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4 Real Ways To Fund Your New Business

4 Real Ways To Fund Your New Business

 

Why haven’t you started your business?

The answer I almost always get to this question involves lack of funds. You don’t have enough money to start, is that right?

I TOTALLY hear you on this one.  When I first started my business I had very bad credit (Jay Z voice), DEBT, no property to take equity out of, and no family/friends to borrow from.

But today, I am the proud owner of two growing businesses. I believe you can be one too!  That’s why I am writing this post to help you address this last excuse for not starting your dream hustle with four real options for getting money to start your business.

 

Borrow

If you have less than perfect credit or your company is still young, then you know how hard it is to get a loan for your business.  Here are a few options to get money NOW, while you build your business and the capital to pay back the debt.

Personal Loan

If a traditional loan is out of the cards, consider partnering with friends and family. Find a friend or family member who is willing to provide seed money or partner with you on your business.  This is a great way to stay accountable and even find a partner to share the burden with.  A word of caution when taking this route. Sometimes money makes people act funny.  Be sure to be transparent about your expectations and keep the lines of communication open.  Lending among intimate parties can be disastrous if not done professionally.

Credit Cards

If your credit can stand it, consider using a low-interest card to bootstrap your business. Some cards allow a 0% or similarly low-interest rate for the first year. That’s more than enough time to figure out if your business will succeed or not.

Micro Lending

If you need a small amount of money, a micro lending company is a good option to consider. Micro loans are easier to get than traditional loans because they usually serve niche groups like women or minorities. The most well known micro-lending companies are Kabbage and Kiva, but there are hundreds of other nonprofits and companies that provide micro-lending. Check out this list here and here.

SBA Loans

The U.S. Small Business Association provides training and financial resources for small businesses. You can find joint funding programs with your local city or apply for financial assistance at the federal level. The qualifications are a bit strict for the more common loans, but I encourage you to check out programs on your local level. Often times the city has a small business department that subsidizes loans specifically for new businesses and companies with little collateral.

 

Win

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Check out my friend Chase who won $25,000 last year after pitching his start-up.

Unlike loans, there are various contests and programs that provide grants and seed money to start your business. This is money that you do not have to pay back.  I like to separate these scenarios into two distinct categories.

The first are grants. Grants are either public, coming from state and local government, or private.  Both usually have very specific guidelines. Many of these grants require a lengthy application that asks you to show how you will use the money. So, if you want to get started, make sure you have a rock solid business plan and vision for your business.

Check Out This Article For A List of 11 Grants For Women-Owned Businesses.

The second scenario involves contests where you will pitch your idea. The application process is less lengthy, but they usually involve more in-person work. You will have to pitch or present your idea in front of a group of panelists and explain why your business is innovative, socially conscious, or most likely to succeed. Pitch contests are common in most cities.  They are usually funded by colleges, your local SBA, or other entrepreneurial organizations. (I have a list of grants in the member’s area. You can join by clicking here)

 

Stack

I use the word “stack” to encompass the overall idea behind saving money.  If I were to be honest, this is my favorite way to start a business. Yes, it takes more time and requires a long-term vision, but it is a dependable, predictable, realistic and rewarding approach.  Here’s how to stack your money to fund your business.

Make More Money

Is pride preventing you from looking into part time work ?

When I first had the idea for a company about hair and health, I had a professional Project Manager job. During the day I worked in the office, but at night I waitressed at a sushi place.  Working 3 nights a week gave me $1200 extra dollars CASH a month (And corns on my feet. UGHH).  I have a degree in political science.  I also completed 2.5 years of a JD/MBA. It’s pretty obvious that I am a little overqualified to be a waitress. But you know what? I did it because I needed to make extra money and I had a dream and a goal.

So I want to encourage you to consider part-time work or even taking extra shifts at your current job. Other options to make more money are signing up for AirBNB, UBER/Lyft, or using your skills to freelance on websites like Upwork or Fiverr.

Cut Expenses

This is one of the most painless ways to grow your personal small business fund.  When I decided to start Fulfillity, I lived in a beautiful 1 bedroom apartment.  I made the decision to move out of my $800/ month apartment  and rent a room from a friend for $300/month.  I even sold ALL the furniture in my apartment for $201500.  At the time, I felt like investing in my dream was bigger than my beautiful purple couch (which I miss so much). It was a BOLD MOVE. I know. And you don’t have to do it as BIG as I did.  I do, however, want you to consider a few easy ways you can cut expenses.

