Five Tips for Young Entrepreneurs

Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. When the economy is soft, and jobs are limited, entrepreneurship is often the best way for a young adult to gain practical experience in their field of choice. To be sure, it can be scary, but so can sitting around waiting for a call for an interview for that perfect position.

With that in mind, here are five tips for planning your first entrepreneurial venture.

1. Find your obsession. “Find your obsession” is different from “follow your passion.” Your passion is something you love doing. Your obsession is something you cannot live without doing. And there’s a difference. A passion is sometimes borne from a hobby, for example, photography. You may be passionate about photography, but when the pressure is on to make money with photography that passion can wane in the drudgery of the daily work. Conversely, if you are obsessive about photography, rarely will any part of the work seem like drudgery. Passion will burn out; obsession rarely does. Obsession is what you need when starting a business.

2. Decide on your operational end-game. Once you find your obsession, ask yourself this: Do you want to have a “practice” or a “business?” A “practice” is a business that is dependent on your direct involvement, whereas a “business” can become independent of your involvement and still be successful.

A “business” in this context is one where you can rely on the collective work of others you employ to produce income, or survive as an ongoing concern if you were unable to work in the business on a daily basis. It can be bought or sold regardless of your involvement.

Having a practice means it is difficult, if not impossible, to separate the work output of the business from your personal output. For example, if you have a unique skill or ability on which the income of your business rests primarily on you to do the work (e.g., an accountant, yoga instructor, consultant, or tattoo artist) you are likely to have a practice. It is unlikely this type of business could not be bought or sold without your involvement.

There’s nothing wrong with either option, but it is important to understand what kind of business operation you want five years after you start because it will shape your decisions today. If you know you are going to be happy making a living as a tattoo artist chasing your obsession, then your business decisions will be made with this in mind. However, if your goal is to have a tattoo shop with ten employees in five years, your approach needs to be different. Keep in mind that most small businesses start as practices and evolve. Moreover, those who just wanted to “do their thing” end up trying to manage a business and are no longer working at their obsession.

3. Start your business “on the side.” Many say “jump” into entrepreneurship without a net. Having done it that way many times, I suggest you do not unless you have no other choice. The financial pressure is too high for most people. The pressure to make rent payments, buy food, and put gas in your car will have you chasing business that isn’t worth your time or in your area of focus so that you can survive. You will lose focus of what you are trying to accomplish, and few obsessions can withstand that pressure. My advice: Start your business on the side if you can. Get or maintain a job to have some income flowing. You will feel less pressure and be able to stay focused on our business goals. Then strive for your “choice number” with your business income.

4. Determine your “choice number.” Your choice number is that number which allows you the opportunity to choose between going full-time with your business or continuing to work for someone else. It is easy to calculate: Add up all of your current monthly expenses (all of them, Netflix, Hulu, gas, car payments, rent, food, beer, or concert tickets), then add 25% more to that number. So, let’s say your monthly expenses add up to $1,500. Add 25% more-$375.00-for emergencies, and you are up to $1,875.00. I would suggest rounding up for a little extra cushion to $2,000. So, $2,000 would be your “choice number.” Once your business is generating $2,000 per month, you have enough money coming in to cover your monthly costs and the choice as to whether to keep your day job or go full-time into your business with some financial security is now yours. Bear in mind the choice number can fluctuate some, so remember to revise accordingly.

5. Take advantage of reputable free resources. There are many, many free resources to help new entrepreneurs. My favorite starting point is SCORE ( http://www.score.org ). There you can find local resources, webinars, on-demand courses, as well as other resources to help you get started. The U.S. Small Business Administration ( https://www.sba.gov ) also offers many free resources and tips. Sometimes your local community college will offer free or low-cost courses for new entrepreneurs.

Although these tips do not cover everything a new entrepreneur might need to know, they are a good starting point for planning your first step into your own business.

Mindset of an Entrepreneur Is Important

mind of an entrepreneur

Various emotions and thoughts cross your mind when engaging in the idea of owning your own business. Many entrepreneurs get a sense of excitement while also feeling overwhelmed. You then relish in the idea that you can be your own boss that writes and cashes your own checks. However, shortly after all the initial excitement has passed, you begin to wonder will my product or service work, will it sell, or will I be able to take care of myself? With so many questions that you establish a great response for, doubts and uncertainty often formulate an antithesis in the shadows of our mind. Preparing and reframing your mindset about yourself and your business will determine how you operate and make your business successful.

I once heard Bishop T. D. Jakes say in his sermon entitled “A Changed Mind,” you can never change your reality without first changing your mind. This statement has stuck with me ever since. It sounds so simple, but when you think about it, it is powerful. How often have you had preconceived notions about someone or something until you interacted with it or them and all a sudden, your perception is no longer the same from before your encounter? For instance, getting on a roller-coaster is frightening (especially the Fury 325 at Carowinds) but once you get on and scream to the top of your lungs when it stops most people want to ride it again. It wasn’t that the ride got less scary it’s just your mindset changed. What you believe will determine how you respond. If you’re constantly thinking, I cannot do this or I know “it” will fail, it is more likely that you will not be successful. It’s not because you did not have a good idea, or you weren’t capable, but you could not see past your doubt to see the success that could have been.

