Blog

30
Aug

Problem + Solution = New Business

Women who have had success in the corporate world are building the next wave of globally scaling companies.

And they’re doing it because they recognize problems that they can solve.  Women are figuring out solutions and building companies around those solutions.  While many haven’t built a business from scratch before, they are well prepared for the challenge of launching a startup.  If you are noodling on a concept for a business, here are a few things to consider as you muster the courage to go from idea generator to entrepreneur.

No one was born an entrepreneur. 

All of the skills needed to be an entrepreneur have been learned over time.  Starting a scalable business is a lot like picking up the game of golf: you can learn to play at any stage of life.  Don’t let your age or those pesky negative voices in your head stop you.

Commit your time and be prepared to sacrifice.

If you are a student, mother, volunteer, caregiver, cook, driver, counselor, friend, partner, and so on, it is going to be difficult to find the time you need to work on your business.  You have to be prepared to make some significant changes in order to accommodate the responsibilities that come along with starting up a company.  Since you’re probably already a master of the ‘to do’ list, creating a startup ‘to do’ list with due dates will be a piece of cake.  Use the journal that your girlfriend gave you for your birthday and start writing down what you know you need to do to move your idea forward.  Devote 15 minutes a week to this simple project.

Build a strong foundation of support around you.

Do you have a personal advisory board?  Individuals who can advise you in areas where you may be ‘less seasoned’ will help you as you work through new challenges for the first time.  They will be there to keep you honest and cheer you on.  Make a list of 5 areas in your life where you would like to become more knowledgeable.  Seek out experts in these areas by talking with your colleagues and exploring LinkedIn. Build reciprocal relationships with your board.  If they are willing to invest their time in you, be willing to look for ways that you can support them.  Thank them on Twitter, send them a birthday card, or forward an article that would be of interest.

Participate in the entrepreneurial community.

Now is the perfect time to grow your network to include friends and colleagues who are entrepreneurs, investors, fundraisers, designers, developers, attorneys, and accountants.  Spend time with people who have already accomplished what you dream of doing.  It’s perfectly OK that you don’t know terms like valuation, pro forma, unit economics, cap table, or venture capital. You will become acquainted with people who are experts on all of these subjects, and you will learn from their successes and failures.  Surround yourself with people who will open doors for you and your business.  Schedule time on your calendar to attend meaningful networking events with organizations such as The Startup Ladies, PitchFeast, NAWBO, Verge, Venture Club, and The Purdue FoundryX.  Commit to attending networking events. Don’t give yourself an excuse not go because your presence and absence is being noticed.

Be purposeful about building the network your business needs.

Identify, initiate, and cultivate relationships with the entrepreneurs who you want to be like.  Successful executives usually want to help mentor and sponsor future leaders. Don’t be bashful about writing a thoughtful email about why you would like to become acquainted with a successful entrepreneur.  Keep them apprised of your progress: send them a quick note now and again to let them know that you’re thinking of them, and invite them to events that are meaningful to you.

Understand your customer.

You don’t need to spend a penny on your idea until you are certain that people want, need, and are willing to pay for your product or service.  Friends and family want you to be successful, so they tend to be positive and tell you what you want to hear. However, it’s important to prove the value of your idea with the actual customers who will use your product.  Don’t make assumptions about what your customer wants. You need to validate them before building and selling the product or service.  Focus on understanding your customers through interviews and surveys from the very beginning.

Every business needs a revenue model.

You need a plan to generate revenue and eventually become profitable.  Specifically, after you pay for things like staff, technology, marketing, utilities, and rent, you still need to have money left over.  A revenue model will explain how you will charge for your product or service.  An idea may sound innovative, but if it can’t be sold, you don’t have a business‒you have a hobby.  A revenue model and a strong sales and marketing strategy are the keys to becoming scalable and investor-ready.

Scale by sales.

Scaling a business means that a company builds a plan, the right team, and a solid foundation so that it can grow rapidly.  With the right strategy, 10 sales per month can grow to 1,000, or 10,000, sales per month.  Your first sale is exhilarating, and, before you know it, you’ll start selling consistently.  Congrats, at that point, you’ve got traction!  Actual sales, as well as a sales strategy, will prove to investors that there is a market for the product or service.  Start selling immediately – no need to wait for the perfect version.  You need proof that your concept has a receptive audience.  Sales are undeniable proof.

Rapid growth requires investment.

Securing investment to help you build and sell your product faster could allow your company to grow exponentially.  This process requires a smart leadership team, a driven staff, trustworthy investors, and the founder’s indefatigable enthusiasm.  It’s OK that you haven’t raised money before.  By the time you pitch to an investor, you will be able to articulate clearly the story of your company, business model, and how much money you need to propel the company forward.

Register for Startup Study Hall.

Building a company is a process.  It’s not magic.  It’s one step after the other.  You can learn every step in the process.  The Startup Ladies offer a free program called Startup Study Hall to provide education, community and connections for budding entrepreneurs.  These events provide the structure, consistency, and accountability to take an idea to market.  You can learn more and register for Startup Study Hall here:  http://bit.ly/1Z3XN29

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