Small Business

The hustle is real: Using downtime to start your own business

If you find yourself with a lot of downtime and at a crossroads in your professional life, you might wonder what the next step might be. Maybe you have a business idea that you think would be helpful to the public and have even contemplated starting your own business. Do you want to be your own boss?

Where should you start?

Why do you want to start you own business?
What are you going to bring to the table or what need are you fulfilling? It’s important to know to whom your company will be catering and it always helps to have a unique idea. The most important thing is to make sure that your business will have an audience and will have room to grow.

Conduct market research
Look at the market in which you will be building your business and ask yourself if your idea has already been attempted. If it hasn’t been attempted, why? According to www.entrepreneur.com, you should take the time to research any potential competition and figure what has and hasn’t worked for them. Another good starting point is asking potential customers what they are missing in current businesses.

Assess your finances
Determine how much money you need to start a business and find your “break even” point. How much money will you have to put into your business before you make money back? How much work will that entail?

According to Business News Daily, it’s important to determine profitability in relation to your fixed costs and the price of your service. How much should you charge for a service in order to make a living? Is this plan sustainable?

Determine where you’ll get the money for your business. Maybe you’re using your own savings or taking out a business loan with a small bank. You might be eligible for a grant or you might want to solicit other investors. Is crowdfunding an option for you? A website such as www.gust.com is a good place to start looking at funding options.

Make it official
Figure out what entity your business is:

  • Sole proprietorship: Owner holds managerial control and is liable for all financial obligations to the business
  • Partnership: Two or more people will share the profits and losses of the business
  • Corporation: A legal entity that conducts business and is separate from the founder. The corporation handles all of the responsibilities that come with the business.
  • Limited liability company (LLC): This offers benefits to both the corporation and the founders of a business. Profits and losses are passed through to the business owner, while the business itself is protected from liability.

Other important things you will need for your business are federal and state tax ID, permits and licenses, and trademarks, copyrights and patents.

Create a website and kick up your social media game
Branding is an important part of business ownership. Create a website that tells the world what your company is all about in a concise manner. Outline what your business does and what your goals are. Include pricing and contact info.

Aside from a website, social media is how people are going to find your company. Let’s face it: pretty much everyone is on social media and we love companies that engage with the public. Create Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages (if applicable) in order to share your latest company news and reach your clients. Certain companies might also want to create a YouTube channel that will allow potential customers to get to know you and your brand on a more personal level.

LinkedIn will also allow you to connect with other people in your field and make it easy for potential customers to find you and learn about your business — especially a startup.

From one business owner to another

To learn more about small business ownership, I talked to Georgia Wilson, the owner of The Bead Shop, a full-service bead store specializing in custom jewelry and repairs, located at 4612 Magazine St. The shop was opened 27 years ago by Wilson’s mother, Nancy, and has been rated one of the top bead stores in the country.

Wilson said owning a small business means wearing many hats and performing multiple jobs at once.

She explained, “Running a small business is an incredible amount of work. I am the chief finance officer, gardener, jewelry designer, toilet cleaner, and class instructor. Owning a small business like this has VERY little to do with just making pretty jewelry (which is what people think). Small business ownership is a very dynamic role that requires a broad skill set, a great attitude and an adaptable personality. You can’t EVER be afraid to get your hands dirty.”

Anyone who owns a business will tell you that there are ups and downs of all sorts. Wilson said that the pros and cons equal out.

“I’m a mother, so I love that I have never had to miss an important event of my daughter’s, and I have my wonderful staff to thank for that,” she said. “I have a creative brain and this job allows me endless opportunities to tap into this while running a fun and successful business that makes other people feel good.”

She continued, “The cons are: retail schedule. Committing to being open and running a business seven days a week ends up being a lot of work. Once you’ve committed to being open you must make sure the store is open and running with a great staff, which sometimes limits flexibility.”

Wilson said that the daily anxiety of running a small business, meeting sales goals, good foot traffic and people’s buying habits can come down to small factors such as the weather, how the Saints played or how the economy is doing.

“Being able to look at the big picture and not the daily number is so important, but also so hard. Small business ownership is not cute, easy or for the faint of heart, but it can be very emotionally rewarding,” she said.

I asked Wilson what her advice would be for anyone interested in being their own boss.

“Advice I would give is to only choose something you love,” she said. “I can’t imagine working this hard for something that didn’t excite me. Also, have access to capital at the drop of a hat, because you NEVER know what can happen.”

Like many business owners, Wilson is doing her best to navigate her way through the Coronavirus pandemic. She wants to do right by her employees in a time of great uncertainty.

“We are currently navigating the coronavirus scare and needing to shut down our only source of revenue for an undetermined amount of time. We employ a staff of wonderful people who rely on us for their income,” she said. “We’ll be taking a loan out just to pay for their salary, which basically now needs to happen overnight. My whole world changed in one week, and this is one of those weeks when I bet its really nice to work for a huge company with unlimited resources.”

As a small business owner, Wilson knows her business is going to change. She’s trying to navigate exactly what that means.

“THIS is a week that I would say small business ownership is very glamorous and tough. The impact of this virus will be huge- from financial, to shopping patterns, and how people will want to connect when it dies down. We must be adaptable and ready to accept the many changes we will face in the next few months,” she explained.

Despite the obstacles in front of her, Wilson is determined to keep her business running and will serve her community in any way she can.

“This scary week has highlighted the strengths of my amazing crew and has given me the faith that I need that we CAN survive this,” she said. “We will stay engaged with our local community and make sure they know our every move. Once we are back to business, it will be a strong, more organized, more efficient business and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.”