  1. Coffee – Kick your coffee habit and put that $4 in a jar every day instead.
  2. Eating Out – Learn to cook and reserve eating out to twice per month.  There are so many free recipes online.
  3. Learn To Budget –  I struggled (and still do) with this. I love The Budgetnista (Tiffany)  and Myleik Teele.  They really inspired me to take control of my finances.  I would deposit my check and have 3 envelopes of cash one for fun, one for groceries, and one for tithes.  So that would be my only cash during my pay period.  I also stopped carrying my debit card with me.  I actually froze it in some Tupperware in my freezer! Extreme, I know! But, that was the only way to keep me from making it rain at H&M.
  4. Downsize What You Can
    • Find a roommate or move into a studio
    • Eliminate cable and get Netflix and Hulu instead
    • Exchange your car for lower car payments or start taking public transportation to save gas
    • Find a budget phone company. I used virgin mobile for 2 years.  It was $40 unlimited everything.
    • Change gyms. Planet Fitness is only $10/month or find an inside routine like a workout DVD.

Save

We can spend years daydreaming about the project we want to start or wracking our brains trying to figure out how to get the money. Let me tell you something. Time WILL pass.  Every month that you spend thinking or worrying about starting your business is a missed opportunity to stack money to start your business.

Check out apps like Digit or banking programs that are designed to help you save money. Sign up for your bank’s Christmas program and put $100 away every paycheck.  Deliberate moves to save, even while you work up the courage to start, can garner you over $2,400 per year!

 

Hustle

If you’ve got the spirit here are a few guerrilla ways to get money to start your business.

Crowd Fund

Crowdfunding is the process of raising money from a large group of people online. If your idea is compelling enough, strangers will give you money to support your idea or reserve first rights when your product is ready! Popular crowdfunding sites include Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

Host An Event

This is a little old-school, but hey it works. You can throw an event like a poetry night, fashion show, or house party to raise money for your idea. Events like these make it easier to ask your friends and family to support you in a way that is more tangible. This idea works even better when the event is related to your idea (like funding your first book with a poetry night). But it doesn’t have to be related. Remember those rent parties back in the day?

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is where you get a commission for selling someone else’s product. In a nutshell, advertisers are willing to pay you to advertise their products and services.  They’ll give you a special link and the more people you get to complete an action or take advantage of the affiliate offer via your link, the more money you’ll make.

I recommend Clickbank.com, Peerfly, Maxbounty, and Adscendmedia if you’re looking to get started with affiliate marketing. These are professional companies that have a lot of options to choose from.

Barter/Trade

What do you really need to get started? A website? A car? A marketing video? If you can identify small projects that you need to complete in order to start your business, then consider trading services or items for these projects.  Last year I traded booth space at an expo for a 6 week weight loss program at my old company.  So get creative and start thinking about what skills or hookups you can offer in exchange for the services you need to start your business.

Presales

Presales are the process of selling your product/service before it is finished or created.  You can do this with a physical product, coaching services, etc.  A presale will give you time and allow you to gather capital to create your product.

 

Those are my 4 realistic ways to get money to start your business.  If you like what you read consider sharing it!

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How To Find Your Passion – 10 No B.S. Strategies That Will Give You A Reason To Get Out Of Bed In The Morning

How To Find Your Passion – 10 No B.S. Strategies That Will Give You A Reason To Get Out Of Bed In The Morning

 

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you’re not exactly sure what to do with yourself.

You see others who are following their dreams of writing, starting a design business, working with animals, or going to school, and you’re wondering why nothing sounds enticing enough for you to pursue.

You’re looking for your passion.

I totally feel where you’re coming from.  I was where you were too. In school, I was good at math but didn’t really love it. When I went to law school, I was good at that too, but not enough to enjoy the next 50 years of my life as a lawyer. I needed something to propel me forward. I was tired of wandering around. I needed a purpose. I wanted to find my passion.

That’s why I wrote this post to help you identify what you’re meant to do.  Here are 10 strategies that I’ve used to help me find my passion serving female entrepreneurs of color.  I hope these will help you identify where to focus your energy.

