How to Start a Business 101
If you’ve been out networking or surfing LinkedIn lately, chances are you’ve come across an “entrepreneur”, “innovator”, or “founder”. Starting a business is not something new. Howard Shultz founded Starbucks in 1971 and built it into one of the (arguably) greatest coffee shop chains in the world. So –what is the new buzz around “startups” and “entrepreneurs”? Right now, more than ever, millennials are turning down the opportunity to work in formal office environments to chase their passion.
You do not need business experience, a university degree, or money in the bank to found and grow the next Airbnb. The most coveted jobs are now being passed up for the opportunity to score big, while doing something meaningful. The surprising success of disruptive ventures, such as Uber or Canadian startup Hopper, and their founding stories, makes becoming an entrepreneur sexy. However, the determination, drive, and perseverance required to found a new venture are often not readily acknowledged.
Starting a business is hard work, and entrepreneurial women face more barriers than men. A study showed that women are more likely than men to deliver innovative products or services. However, women entrepreneurs do not make as much their male counterparts. In almost every aspect of founding a business, male entrepreneurs outrank female entrepreneurs. With the staggering statistics on women led startups, it is becoming increasingly important to support and encourage females in entrepreneurship.
Are you thinking about starting a business? There are so many great resources out there, including some incredible podcasts (check out How I Built This). For now, here are four tips for starting your business:
1. GET OUT OF THE BUILDING
You’ve developed an idea for a business YOU think may work, but the most imperative part of starting a business is testing your hypothesis and conducting market research. This means getting out of the building and talking to potential customers, competitors, advisors, investors, professional, family and friends. Determine the most important needs and pain points of your business, and address them. Often times, you will learn a lot from your competitors—what are they doing that isn’t working? What mistakes are they making? What consumer needs are they failing to address? These lessons can be incorporated into your business to make a case for why your target demographic will choose your product or service over your competitor’s. Ultimately, doing market research will address two main concerns: what will make your business successful and how will you differentiate yourself and attract capital?
2. SORT OUT THE LEGALITIES
Often times new business founders are tight on their finances and immediately jump to incorporating their venture and taking care of other legalities on their own or by using online platforms. It is imperative to see counsel and get proper legal advice that fits your business. For startups looking to grow and raise capital, many of Canada’s top large corporate and boutique law firms now offer innovative payment models that give startups the ability to utilize the firm’s high-level business and legal expertise, while leveraging the firm’s expansive network. Law firms have developed these program to keep up with the entrepreneurial nature of the economy and specifically, the technology boom. Another option for small businesses and startups are specialized legal aid clinics (some of Canada’s top law school offer great clinics!)
3. FINANCING: APPLY FOR GRANTS, PROGRAMS, AND AWARDS
One of the largest barriers to starting and growing a new venture is financing. Let’s face it, almost everyone is an entrepreneur and is looking for financing opportunities. Family, friends, and angel investors are not the only ways to get seed money to start your business. There are many federal and provincial programs that support local businesses, startups, and innovation. Not only do these programs provide funding opportunities, but they can also provide entrepreneurs with guidance on accelerating the growth of the business by providing startups with resourceful advisers. There are also Canadian-specific awards startups can apply for. If you’re a student at a university, check out your campus’ business schools for startup competitions that often provide monetary awards. Check out some more Canadian innovation funding programs for entrepreneurs here.
4. NETWORK + UTILIZE YOUR NETWORK
Coffee chats, drinks, and networking events are your new best friend. As an entrepreneur, it is important to prioritize building your professional network and using your existing network. There is no better way to approach building a business than by learning from others who have failed or succeeded, and gaining insights into their experiences. Social networks like LinkedIn make it easy to connect with like-minded individuals. Don’t be afraid to cold email or message- you have nothing to lose and most people want to help and pay it forward! Find something in common with the individual you want to connect with, or ask a mutual friend to make an introduction. The most important thing is to put yourself out there and open yourself up to new opportunities!