When starting a business, you must understand that there will be natural deterrents that may arise, whether it be capital, office or storage space, or even market potential if you are trying to create a demand. Nevertheless, how you view these obstacles makes all the difference. Having limited capital may require you to utilize every possible resource you may have. Do not be afraid or too prideful to ask for help. Not having enough office or storage space will make you strengthen your organization skills. Creating a demand for your product or service will cause you to be more creative than you ever been. It’s all how you perceive a challenge to be. Even with the unknowns do not allow fear to cripple you, instead let it be a motivator. We have an innate ability to fight or flight in any given situation. Choose to fight! Refuse to give up because of your past mistakes. In fact, reframe those mistakes as learning opportunities and never doubt your ability to break bad habits.

I would also like to stress the importance of having confidence in yourself. Think of it this way, if you had to buy a product or service from Eeyore or Tigger (characters from Christopher Robbin’s Winnie the Pooh) who would you patronize? Eeyore, the humdrum individual who was not sure of himself and found every opportunity to tell you how miserable his life was or Tigger the jovial, outgoing, charismatic who loved to laugh and have fun even when working? I would go for a Tigger every time. How you view yourself is how others will view you. Be your own motivator and surround yourself with cheerleaders. Having a good support system is very integral in the pursuit of turning your dream into a reality.

Finally, as the adage goes, birds of a feather flock together. Surround yourself with successful entrepreneurs. Glean from their past business mistakes and triumphs. Read entrepreneurial magazines and books, network by joining professional groups or clubs, and engage and talk with potential customers about the product or service you are trying to offer. Be unyielding in your pursuit of changing your mindset when it comes to yourself and your business. What you believe is how you will succeed. Believe the best, speak life into your business, and shut down the voice of your insecurities. After all of that take the leap of faith and fly.

Content Marketing for Your Small Business

A large part of engaging social media posts has great content. Just having a profile on multiple Social Media sites isn’t enough to keep followers engaged or attract new customers. To get and hold people’s attention, you need to post new, trending and engaging content consistently.

You’ve probably heard that your social media content should NOT be all promotional for your product or service. Mix it up! Have a variety of different content about a wide range of subjects.

So, what do you talk about across your Social Media Channels, if you aren’t supposed to sell, sell, sell? Try these topics, put your twist on them.

1. Company: Give insight to your business. If people are coming to your pages to learn about who you are and what you do, then some background information is a great place to start. Give your audience a better sense of what’s going on with your business and why they should be your followers.

  • Behind the Scenes Photos
  • Staff Showcase
  • Testimonials
  • Product Photos and Videos
  • Business awards and accomplishments
  • Business News – what’s new?
  • Product tutorials
  • Music Playlist – do you play music in your office? Showcase what you are listening to so your followers can appreciate your taste in music.
  • Company #tbt – Throw Back Thursdays are always fun! Share a photo from when your business was just getting started. Let your followers see how far you’ve come.

2. Audience Engagers: Social Media allows you to interact with a broad audience of customers and potential customers directly. Ask your followers to be engaged, start up a two-way conversation and let your customers know you are listening.

  • Fill in the blanks: My favorite product is___________ or If I had a Million dollars I would ___________ (Be creative)
  • Ask Questions
  • Hold Contests
  • Either or Debate: Everyone loves to share their opinion. Get people to weigh in using an either-or debate. Ask them a question about your company (think this product over that product) or about something that’s trending.
  • Audience Photos: Did your followers/customers attend a meeting/event, ask to see these types of pictures.

3. Business | Industry: Many people like to follow the 80-20 posting ratio. You should post about other stuff 80% of the time and only 20% about you. Show what you know and how your followers can learn from you.

  • Industry News: Post a link to a news article that is related to what you do. Set up Google Alerts using relevant keywords.
  • Infographic: What do people share the most? Images, yes. Images are an effective social media content ideas -, especially regarding shares. Share some helpful information about your business, field, or industry by posting or creating your infographics.
  • Books: Read any good books lately? Will these help your customers/followers? Share, they’ll probably love your reading list too.
  • Share your LinkedIn Groups: Many groups on LinkedIn are a great source of industry/business related info. If you find interesting information share the link with your social media followers so they can join too.
  • Weekly Roundup: Create a top 5 or top 10 list of business news, announcements and anything else you find to be awesome! Share this on a regular schedule will have your followers checking your pages’ week after week to get it. Think This week in…
  • Promote your Partner: Do you have other businesses or professionals that help you get business done? Someone that provides you parts or promotes your services? Plug them into your Social Media strategy by linking their websites or social channels. Ask others to promote your business too.

4. Repurposed Content: Already have content? Repurposing and promoting existing content is an excellent way to fill your news feeds and deliver your message to newer audiences.

  • Blog Posts: Do you have a blog?
  • Re-share an old post: Find a previous social media post that performed well, and re-share it. Chances are your new audience hasn’t seen it.
  • Share Promotional Videos: If you’ve created and uploaded promotional videos on YouTube, share those on your social media channels.