 

Understand How Passions Are Formed

Passions are developed. That means that you don’t pick up a tambourine in music class and decide that you are going to play it for the rest of your life. Instead, passions are formed from a series of small exposures.

Take Whoopi Goldberg for instance. When Goldberg was younger, her mom would take her and her brother to cultural performances regularly. Her mother also collected old Hollywood Movies. So Whoopi would rush home every day to watch the famous Hollywood movie stars. Growing up, Whoopi also participated in various community programs including an acting class! There were so many small pieces of exposure to the arts that eventually built up into a singular passion around performance. That’s why it’s important to keep exposing yourself to different things and instead of looking for love at first sight, look for interests that repeatedly catch your attention.

 

Get Multi-Passionate

You’ve probably assumed that you must have one true purpose or passion. You’re wrong. There is no one passion. Seriously.

While it may look like some of the most successful people have one true passion, a second glance will easily dispel the myth. Oprah is an amazing media personality.  She also enjoys public speaking, reading (Book Club)  teaching (Oprah’s Life Class), philanthropy (Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy),  organic gardening (Oprah’s Organics), etc. Marie Forleo was a fitness guru, sold online courses, wrote books, and now hosts an online Tv Show. Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Atlantic,  has over 400 brands under the Virgin umbrella including an airline, record label, and mobile phone company.

The big takeaway here is to remember you are human.  That means you are allowed to love volunteering overseas, technology, marketing, travel, teaching, singing, coaching, and law. You can enjoy all of these things and build a business, or many businesses, that embrace  them all. You are allowed to be multi-passionate.

Check out this video on Being Multi-Passionate:

 

Ask The Right Questions

Instead of asking, “What Is My Purpose?” Ask questions that can help push you in a direction.

How can I help people?

What can I do with my time that is important?

What did I enjoy as a teenager?

What do I dislike?

What do I find embarrassing?

What do I find difficult?

What matters most to me?

Why do I quit things?

What do I like?

The answers to these questions will help you discover things about yourself that may not be obvious.  Use the answers to begin crafting a roadmap to finding your passion.

 

Get Out Of Your Bubble

This is important.  What you really enjoy doing, may be something you’ve never even heard of!

For example, I love brainstorming and coming up with ideas to solve problems. What I hate, is the nitty-gritty execution work. It wasn’t until I went to a conference in Boston that I learned about an entirely new (to me) sector of business called strategy and consulting. It was perfect for me and eventually  inspired my application to business school.

If you don’t go to events, meet new people, or expose yourself to new environments, you may be missing out on the chance to discover what you really connect with. So join meetup.com, check out that event you saw on Facebook, join a co-working space, go to a living social event, and say yes to the invites to try new things!  Action, is the best way to figure this ish out. (If you need some reading material featuring women who got out of their bubble, check out books like Wild, Eat Pray Love, and You Are a Badass.)

 

Deepen Your Interests

You may already have interests that you enjoy. If you’re not so keen on trying something new, think about what interests you can deepen. Attend events about things that already stimulate you. Try a new class to learn more about a subject. What was before mildly interesting, can become a passion once you start deepening your knowledge on the subject. Your actions are what allows these interests to become a passion.

 

Daydream

Seriously. My daydreams usually involve me giving a big speech at the Business in Africa Conference at Harvard. RANDOM, I know. For some reason, this daydream always stuck with me after I attended my first conference in undergrad. So I want to encourage you to let your mind wander.  Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where are you giving your speech? What stories are you telling your grandchildren? What would you rather be doing on your day off? What would you do if you hit the lotto?

 

Read (Or Listen If You’re Lazy Like Me)

When I was a kid I loved to read. When I entered college, however, the books I read got fewer and further between. Now I’m going through a book a week via audible.com. It’s been life changing. As I learn from books and podcasts, I am continually inspired by the life and passions of others.  The intellectual and (sometimes ratchet) content exposed me to ideas and research that I would never have read on my own. Commit to feeding your mind and invite inspiration into your life.

