Many Canadians have successfully turned their passion into a business. Unfortunately, for every one entrepreneur who thrives, there are four that will fail. If you are brave and determined to be counted among one of five, there are certain steps that you need to take in the lead up to your transition to entrepreneur.
Step 1: Think. Like, really think.
Have you truly identified your full-time passion or do you simply have a hobby that might be more fun than your day job? If the answer is the latter, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have a viable business but it does mean that you have to put more effort into determining whether or not this is actually what you want to be doing day in and day out for the next X number of years. This is something we will focus on quite a lot this month. I will write more on this in my next post and we will have another real-life account from Rob, Owner of The Bartending School of Ontario in a couple of weeks.
Step 2: Identify the need
This is the part when I sound completely harsh and mean. When I’ve mentored or otherwise helped would-be entrepreneurs, I sometimes get a shocked look followed by a “Yeah but…”
Unfortunately, there is no yeah but at this stage. If you cannot identify a specific need for your product or service, you simply do not have a viable business opportunity.
Step 3: Narrow your scope
If you’ve completed step 2 and you’re thinking, “hah! I’ve identified about a billion target markets for my product, and in the process I’ve created a whole line of products for each one!” Well, this is the point you could be in trouble. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but you can’t be everything to everyone. Choose your service or product for your specific audience. It doesn’t mean you can’t expand later but for now you need focus.
For example, let’s say you grow herbs and plants. In your spare time, you’ve created delicious salad dressing, skin-softening bath bombs, and a killer pain remedy for aching joints and muscles. Your great aunt loves your dressing and swears she would pay $9 per bottle at the store for something half as good. Your brother loves the bath bombs because they help sooth his aching skin after working in the sun all day. Your partner, on the other hand, won’t use anything but your pain remedy after an intense game of hockey.
Omigosh, you have at least three separate target markets AND viable products! Not to mention the upselling opportunities if you create lines for your product, and all of the additional markets you can hit if you repackage each one!
This is where you narrow your scope and focus. Perhaps you decide to focus on pain remedies for athletes because of the potential profit margin, ability to test the market (your partner’s team and possibly the entire league) and a gap in the offering of natural remedies for joint and muscle pain. Yes, it’s true that you could also create a line with alternate packaging to appeal to boomers and seniors but for now, concentrate on doing one thing well for a specific group of people. Once you have that down pat, and additional money, resources and time, then you should think about expanding.
Step 4: Get help
Find out what resources are available to you. Many budding entrepreneurs make the mistake of assuming that grants, mentoring programs and other forms of assistance are only available for young Canadians. While that’s true for some programs, like Futurpreneur (an excellent program for those who are 39 and younger), this is not always the case. CFIB, for example has a free six-month start up program called My Start Up. It’s designed specifically for first-time entrepreneurs of all ages and provides help from experienced business counsellors. CFIB business counsellors are available to offer advice and assistance with everything from hiring your first employees to dealing with red tape, to applying for funding. BizPal.ca is another great resource, as is ScotiaBank’s Running Start program.
And don’t just look for formal assistance and programs. As you’re building your business, marketing and financial plan, it’s important to seek advice and mentoring from anywhere you can get it – family, friends, other business owners and anyone who can be a potential customer or client. A lot of people skip this step because either because they are afraid of someone stealing your idea or they’re nervous about negative feedback. You definitely need a thick skin, and an ability to separate negative comments from constructive ones. But this is great training for the will of steel you will need to develop once you are a full-fledged entrepreneur.
Step 5: Research and Do
The final advice I can offer is to research, research, research and plan, plan, plan. Just don’t let your desire for perfect to get in the way of your need to launch. As Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, said, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”