“I have a great idea. How do I turn it into a business?” I get asked this question a lot. It’s a great question. As entrepreneurs, we are often inundated with ideas for businesses, products, services– but a lot of us aren’t so great at the next step phase of actually setting up a small business.
Ideas are awesome. They’re also mushy and unformed and fantastical. They’re not real, and they don’t make real money.
If you follow these simple steps, you can move from idea to business. You can take your dream and open a real small business that is sustainable and profitable. It won’t be easy, and the journey will definitely surprise you, but I know you can get there.
Brainstorm on Paper, and with People
First things first: you have to get the idea out of your brain, and onto some paper. I’m a huge journal girl, basically obsessed with all things planner and printable and I highly recommend handwriting over typing for this phase. I think there’s something to be said for the mind-body connection of handwriting during brainstorming. It’s important to let yourself free write and explore your ideas.
Write about what you want to do, and what you want your work to do for you. Write about your skills, your resources. Try to imagine who your ideal clients are, and what they want. Let yourself wander: this is just for you.
Once you have a good grasp of your idea, reach out to a few close friends or colleagues that you trust for some nurturing encouragement and advice. Talking to others helps you gain another level of clarity, and can point you towards the right next steps.
Research the Industry
Next up: you need some information. Because of your awesome brainstorming session, you already know all you need to know about what your skills are and what you want to do. Now it’s time to figure out what’s going on in the industry. You’re looking to answer a couple of questions:
1. Is there a market for my service or product?
2. Do my idea clients have any unmet needs that I could fill?*
3. Who is my competition, and what are they doing?
4. What logistical steps do I need to take to set up my small business, in terms of taxes, payments and client files?
Try to keep your research in one place, wherever possible. I like to keep a notebook with all my notes, along with a secret Pinterest board and a few Google docs to store any online research.
*This is especially important if you find yourself in a saturated market. Browse comment sections and forums for interesting questions and problems that you could help resolve. You might be surprised at how much this can help you clarify your idea!
Talk to a Small Business Mentor
By this point, you should have a pretty firm grasp of your business idea. You might even have a business plan worked out, or a general calendar and to-do list for your launch. The crucial next step is to talk to a small business mentor.
A lot of new entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to move forward alone, assuming that the trial and error method is cheaper and more time-effective than seeking out help. I hope you hear me when I tell you: you don’t have to do it alone.
Talking to an experienced entrepreneur who has literally achieved your dream will set you up for success. When you review your business plan with a mentor, you can work out any last kinks and ask any burning questions. Your small business bestie can refine your plan and reorient your focus towards the most important pieces. You can find amazing people by joining Facebook Groups (like mine – join here!) or reaching out to your favorite entrepreneurs on instagram.
I can’t emphasize it enough: you need a small business mentor if you want to achieve success in your business. Brainstorming above you will save you so much time and money, not to mention keep you on track to achieve your goals.
Dive in Headfirst
Alright, girl. You’ve brainstormed, you’ve researched, you’ve gone over the nitty gritty with your small business bestie. It’s time to make the leap.
You might feel like you’re not ready. You might feel like you’re not good enough. You might feel like you’re destined to fail.
Every single industry is filled with women who are killing it in public and battling their insecurities in private. You know that saying “fake it til’ you make it?” Tattoo it on your brain, because it’s your new mantra.
You can do this. It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. Don’t spend another second worrying about what could happen. You and your business will always be learning, changing and growing. Just go for it. You got this.