 

Listen

How would your family or friends describe you? What do they compliment you about? Many times we may not be aware of our gifts.  We can possess a skill or natural talent that is easier for others to recognize in us. For me, I always considered myself an anxious person, so I usually turned down events that put me at the center of attention (birthdays, leading presentations, leadership positions, etc).  When I did get stuck or voted into these roles, I was always surprised when others complimented me on my leadership and public speaking skills. After a while, I started to believe them. Yes, there were places that I could improve, but it showed me that I could pursue passions that involved public speaking.  I was able to explore an entire genre of activities that I never considered before.

 

Check Yourself

Are you looking for a way to make money or a life purpose? You’ve got to be clear. I’m going to tell you right now, that not all passions will make you money. In fact, some will make you money, but not enough to quit your job. It’s the truth. So check yourself and your passions before you try to monetize them.  All your passions can make you happy, but be clear on the ones that can make you money.

 

Be Honest

Many times we wander for reasons other than a lack of purpose and passion. We see people who are passionate about their jobs and projects and we want to be like them.  Their joy and motivation seem almost magical.  The truth is, sometimes we mystify talent and excellence to make achieving it impossible. It’s a natural reaction to hard work. We don’t want to understand how they reached that level of skill or excellence because we don’t want to do the work. Your passion won’t magically make you an expert or a hard worker. Even when you’re doing what you love, there is work involved. So take the time to deal with issues of fear and discipline. You don’t want to miss your opportunity at being happy because of a few poor habits.

 
I hope these 10 strategies will help you finally find the interests that you are passionate about. One last word of advice. Be patient. I know you don’t want to hear this, but you’ve got to do it.  Passions don’t come all at once. They are built up of small experiences and exposures. So keep on doing stuff, trying new things, and reading books. Things will fall together.  I promise.

 

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Monetize Your Passion – How To Turn Your Passion Into Profit

Monetize Your Passion – How To Turn Your Passion Into Profit

 

What does monetize your passion even mean?

I define the phrase as doing what you enjoy and making money from it.

Ask yourself, what would you rather be doing? How would you prefer to spend the workday? What would make you look forwards to Mondays or ANY day for that matter?

What if I said you could turn your hobby, interest, or passion into extra income or even a full-time gig?

It’s possible. Hundreds of thousands of people have done it. In fact, I’ve done it, and I believe you can too.  I believe you want to be in charge of your own income. I believe you want to be happy in your work. I believe you want to be an entrepreneur.  Yup. An entrepreneur. It’s a big leap, but in this blog post I break it all down in a 5-step roadmap to turning your passion into profit.  Let’s start.

 

Step 1: Identify Your Passions

What are your “passions”? The dictionary defines a passion as:

  • an intense desire or enthusiasm for something
  • a thing arousing enthusiasm

My definition of a passion is simply, any activity or interest that you enjoy doing.

I know for some of us, identifying our passions can be the hardest part about taking a big leap in life, becoming an entrepreneur, or making a career switch.

Here are two important things to remember.

  1. You can have more than one passion. There are people who have always known who they want to be, what they want to do, or what they want to have in life.  Perhaps they’ve always wanted to sing, paint, or play in the NFL.  For others, no one interest resonates that deeply.  If you’re a part of the other clan, can I just welcome you to the group? =) For years I struggled to figure out what I really wanted to do.  I felt like I enjoyed activities, but didn’t LOVE them enough to make a life or career out of them.  I had SO many ideas and felt like I was all over the place.  These feelings are OK.
  2. Your passions are as unique as you are. Passions go beyond the more obvious talents like singing, sports, or art. Your gifts and passions can be less obvious, like having a knack for networking, organizing events, baking cakes, detailing cars, or landscaping.  No interest is too insignificant if you enjoy it.

The big takeaway here is to remember you are human.  That means you are allowed to love volunteering overseas, technology, marketing, travel, teaching, singing, coaching, and law. You can enjoy all of these things and build a business, or many businesses, that embrace  them all. You are allowed to be multi-passionate.

Watch This Video On Being Multi-Passionate:

 

While it may look like some of the most successful people have one true passion, a second glance will easily dispel the myth. Oprah is an amazing media personality.  She also enjoys public speaking, reading (Book Club)  teaching (Oprah’s Life Class), philanthropy (Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy),  organic gardening (Oprah’s Organics), etc. Marie Forleo was a fitness guru, sold online courses, wrote books, and now hosts an online Tv Show. Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Atlantic,  has over 400 brands under the Virgin umbrella including an airline, record label, and mobile phone company.  Not only can you too, do many things, but you SHOULD do many things!

