Most people think that jobs are more “stable” than being an entrepreneur. Most people also think that entrepreneurship is an attitude or skill you are born with and cannot be taught.
Both ideas have their fair share of truth, but times are changing and so are these concepts.
With an uncertain and challenging job market, more people are seeing entrepreneurship as a way to regain some control over how they invest their time and energy but also looking at making an impact by solving problems that big employers may not be addressing at the moment.
Entrepreneurship offers more than ever, the opportunity for individuals and small groups to create solutions to local problems with a global impact such as reducing waste, improving food security, increasing fair trade and helping others to reduce their ecological footprint and increase resilience, among others.
We are witnessing the emergence of social entrepreneurship and start-ups training programs, support groups and 1-1 coaching, both in-person and online. Entrepreneurship can be learned, and for those with a natural attitude for ideas and business, it can also be improved.
Entrepreneurship can be challenging: it requires full investment and responsibility, particularly at the beginning, but it offers also many rewards: once established, you will be doing meaningful and fulfilling work, will be less stressed and more engaged with the community where you live. Your community and family will also gain resilience and a network of friends and local customers.
What are the steps?
- Choose one idea: this may be a product, a service or a process you want to offer. Problems selecting the idea? Hire a coach, join a training program or ask around and be ready to listen.
- Determine the market: segment your idea would apply to single parents? Seniors? Youth? Artists? Where do they live? What are their routines? What do they use to communicate and shop?
- Validate your idea: approach a sample of your segment (online, group, 1-1 or a combination) and ask whether this idea would work for them. Would it solve their problem? Would they pay for it? Is the price you have in mind realistic?
- Make any changes to your idea once you have received enough feedback. Does it continue to be viable for you? For the potential customers?
- Vision and Mission, Values: what is the purpose of your business (why are you offering this product or service?); what are the logistics (how are you going to do this?); and what exactly are you offering (describe products or services in details)
- Expenses: Look at the logistics and write down the Math: do you need a place? Equipment? Supplies? Training to upgrade your skills? Licenses or permits? Other people in the team? Website or other channels for marketing? Anything else? What are the costs?
- Type: Based on the targeted market and the type of product or service, what type of business may be best for you? Profit or non-profit? Solo, partnership or cooperative?
- Income: Put in writing: How do you need to earn to make this viable? Make sure you set realistic goals. You may need to secure an alternative source of income while you start your business.
- Money: What are the sources of investment? Financial institutions? Family and friends? Savings? Crowdfunding? Grants?
- Alternative economy: Is there anything you need (space, equipment, skills, marketing) that may be sourced for free or as an exchange with other businesses, neighbours, friends?
- Business Plan: At this point, you may need to start creating a business plan. This document is sometimes mandatory when you ask for loans or approach potential investors. But will also save you a lot of headaches knowing in advance what you are set to do.
- Create a prototype: before you launch big (and risk failing big), start with small prototypes of the product or service you are offering. This will allow you to “test” it and make any necessary changes, or see if this actually works for you. You can leverage on existent business, markets, fairs and friends of friends for now and see how it goes.
- Market: design a market plan that matches the channels and preferences of your targeted audience. Do they use social media or prefer face-to-face contact? Do they read certain publications or attend certain events? Use this information to design your promotional strategy
- Launch! Remember: start slow and small. Businesses do better if you have other sources of income so if one goes down, you still have a backup.
Finally, there are some characteristics that successful entrepreneurs share. But remember: many of them can be learned! They include vision, perseverance, motivation, creativity, flexibility, accountability, risk tolerance, willingness to learn, discipline and belief in themselves.
Are you ready for the challenge?