Like many early entrepreneurs, I was the kid with the lemonade stand or, my personal favorite, an ice cream stand at age five. My friends lined up with their imaginary cones in hand and I scooped dirt filled with Eucalyptus acorns and said “that will be ten cents please” followed up with a “ Thank you, come again.” Everyone imagined their favorite flavor(s) and we laughed joyfully. From there, I moved on to selling produce and eggs from my 4-H projects at the end of the street or door-to-door, ads for the community paper my mother started, babysitting and, ultimately, interning for Fight Back! with David Horowitz. I became obsessed with helping other people create their story around their business idea during my internship with Fight Back. I was amazed at how many pitches we received at KNBC, most seemed unworthy of a personal investment let alone a slot on the five o’clock news. I honed my skill in seeing what was worthy, and what succeeded no matter what I thought of the product. Because at the end of the day, if there is an audience and a revenue model there is a reason for you to turn your idea into action.
Twenty-five years later, and I have worked with hundreds of individuals and businesses from startups to major brands launching a new division and I never tire of listening to someone’s idea. Why? Because the excitement is contagious; when imagination, idea, innovation, and gumption collide and someone just says, “I really need to do this” I perk up.
So, here I am at the start of a new year and, looking at my own goals, I’m asking myself: Where do I want to be in the next five years? Reflecting, I realize within my business I have also enjoyed being an entrepreneur by launching my own eco-educational, cross-platform program for children called Let’s Go Chipper. But within my business model, I realize I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to teach my clients how to take a disciplined, strategic approach to building their company – or launching a new product or service within their existing businesses. I’m also really proud of working and teaching students from middle school through college, and a few adults in transition, the importance of weighing self-fulfillment when setting business success goals. So, I’m taking my show on the road …well, yes, I’m really just getting to the blog finally. Ready to share, eager to listen, let’s go.
January – What’s the Big Idea?
Just barely into the New Year: have you started that business idea you promised you would commit to this year? Starting a new business is exciting but takes work, so before you put a penny into your product answer these three questions and help determine if your idea is ready to launch:
1. Has it been done?
2. Have I shared it with at least three people?
3. How much does it take to make it?
Three simple questions but you need to understand that approximately 70% of businesses fail. It’s important to validate beyond “Hey, I’ve got a great idea!”
You need to take time to review the market so research and understand if your idea is worthy. Years ago an excited person showed up at my doorstep (yep, the doorstep because our personal connection gave my home address instead of my office) Holding a slab of clay, I was told that this creation was going to be the most successful piece of fitness equipment ever created. Knowing that the push up bar is a tried and true, economical piece of equipment hiding underneath the bed of every man on the planet I sort of shrugged. But when I listened and learned about how “ this one was going to ‘revolutionize’ the push up” I became a believer and ended up working with one of the most brilliant individuals, and most successful fitness companies. The Perfect Pushup became a household name in barely a year from launch date and new products continue to grow from this company. The founder, Alden Mills, recently shared his book so others could learn from his success. Always be innovating in your thinking.
Do your homework then pick three people (at least) to share your idea with: a friend willing to connect you to another friend who is an expert willing to listen and give free advice; a complete stranger, walk away convinced they understand your business whether they like it or not – you have to be able to tell your story succinctly and in the order that makes people understand you have a revenue-generating/growth-worthy plan and a product that is a game changer in your marketplace; and the third, an investor with a portfolio that matches your product/service offering. Ask questions, take notes, revise and get ready.
Lastly, know what it costs to build and launch your business. A cookie company launching out of your house budgets differently than another business manufacturing overseas. Energy has to be matched by what you’re willing to financially invest personally to get rolling. Only a few businesses really make it on a “shoestring” budget so be ready to part with money that won’t compromise your family.