Some of us need to walk multiple paths to discover what we enjoy.  The point is to discover what you enjoy while on these paths and do just that. Identify an interest or activity that brings you joy and try to monetize it.   Here’s the 3-step process.

  1. Identify Your Passions – Make a list of activities and interests that you have. (Check out this blog for help.)
  2. Monetize Your Passion – Identify ways to monetize the activities and interests that bring you joy. Here’s a list of 101 Business Ideas.
  3. Prioritize Your Passion – After you’ve applied business principles to your ideas, prioritize them by profitability.

Once you’ve done the above, move on to the next step!

 

Step 2: Validate Your Idea

Now, that you have prioritized your ideas, let’s choose one near the top.  Choose just one and designate this your new business!

Yes, that’s right. You’ve got a business!

(Don’t worry about the other passions on your list. You can always come back to them.)

Let’s validate your business idea.

 

What’s “Idea Validation”?

Idea validation is the process of evaluating your idea for viability.  This means answering a few important questions like:

Will this idea make make me money?

Are people going to buy what I’m selling?

Is making this a business the right thing to do?

 

Why Should You Validate Your Idea?

Imagine that you have a wad of $100 bills. Wait! Don’t run to the mall yet!

Now imagine ripping each $100 bill up one at a time.  UGHHH! Hurts your heart doesn’t it?  That’s sort of what you’re doing when you don’t validate your idea.  You can have awesome intentions with your product or service, but if no one wants to buy it, you can end up wasting tons of time and money trying to push a dud.  

 

Here are 5 Ways to Validate Your Business Idea

 

 1. Identify A Problem Your Business Solves

Many new business owners make the mistake of assuming they know what a potential client wants.  The goal here is to make sure to identify a real problem so that your business can focus on creating a product/service solving that problem.  How do you find problems?  Ask! Here’s a tip.  Ask ONLY about problems, not for a wishlist of solutions.  People have problems every day.  If they knew a solution, they would have found it already.

Here are a few other ways to identify your target market’s problems.

  • Ask open-ended questions similar to the deep-dive survey in the book “Ask
  • Talk to your demographic by sending private messages on Social Media
  • Lurk in the comments sections of posts and groups
  • Put some feelers out on Reddit
  • Reach out to people who leave poor reviews on your competition’s products

2. Market Research

What’s selling?  Have you noticed that women are really into natural hair these days?  Well maybe, it’s time to get into the natural hair market!  Or have you noticed that people around you are really interested in vegan diets and clean eating?  Perhaps a natural foods product would be a great niche for you. Researching current market trends can be a great way to validate your business idea.  

3. Identify Your  Ideal Client

Create and ideal client profile. An ideal client profile is a detailed description of your target customer. The profile includes the name, age, interests, etc. that describe your ideal client. Need Help? – Check out my Free Ideal Client Mini-Course.

4. Competitor Analysis

This may sound counter-intuitive, but the presence of competitors will also help validate your business idea.  The great thing about the existence of competitors is that they have already done the work of identifying the target market and testing products that sell.  Even better is if you can identify what is already out there and just upgrade it!  Here are some ways to validate your idea by checking out the competition.

  • Use Search Engines
  • Search Amazon
  • Create A Google Alert
  • Instagram
  • Talk To Potential Customers
  • Yellow Pages
  • Purchase Directories (InfoUSA)

5. Test

I’m talking finding customers and making sales. The process of actually creating and selling a small batch or samples of your idea is as close as you can get to validating your idea.  This works in all cases.  If you are selling food, why not sell small goodies at a local event or to your neighbors?  If you are offering a service like design or coaching, try recruiting a few test clients at a discounted rate.  I even suggest larger test runs that include investing in a simple website, logo, setting up tracking, collecting leads, and making sales. It’s a small investment that can pay off in the long run.

Check out this post for more on validating your idea.

 

Step 3: Get Your Mind Right

These next few steps are going to require you to take real action.  This is the place where most people fail.  We get distracted by courses, coaches, doubts, kids, family, etc.  When this happens, your business reverts back to being just an idea or a dream.  That’s why in Step 3, I’m going to help you Get Your Mind Right.  What does that mean? It means you’re going to prepare to tackle the doubts, laziness, lack of discipline, confusion, fear, and emotional roller coaster that is entrepreneurship NOW, before you find yourself 10 months deep and nothing to show for it.

