So you want to start your own business, huh? With all the ins and outs and the plethora of information available now, more than ever, it’s the best time to get started. Studies show that in 2018, 45% of small business owners were minority ethnic groups. This was already a dramatic increase from 2015, when the amount of minority business owners was just 15%. The biggest increase among minority small business owners, however, has been the huge increase in the number of African American small business owners year over year from 2017 to 2018. The increase? Drum roll please… a whopping 400%! Hispanics represented the next largest group at 14%. Meanwhile, Asians made up 8% while Native American business owners came in at 4%.
With growth like this it’s easy to indulge in the vision of creating a living by using your God-given gifts. The very thought of living your best life while doing what comes naturally to you is exhilarating in itself. Still, taking that first step can be intimidating. Maybe you’ve put off becoming an entrepreneur because you think you don’t have the money, the tools, or the time to start a business. Well I’m here today to help you send those fears to their final resting place. It’s time to #LiveLive and bring those dreams to fruition! Take a walk with me as I share some tips on how to get started with your business… on a budget, of course!
You’ve Gotta Research!
You don’t want to start your business only to find out one’s already in your city and it’s actually in your neighborhood! A simple Google search of the name of your product or service will tell you who (if anyone) is creating your product or offering your service in your city, how much they charge, and where these companies are located. Go online to google.com and plug the name into the search bar.
To get no-cost counseling or mentoring, visit or go online to your local Score chapter www.score.org or Small Business Administration office www.sba.gov. You can find a mentor, take courses, ask questions, get help writing your business plan, and use a variety of tools--all for free!
Now Make a Plan!
Creating a business plan and developing your strategy are essential to the success of your business. I know, it sounds daunting, but if you start right you won’t have to get right later! This plan will help you to determine the who, the what, and the how of turning your weekend hobby into a real business.
There are many online sources to give you guidance and even free templates and forms to write your business plan.
Don’t know what a biz plan looks like? Need an example? Business plans at www.bplans.com has over 500 complete plans and is a great place to begin looking at business plan examples and templates.
Two Words: Google Docs (docs.google.com)
You can create documents, contracts, spreadsheets and forms. All of these documents are online or in the “cloud” so they can be accessed with any computer just by signing on to your Gmail account. Cost? $FREE99!
But wait…There’s more!
Google also offers the following free business options.
Email: Setup a free email account in minutes.
Google Talk: Chat online (instant message) for free with anyone else who has a Google email account
Google Voice: Get a free Google phone number you can use for business, for a promotion, or for a second line. You can add voicemail to this number, receive your messages in a text and email, or decide to answer. Many uses—no cost!
Google Duo: Make high quality video calls from your smartphone, tablet, and computer. It works on iOS & Android platforms. Service-based entrepreneurs this is an excellent option when facilitating, consultations and YES! It’s FREE! I’m just sayin…
Google Docs: Create business forms from scratch or use the forms templates and upload the forms directly to your site. Add your company logo, and now you have professional looking documents.
Calendar: Keep your schedule organized, invite associates to meetings, and forward this calendar to your iPhone, Android, or other device for wait, what’s that again?? Oh, okay… FREE!
Yes, the startup phase of opening your business on a budget will require a bit of elbow grease but look at it this way: We value what we invest in. Sure you can pay for the work to be done but personally, I’d rather do what I can on my own and utilize the coins I saved to perfect my products and services. More on that on another day! Let’s keep going…
Marketing News, Marketing Research, Publicity
Think you can’t do your own marketing starting out? Well, not only can you DIY: Do it Yourself when starting up, you can market your company efficiently & professionally. To DIY, you must know what works for your industry, your prospective clients, & your time.
Research, Research, Research (sounding redundant yet? Good!)
By now, Google should have become your goodest, bestist friend. You can search “Free Marketing” and find a ton of information on ways to get the word out about your products and services. You can also visit Digital Marketing Resources at www.cmo.com to learn what corporate marketing officers use to brand and market their companies.
To create a marketing strategy that gets results, visit “Free Sample Marketing Plans” at www.mplans.com where over 500 examples are available to you… FREE!
At this point in time EVERY business MUST have an interactive, informative, and clean website. But it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Many companies are using blogs to create fully functioning and professional looking websites and you can set yours up for a few dollars and a few minutes.
Using WordPress, wordpress.com, you can set up a new blog. Wordpress is free and you have tons of tools to make it unique, to brand your business, and attract customers.
Domains (your website address) usually cost less than $10 bucks. Godaddy.com often have $1.99 .coms available. Go see if your name is available at godaddy.com
At this point you’ve got your website and email address and you can add tons of features including video, your social media streams, calendar, photos, forums, online chat. This list is endless—all for whaaat? C’mon! Say it with me… Free!! Yep!
Social media is yet another source of free P.R. for your business. There are many platforms available to you. Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular.
Facebook.com is most definitely a viable resource for business. With more than 2.38 billion active monthly users- YOU READ THAT RIGHT… BILLION your perfect client is definitely online.
Instagram.com focused on visuals, both images and video based content. Use it to showcase your products and tell your brand’s story with unique and engaging content. Instagram is certainly a must- have for business in 2019.
Twitter.com is an online news and social networking site where people communicate in short messages called tweets. Tweeting is posting short messages for anyone who follows you with the hope that your messages are useful and interesting to someone in your audience.
There’s also YouTube.com that is a video based social media platform. This is a must have if creating an audience for your demonstration- centered service or product.
Who knows your story best?
You do, of course and that is exactly why you can do your own public relations (PR) when starting your company.
Develop Your Skills
First, let’s research. You need skills, passion, and an impeccable presentation to create and complete a PR strategy. You’re not quite there yet? No problem. Go to www.prnewswire.com and get to learning! This site is overflowing with information for a DIYer or a PR professional. Whatever you need, it’s here.
Ok, you’ve studied up and now need to put your PR skills to use to promote your event, your new product or service. Go to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, & set up your accounts (for best results create the same username across all platforms) then post about it. Then go to www.mymediaroom.com to organize and distribute press releases and events yourself for free. This site also allows for social media plug-ins so that your press releases and event promotions are seamless across several channels.
Connect, Meet, Present
At some point, you’ll start connecting and collaborating within your team and other business professionals to work on projects and presentations together.
Network, Network, Network!
The best form of marketing is word- of mouth. Join groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and network. Connect with local professional groups in your area of interest and attend and participate in the events. Eventbrite.com is another source for networking events in your area. Just get out there! They won’t know about you or your business if you don’t show up!
Ok, let’s see what you’ve accomplished.
You’ve researched your industry and have a business plan.
You’ve organized your new business.
You’ve created professional looking documents, set up your website, and bought your own domain name and email account.
You are no longer new to marketing and PR, but you now know many sources to help you get the word out and brand your company.
When you’re ready to connect and collaborate, you know how to do it efficiently and free.
So, whether you’re ready to dive in to entrepreneurship full throttle or just want to monetize your hobby to take a nice vacation, my prayer is that you make a decision to take action. It’s okay to dream but my goal today was to equip you with an array of FREE startup tools that enable you to wake up and live the life of your dreams. No More Excuses, ladies! It’s time to #LiveLive If not now…When? Faith without works is dead! James 2:17
CEO Ann Matthews Design Co.