Overcome your fears

April 01, 2008 11:00 pm

The fear of starting a business is not unfounded.

To keep a small business afloat is a tough task. It takes a lot of time, dedication and determination. The top reasons people don't dive into the business world are money, security, competition and lack of ideas.

Money always seems to be the biggest concern. Entrepreneurs need start-up capital and at least three months of operating money to get their idea off the ground and into a storefront.

I spoke to my mother who has always toyed with the idea of working for herself. She has the business degree and experience, but starting a business is scary.

She said that if you don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to start off with, you can't afford to lose money if it doesn't work out.

And there's always the question: How can a new business owner ensure there'll be customers once the doors are open? Customers are essential to making money.

Another issue my mother brought to my attention is that money is tight for most people with a looming recession. What business (besides one supplying basic necessities like food) would prompt people to spend their money?

She suggested products and services (and I agree wholeheartedly) that are geared toward baby boomers, specifically health issues; the environmentally aware (this caters to the green movement); teens, who love to blow their allowance, and the technologically savvy.

A great deal of businesses go under because they don't have customers. Once the idea is in place, how do you attract customers?

This can only be answered with business experience. The first-time business owner is most likely not going to be knowledgeable about the intricacies of attracting customers. One can only become experienced by trying and perhaps failing.

A Web site, eHow.com, has many suggestions—be forewarned that most of these will cost money. As the old adage goes, you have to spend it to earn it.

Create an easy-to-use Web site that gives potential customers a chance to peruse the goods and services. Also, being able to order online is a time-saving measure. It's called the World Wide Web for a reason, people around the world will be able to look at your products.

Have a grand opening or open house and invite the entire community. Give out information and business cards.

Stay up-to-date on your products and services, in particular the pricing, customer service, product availability and prompt delivery. This will help ensure happy customers, who will then spread the word.

Generate buzz by supporting a local charity with a fundraiser such as a food drive, toy drive or walkathon. Take photos and send them to the local newspaper.

Distribute flyers and business cards on windshield wipers, apartment buildings and community center bulletin boards—anything to get people aware of your business.

Maintain a visible presence in the community. You can't expect customers to just show up or remember that your business is still open six months after the grand opening. Put your business on display at trade shows, go to community events and offer to speak at seminars.

A key to visibility is advertising with the newspaper, local TV or radio. Offer giveaways, have sales, include cut-out coupons.

These ideas are not fool-proof, but a good idea deserves its day in the sun. Hard work doesn't usually cause people to fail.