished product. The work allows you to take an objective look at the product (in your case, most likely, custom-designed jewelry) -- before you risk hard-earned personal resources. The counselors and staff will actually mentor you through the complex research, analysis and decision-making process -- a valuable learning experience that provides many of the basic managerial tools you need to move forward successfully.
Did you know that 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months? A whopping 80% crash and burn. Why? According to Forbes, the primary reason businesses fail is: 1) they simply run out of cash and 2) they didn't do the proper research and preparation on the front end. Here's a short list of the biggest failures for any entrepreneur:
1) Not in touch with the customers. The business hasn't asked what their customers need/want, or hasn't listened and acted accordingly after asking.
2) Not offering anything truly unique. Instead of having 5,000 competitors in a niche market, they have developed no niche at all, and are in competition with 50,000 competitors, or more.
3) Failure to effectively communicate their uniqueness and/or value. Even those entrepreneurs who have discovered a great way to differentiate themselves (in our market, let's say that's 'customizable jewelry with two or three basic pieces that can be recombined in endless variations), they may not have learned how to communicate their message in a clear, concise and compelling manner.
4) Leadership breakdown at the top (Founder Dysfunction). Look out for self-sabotage; this can happen through poor decision-making and weak leadership skills. If you're the Founder of your small business, the buck stops with you. Do you struggle with being discouraged and the temptation to give up? Seek out motivational/inspirational resources. Do you have an amazing concept and talent but no self-discipline to carry through on it? Do some deep soul-searching to see if you really want to take on the (sometimes overwhelming) tasks an entrepreneur needs to manage by themselves -- and decide whether or not it might be better to just work for someone else.
5) Inability to develop a profitable business model with proven revenue streams. Do you have the savings/cash flow/backers to do a start-up? Have you found your client base and loyal followers willing to invest in/buy your product -- in a sustainable way? It doesn't necessarily take a ton of money to start up, but you really have to find that sweet spot where you can find your ideal customers (enough of them) and produce/sell enough of what they like.
Which brings me to a place where you -- my valued readers -- can help me and Shannon in refining our business plan. What are you looking for from us? What might we offer more of that would help you in your own jewelry design/sales endeavors? I specifically want to know what YOU are interested in.
If you have just a moment, please peruse our Etsy Shop, here:
We'll keep the survey/contest open from August 8 - September 8, 2014 -- to give everyone time to respond. Comments are encouraged here at the site as well -- just enter your input at the Add Comment section at the end of this post. Just be sure to e-mail me your contact information via e-mail as well, in case you win!
In the meantime, Happy Desigining! Until next time,