It was the summer of 2006. I packed my car with all my office belongings and drove away from a 20-year career. My decent paycheck, a steady job, and a pretty cool boss were all behind me. I always had entrepreneurship running through my veins. It was now or never, but was I ready for what was ahead?
I vividly remember the first day in my home office. It was me, my computer, and a half-working printer. I was excited, yet terrified. What if this doesn’t work out? What if I can’t do this?
The decision—I was either going to sit there paralyzed by doubt or create something bigger than my fear. That’s when my DNA kicked in, but there were many days of grinding.
Building a $5,000 website and begging my friends and family to visit
Making cold calls to strangers
Attending networking event after networking event after networking event…
Whoops. The printer broke. That’s $250. And I have zero cash.
Pulling all-nighters to get proposals out
Pro bono speaking. Sales presentations. Lots of rejections…
And was that a hot flash? No, no, no, no, nooooo! (yes, menopause hit about a year after)
Whoops. The computer died. That’s $1500. And, again, I have zero cash.
Discounted work to build my clientele. More sales presentations.
Me really missing my regular paycheck…
Looking at my resume…
Wondering if it was time to look for a job.
And this is where the story could have ended.
It ends here for so many of us. We become paralyzed by disappointment, fear, and crushing doubt; the voices inside our heads tell us “we can’t” or we don’t have what it takes. I didn’t listen to those voices, and I’m so grateful the story didn’t end there. Despite the disappointments and hardships, I kept grinding, pushing, and moving. I learned there is something very magical about pressing on.
It’s been 15 years, I’m still here, and it’s been totally worth it.
During the past 15 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to start two businesses and have enjoyed every moment. A pretty incredible story, and it can be yours as well! So where do you start?
Explore Your Passion
After working for many years, I got a good sense of my passion and skill set which were centered around marketing and technology. I knew that I wanted to stay challenged and connected to my community. And I was excited about using my abilities to become my own boss and create an offering that filled a need in the marketplace. In your later years, your passion might be right in front of you. Take a look!
Find That “Great” Idea
Every successful business starts off with a good idea, but that “good idea” must meet a need, solve a problem, or address a pain point. So, yes, passion is part of the entrepreneurial equation, but passion may not always pay the bills. Will your business become profitable by filling an unmet need in the marketplace? Need some ideas? Here are some places to explore:
Google Trends – Google offers this tool to discover what people are searching for online, but it’s also a great way to explore high-traffic topics that might point to a business idea. Here is an example Google Trend report for the keywords “work at home supplies”:
Give it a try!
US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook -The US Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a handbook that shows which job sectors are growing or trending. Perhaps there’s a business idea centered around these occupations? Think outside the box.
Growing Business Sectors—Check out the latest reports of growing business sectors to determine if there is an unmet need. As of 2017, according to Sageworks, Information-technology firms and construction-related companies dominate the fastest-growing industries in the US.
50 Business Ideas People Are Actually Making Money From —a great post with some great ideas that might be a good bet.
Get the Help You Need
My first few years were tough. Learning about business licensing, legal issues, insurance, sales, marketing, bookkeeping, and contracts were all-time consuming. Fortunately, I sought the help I needed to stay afloat. My recommendations:
US Small Business Administration – The SBA has some wonderful resources. My favorite is their online guide 10 Steps to Start Your Business which includes all the information I needed to start my businesses ten years ago. SBA’s online courses are also excellent.
SCORE: Score is a fantastic nonprofit association supported by the SBA that is run by volunteer business counselors through the US. Start by visiting your local SCORE office. You can make an appointment with a mentor for in-person advice or attend a business workshop to get started.
PivotPlanet.com: Whether you’re considering becoming a toymaker or digital strategist, is the best place to find advice on navigating your next entrepreneurial steps. If you have business experience in a certain field, you can also serve as an advisor.
Set up Resources for Ongoing Training, Education and Skill Acquisition
Entrepreneurship demands ongoing learning, education, and skill acquisition. I’ve learned multiple skills as an entrepreneur such as Photoshop for graphic design, SEO to generate leads, and HTML for building websites. These skills have served me well, and they continue to play a critical role in running my businesses.
Here are a few places to learn and acquire new skills:
Lynda.com: An online portal where you can take classes on just about anything. For a monthly fee, you’ll get unlimited access to all their classes. It’s a great place to learn about marketing, sales, graphic design, HTML, and more.
CreativeLIVE: Another great place to take online classes. Class titles include How to Build a Memorable Brand, Storytelling: Using Story to Influence and Connect, Effective Email and Newsletter Marketing, and Growing Your Business with YouTube. Check out their schedule of daily live classes. The live broadcasts are free with on-demand versions available for a small fee.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online courses available for anyone to enroll. MOOCs provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career, and deliver quality educational experiences at scale. Courses include topics such as basic marketing and how to creating engaging presentations to lessons of leadership and how to use Evernote. Participating schools include Berkely, MIT, Georgetown University, Columbia University, Harvard, and Dartmouth.
Other Resources I Love:
Surround yourself with a lot of support. Your support system will get through the tough times. Over the years, I developed a support system of carefully selected (and small) networking groups and continue to get a lot of support from family and friends. I also have a lot of clients who are also entrepreneurs, and they are a great support system as well. So what are you waiting for? Jump in!