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Monday, March 19, 2012

Work It Out: 5 Key Steps to Starting a Business

By Chellie Mejia, B.Sc.

Being an entrepreneur is a dream for so many people. The idea of being your own boss and working in a field that you’re interested in and passionate about is a luxury that many don’t get to live in their 9 to 5. The truth is a lot of new businesses fail within the first three years. So I thought I’d share five key tips for planning a successful start to your entrepreneurial journey.

1. Think it through. The first thing you need to figure out is whether being an entrepreneur is right for you. Every successful business owner I know works above and beyond the 40 hour work week and more conventional jobs. There are, of course, benefits to being your own boss. You can put your own ideas into motion, make decisions that define the course of your company, and enjoy the limitless potential to earn more. So take your time and think it through. Make sure you’re the kind of person who likes to give yourself challenges taking on a new project and sees possibilities where others see problems. Dreams play a role, but what counts is action, and if you’re willing to put in the work, it is absolutely possible to influence your destiny.

2. Put pen to paper and plan. Develop your ideas and your business plan.This is where the work begins. A dynamic business plan can help you determine the path you plan to take with your company, turn ideas into a tangible constructed business, and is even necessary in securing financing from lenders and investors. It can help in identifying weaknesses in terms of capabilities or local competition, and can communicate your vision to potential colleagues or partners. If you want to be a business owner, regardless of the industry, your first capability should be your product or service, but your second capability should always be business itself. If you don’t know what an Executive Summary or an Operational Plan is, Google it, research it, and learn! It’ll be the first of many hats you’ll have to wear as a small business owner.

3. Make it legit. Choose a name for your business – something unique and easy to remember – and register your business with the necessary levels of government. You’ll need a Business Number, which will serve as your account number for dealing with the government regarding payroll, taxes, and other activities. You can use this Business Number to open a business bank account so you can start keeping personal money away from business money. Do it right from the start to avoid potentially devastating complications down the line.

4. Money, money, money. Financing is often the most challenging aspect of starting a business, but there are so many resources available out there to get your business off the ground. The government provides financing to help start-up businesses, some that need to be repaid and some that don’t. There are also various private sector financing opportunities that you might be able to secure. Do your research and take advantage of the resources that exist.

5. Get to work! Put your dreams into action, and get ready to roll your sleeves up and delve right in! This is your moment to shine and to build an empire out of nothing! It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen without some sleepless nights and stressful moments, but if you’re willing to put in the work, the sky’s the limit! Good luck!

Chellie Mejia is a freelance writer, real estate developer and lifestyle coach.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Hey, Small-Business Owner: Do You Shop Local?

BY Carol Tice

If you've been trying to keep shoppers loyal to your small business and out of the big chain stores, you're not alone. Small retailers have been trying to harness the "shop local" movement to hang onto their customers.

But here's a question for every business owner out promoting the advantages of dealing with local merchants: Do you walk that talk?

As I listen to the endless drumbeat of objections to how the big companies operate -- most recently, the flap over Amazon's price-checking app over the holidays -- I wonder how many small-business owners apply their shop-local philosophy to themselves?

Behind the curtain at your store or home business, where do you shop?

Do you use an independent shipping firm to truck your goods? Buy your office supplies from a small independent, or maybe at Staples?

Are you featuring products from small, local manufacturers, or do you buy in bulk from giant corporations?

In my town, I've watched store after store that tries to get by purchasing items in bulk from Costco or other big chains and then reselling them. Inevitably, they go bust. Why? Besides being more expensive, you're not differentiated enough. You're selling the same old stuff. You can bust out of that rut and stock products that are less easily price-compared by investigating local suppliers instead.

One way local businesses can get some real buzz going is to buy local themselves, and to feature how they buy local in their marketing. Several restaurants I patronize do a great job of this, with menus describing the locally raised beef and produce they're using in their dishes, down to what farm it's from.

That's a powerful way to attract shop-local oriented consumers and give them a more compelling reason to visit you. It also lets small businesses support each other directly, and can help build new relationships for marketing.

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Cathy Harris is an Empowerment and Motivational Speaker, Non-GMO Health and Wellness Expert, Self-Publishing and Business Coach.