by Amanda Knapp, Guest Blogger

 

So many people dream of being their own boss – whether they’re fresh out of college or just looking for a career change. And while many have the intention, starting a business is much easier said than done, as many would-be business owners learn.

But with a little research, a lot of planning and some willpower, you can absolutely make your entrepreneurial dreams come true. Not sure where to start? No problem. These five steps help break down how to jumpstart your entrepreneurial journey.

 

Do your research.

In the beginning, you research, research, research. And when you think you’ve researched enough, you research some more. When I was first starting out, I must have researched over 25-30 childcare companies. I decided what I liked and did not like in their business models. You need to be able to create something that fills a void, while also being able to tweak and change it as you go.

When you’re doing your research, you want to be sure you’re getting a full grasp on what’s already out there. Find out who your competitors are and then go through their approach with a fine-tooth comb. Note what you think is working for them, what may not be, what sets them apart and what you can do better. These insights are what will help you shape your business model.

 

Make a plan.

After you’ve researched your brains out, you want to take your findings and turn them into an actionable plan. When doing this, you’ll want to ask yourself:

  • What is your business?
  • How will it meet the needs of others?
  • How is it different than what is currently being offered?
  • Who are your customers? Where are they? Why should they choose you?

Always keep your end goal in mind and align every piece of your plan with it. Immerse yourself into the community that you want to break into and sell the brand to those around you.

 

Find a mentor.

Starting a business is sure to be challenging, and having an experienced professional on your side to help guide you through the process can be the difference between thriving and struggling. There are no set criteria for a mentor – it could be an old professor, former boss or colleague or just someone in your life that you look up to – and initiating the relationship it can be as easy as reaching out and asking them to meet for coffee.

If you don’t have any former contacts to pull from, don’t worry. Now is the time to start expanding your network. Not only will this help you find a mentor but also a larger support group you can turn to for help and advice. There are plenty of places where you can meet other entrepreneurs and driven young people.

One of my favorite go-to’s is local groups for women, whether it be in business groups or another entrepreneur you admire. These small local groups or fellow entrepreneurs are movers and shakers who are bursting with business savvy insights. The best groups are the ones that not only help you learn how to network, but also provide that extra layer of encouragement and mentorship. You’ll know you found the right one when there are women who go out of their way to talk to you, learn about you, share about their own journey and lift you up. Once you’ve found that, LISTEN to them. These are the people who can truly identify with your dream and your ideas. Their tried and true, been there done that experience will be key to helping you help yourself — and avoid the same pitfalls they may have fallen victim to.

While you’re taking their advice, don’t forget to be YOU. Listen carefully to what your mentor(s) have to say so that when you are ready to learn and grow, you have the awesome advice to pull from, but don’t lose sight of your business and your goals. You may not be open to learning or growing as quickly as others may encourage you to do, and that’s ok. Take note and store their advice for when you’ll need it down the road. Genuine insight from fellow entrepreneurs is one of the most valuable business tools you can get.

 

Roll with it.

You’ve got your mentor, you’ve done your research and you have a plan. Now it’s time to put it in place, which, I’m going to be honest, is the single most thrilling and terrifying step in the process.

You may not have all the answers or always know what to do in the beginning, but I can say that when I’ve found myself struggling or not knowing how to handle a situation, I’ve always trusted my instincts. Being able to roll with the punches is huge for new business owners. Better than that, using any missteps or failure to better innovate business practices is invaluable. Failing is inevitable and it happens to everyone. Success is how hard you’re willing to work and how much you’re willing to learn to grow. It’s what you do when you fall that truly allows you to gain the growth and experience you’ll need to be a successful entrepreneur.

 

Focus.

The other key thing to keep in mind is to keep a laser focus on your business model and put up blinders to anything else. When you’re just starting out, the ideas are endless. And they keep coming! It’s tempting to want to explore every new initiative that pops into your head, when really you need to be putting your all into this baby company you’ve just given life to.

The main advice I wish I could go back and tell myself, “Amanda, you’ve just started a business and you don’t need to do more than focus on that right now.” When you become a business owner, your time becomes so much more valuable and you must protect it.

 

Pass it on.

You’ve started up and stayed up. Now what? In my opinion, one of the best parts of being a business owner is being able to pay it forward. Your company’s success isn’t just yours to celebrate; it’s also the success of everyone that’s supported you along the way.

The best way to celebrate your success is to help other young hopefuls reach their business goals. Maybe you incorporate mentoring in your business model, maybe you take on some pro-bono clients and provide your services to those less fortunate at a fraction of what you normally charge. Maybe you even promote some of your junior employees and teach them how to take on more responsibility so that they can keep progressing within the company.

Remember those local women in business groups? Next time you attend a meeting, keep an eye out for the starry-eyed young girl looking for a mentor to discuss her ideas. You’ll notice her because she’ll have the same appetite for knowledge that you did at that point in your entrepreneurial journey. The truly significant piece to mentoring is what you get in return. Empowering someone else, in turn, empowers you.  

 

About the Author:

Amanda Knapp is the founder and CEO of Sitting Made Simple, the safe and reliable solution to professional childcare, based out of Columbus, Ohio.

To learn more about Amanda and her company, Sitting Made Simple, check out her website, https://www.sittingmadesimple.com.

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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