5. Entertainment: Sometimes you just need to have a little fun to get your followers engaged.

  • Memes: Everyone loves a good Meme (you know the funny images with text).
  • Inspirational Quotes: We all can use a little more positivity in our lives. Humorous, inspiring or motivational quotes always perform well.
  • Funny YouTube Videos: Find a video that makes you laugh, then share it with your followers, so that they can laugh too!
  • Posts that show you’re human: Putting a personal face on a company helps people relate. Share occasional posts from your own, non-work life: cute photos from vacations, meals you ate, etc.
  • Holiday Celebrations: Every day is a holiday! Help your followers enjoy each day!
  • Support a Cause: Share what you is important to you, not only for business but in life too.
  • Share a joke: Laughter is the best medicine, right? Share a laugh or an ecard with your fans.

Why Social Media Is Important to Your Small Business

social media

1: It finds your customers and builds clientele

Many of us use Social Media on a regular basis. We use it to stay on top of what’s trending, follow our favorite businesses, post our personal beliefs and so much more. I’d like to think of Social Media as the new “office water cooler” — People are out there talking and they are waiting for your business to show up so they can discuss what you have to offer.

Customers need to trust a business, service or product before purchasing. People tend to trust their friends and loved ones more than anyone else. So, if your customers hear from someone trustworthy, about your product or service, it is reasonable to believe that they are more likely to purchase what you are selling. You could very reasonably market your products and services using, mostly, word of mouth.

Best way to promote your ideas on Social Media is by having your friends and family help you. They can share your business posts/pictures/videos on their accounts and your business will potentially be in the hands of hundreds of new customers. “Sharing is Caring”, Right?

2: It gives you an idea of what people are saying about you and your business

You can keep an eye on what people are saying about you and your business and respond to all posts, good and bad. You can use Google Alerts (www.Google.com/alerts) to see who is talking about you and your brand. On Google Alerts you can create “alerts” with keywords like your name, business name, etc. and when Google finds those in the search engine, they will email you the sites that match those keywords. This is a great way to see what people are saying about you across multiple Social Media Channels.

3: Allows you to get to know your audience and customers.

Social Media opens up the line of communication between business owners and millions of potential customers. Wow! Millions of people could possibly become your customers, that kind of marketing would have been hard to do in the offline world. Communication is key, this is how you will get to know who your customers are and why they fit into your target audience.

You will be able to generate a variety of content to market your products and services. When you are creating great content, your customers will take notice. They will start commenting and reaching out to you. This is your chance to interact with them, have a conversation in real time.

Your goal with content is to get a response from your customers, so you can build a relationship. You can create content such as polls, surveys, contests, videos, Live Q&A sessions, and so much more!

4: It’s an easy and natural way to get your name out there! It introduces your brand and builds awareness.

For the most part Social Media is FREE. What? Free Advertising/Marketing? Yep!! You should be on a variety of Social Channels and create and post engaging content. This will allow your customers to see exactly who you are and what your product / services do for them.

Your business is more accessible this way, think 24/7! People can find you at all times across Social Media. An accessible business means a more trustworthy business, meaning customers can start to build that relationship with you when they can find you.

• You can create customer testimonial videos and add them to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and more.

• Let people know about new products, giveaways, partnerships, sponsorships, discounts coupons, etc.

• Brag about yourself! What are some of your business achievements? Your potential customers want to know about them.

• Create buzz! Get the word out there by creating a recognizable identity for your product, service and brand.

• You should establish yourself as an expert. Use forums and message boards to answer questions professionally, honestly, and correctly, which will earn you respect as an expert in your field. People will then look to you for answers. You can even use a variety of apps such as Periscope, YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Instagram to run “Live Q&A” sessions.

5: Go where your customers/clients are! We all use Social Media – we can engage in two-way communication in real time.

Oh my, how many people are out there using Social Media? A LOT!! I say that Social Media is the new “Google Search”. People are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to find and follow local businesses. It’s quicker and easier to engage with a business on Social Media than actually taking more time to do a Google Search and visit your company website.

So, go where your customers are! Your competition is already using Social Media to market their business, so don’t get left behind. Check out the list below to see how you can get people talking and sharing on Social Media.

• Share industry news, upcoming events, new hires – what can you share to get people talking?

• Great way to promote upcoming client events. You can let your customers know who you may be partnering with, spread the word about other local businesses too.

• Make it easy for potential customers who see your content recognize you as someone who can help them.

• Share links to interesting articles, websites or videos. Use words that grab the readers and encourage them to click the link.

• Talk about an event that you attended or are attending. Invite your audiences.

• Be Helpful: Produce content that presents new knowledge or assists in professional decision making.

• Be Interesting: Spark conversation around a news event, cover the latest posts from an industry influencer, or create an infographic about your business. Just keep it fun and fresh!

• Help them help others: We want information that we can share to our network. Sometimes the information that you put out there may not pertain to your actual customers, but they may know someone who may need what you have. Hence, sharing! They share to their friends and family, and your business now has the potential to help even more people, maybe even new customers.