Thursday, March 27, 2008

Smicko'z World Part 2

Time Money Patience

And a thick skin.

Someone asked me not too long ago what it takes to start your own small business. This was my answer. Though frankly, the last one should really come first. For every positive person out there, there is an equal naysayer. There are thousands of reasons NOT to do this. But if there is even one compelling reason for you to keep going, then you should.
How to start? Well, you should have an actual product in hand. A prototype. Then you need to go out and figure out what it would cost to create 100, 500, or 1000 of them. How would you brand it? How would you market it? What benefits would the product have to the retailer and the consumer? You immediately need to start thinking past yourself. I suggest starting by making a bunch of prototypes and getting people to test them and give you feedback. All feedback, positive and negative. It's all useful, and take all of it in. If something's not working, fix it. In fact, constructive criticism helped build Smicko'z out of my house and into a real business.
Get your financial house of cards standing. How will you pay for it? If you are a mompreneur like me, you have a score of financial commitments that CANNOT fall through. Your family depends on you. So you won't like what I have to say next: Don't quit your dayjob. The startup capital may come from your line of credit, an angel loan from family, or from hard fought for savings. But immediately, and without further ado, set up a business account, and from that point on keep business money separate from household money. Oh - and incorporate yourself, you need to do that to get the business account.
Next, find the 'Good People' who are going to help you manufacture, package, and brand your product. Don't be in a hurry. The good people are hard to find. You will speak to a ton of other people before you find the good people for you. The good people may be ones you've never thought of, and may be in places you never figured you'd be doing business in (I'm in Canada, my packaging is coming from North Carolina). The good people will not care that you are small, and are ordering in small quantities. They will treat you professionally and courteously, and will be appreciative of your business. Because the good people know something that a lot of other people have forgotten: Your small business today, could be a big business tomorrow. And they will have won your loyalty. And as much as you humanly can, you will attempt to keep using the good people. Your good people will also become your network launch pad. They may be in touch with retail outlets, buyers, and distributors, and if they believe in you, they are going to connect you. Be good to your good people. Create an honest back and forth relationship. Don't get angry with them if they make a mistake. Work with them to fix it. Mistakes are how you and your business will learn and grow. Business is built on mistakes. Attempt, at all costs, to never blame - you will alienate your good people. There may come a time where your business is going at such a large volume that your current network can't keep up with - you will have to find more people - but in the meantime don't worry about it.

Stay tuned for Smicko'z World
The Retail Experience

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