Tory Johnson, author of the new book, SPARK & HUSTLE: Start and Grow Your Small Business Right Now, is traveling the country on her 20-city Spark & Hustle conference series, teaching women how to launch and build their entrepreneurial dreams.
One of Tory's key messages is that starting a business doesn't have to cost a lot of money...you don't need an MBA...nor do you need a fancy Rolodex full of high profile contacts. In fact, there are 5 simple questions you can ask yourself right now to get started. These questions can be used as the basis of your simple one-page business plan.
1) What's your why? What's the personal driver for starting this business vs. finding any other way to make money such as getting a job? For Tory, it was getting fired - and the permanent scar of a pink slip. Her why was that she vowed never again to work for someone else; to only bank on herself. This is key so you're not tempted to throw in the towel. You're hooked on this business and nothing will stop you.
2) What will you sell and to whom will you sell it? Be able to say it in a sentence. If it takes you 10 minutes to describe your product or service and the benefits to the buyer, you've lost them. If you can't say it simply, nobody will remember it and then they can't buy from you. Clear, concise, compelling is key. Also when you know your audience, you can target it effectively. 'Everyone' is not your target market, so be sure that you can narrow your niche.
3) What's your how much? Gotta know your numbers-what does it cost to deliver your product or service, how much can you charge for it, and how many must you sell to make it worthwhile to you as a business? Forget the 40 page business plan where you're forecasting how rich you'll be in year five - focus on the immediate numbers. Too often women flee from this step, but if you want to be a business owner, this is the most fundamental challenge to master.
4) What's your hustle? This is the meat of your marketing and sales. It's the way you'll attract your prospective buyers and sell to them. Social media, networking, word of mouth, partnerships, collaborations, media coverage, etc-this is the stuff that will make up your marketing efforts. How will you attract prospects and how will you seal the deal? This is the step where the magic happens. And you must recognize the importance of this stage because no sales = no business.
5) What's your measure? A classic mistake is to say you'll 'try' your hardest and see what happens. Only when you set specific goals and then frequently measure against them will you make progress or determine that this isn't right for you. Be a MOTOR not an ANCHOR since momentum is key when launching and throughout your early grow.
BONUS TIPS for starting your business:
? Launch a business because you want to own a business. By this I mean, don't pursue this path simply because you can't find a job or because you think you want to work less. Start a small business because you're wildly passionate about your idea as well as being your own boss, controlling your time, and pursuing the financial freedom that is possible through entrepreneurship.
? Start today right where you are. Too often we say we'll get going when we have time or when we lose 10 more pounds or when we finally have some money. Instead of waiting for those things or any other excuses, start right now--today. The time is good enough to get going. Imagine how much you can accomplish if you take bold action each and every day, no matter the circumstances.
? Tune out the naysayers. There are plenty of people who'll question whether you're capable of really starting a business. When I began in 1999, everyone, except my husband and my mother, told me I was insane. They said I had no experience running a business, I had no proper training, I was crazy to give up a "steady" paycheck to do something so risky. I refused to listen because I knew this was the path for me. If you're positive it's right for you, get ready to tune-out the downers who'll derail your momentum.
? Find a buddy who'll cheer you to victory. You only need one person who'll support you all the way--and that'll be invaluable when you hit brick walls, which we all do. This person will remind you that you can climb over, under, around or through as you forge ahead to make great things happen.
? Use your existing resources even if you don't have everything you need. Having lots of money at your disposal doesn't guarantee success, and having limited resources doesn't doom you to failure. If you're self-funding your launch, strip your needs to the bare minimum to get going. Then focus on funding your growth through initial sales. Get creative: buy used equipment instead of new. Barter for services where possible. Negotiate better rates by asking for deals and trials.
? Get social. Every small business should have a robust social media presence. Choose the platform that best aligns with your business type and the one where your prospects can be found. For example, a business consulting practice may be best served on LinkedIn, and a cupcake company would opt for Facebook and Pinterest. Develop a simple strategy for how you'll build and nurture a following that will help put your business on the map.
Connect with Tory directly online or at her events. Ask her your specific questions at Facebook.com/Tory or Twitter.com/ToryJohnson--and learn more about her events at SparkandHustle.com.