So, why do you need to get your mind right?  If you get close enough to someone that has successfully started their business, they’ll tell you that the biggest block to success is all in your mind.

You need to believe in yourself, believe in your product, ASK for money, work long hours, and just keep going. You may experience rejection multiple times, ridicule from friends and family, bad customer reviews, sinking sales, laziness or lack of productivity, and even loneliness. Can you keep pushing your business after experiencing all this?

Well, you’ll need to. Because right before everything works out, everything goes bad!

When I first started Fulfillity, I’d just put up my new website. Sales were coming in with my influencer marketing and I was confident that I finally was on my way to creating a successful business.  Then one day, while attempting to clean up the files on my website, I deleted the entire thing. Yes, I deleted my website. I had no back up. At. All.  That same day I started receiving emails from my influencers saying they never received the product. After a bit of research, I learned that the last batch of product that I sent using a new system got lost in the mail and I had no tracking. The next day, two influencers responded to my instagram DM, saying they didn’t want to try my product because it didn’t look legit. My spirit was just crushed. When it rains it pours right? On top of all that, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about this. I was in a new city with very few friends. Even the ones I had knew nothing about online business to really empathize with the disaster.  Plus, my family was not supportive of my business venture from the get-go.  My mom pleaded with me daily to just go back to law school.

I wanted to quit. I felt foolish for trying and stupid for making mistakes.  While this disaster passed and was eventually solved, there were many more disasters after that.

I have to let you know that you’re going to encounter disasters too, but I want to give you tools to traverse them. So here are 7 things to remember to help keep your mind where it needs to be.

 

 1. You Are You And No One Else

Just because a business already exists or someone is doing something similar to you, doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to do it. You are literally the only you in the world. Do what YOU want and brand around your uniqueness.

2. Watch Your Buts

You might be saying to yourself, I want to start a blog, but everyone else has one too. Delete everything after “but” because it negates what you want. You want to start a blog. Do that.  Don’t let fear lead you.  Your life is something you create, not something that happens to you.

3. Learn, But Not Too Much

Don’t get caught up in learning everything before starting.  You learn so much more from your mistakes.  If you’re anxious about moving forward, set a deadline for your research and commit to executing on a specific date. The sooner you jump, the sooner you can get what you want.

4. Know Your Why

Your “why” is what is going to carry you through the hard times. And believe me, there will be some hard times. So you have to ask yourself why you want to achieve your goals.  We all think getting rich will make up happy, but even rich people are sad.  What you need to figure out is WHY do you want to be rich? Do you want to go on family vacations? Do you want to be debt free? Do you want to move, or buy things for your family?  You see, your “why” allows you flexibility when you hit roadblocks.  If your product doesn’t sell, it’s not so hard to start again with a new or improved product because it wasn’t about the particular product in the first place.  It was about the “why.”

5. Take Your Own Advice

Here’s an activity.  Imagine yourself where you want to be. Whether you’re the owner of a successful business, in a job that you love, or just financially stable.  Just sit with this vision of yourself.  This vision of you has gone through the struggles, made a lot of mistakes, and overcome the doubts to emerge on the other side of the success that you want.  When you’re stressed, what advice would this version of you have? Keep going? Be patient? Call your best friend?

6. When You’re Stuck, Stop

There may be days where you feel stuck. You may want to give up, things aren’t working, and you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. This is the time to take a step back.  It’s like a fly that keeps banging into the glass pane trying to get outside. They can see the other side but just can’t seem to get through.  You know that if the fly just stopped, it would see that the window is actually cracked at the bottom and they can go right through, pain-free.  That’s how you get unstuck. Don’t be the fly. Take a step back. Assess where you are. Identify your goals.  This simple assessment can help realign your compass and get you moving in the right way.

7. Be Kind To Yourself

Treat yourself well. Be your own cheerleader. Tell yourself nice things. There are a lot of critics out there… You don’t have to be one of them.

 

Step 4: Gain Traction

Now that your passion project is validated, it’s time get your product or service out there.  You need traction.Image result for warm cold hot audience

What is traction?  Traction is growth. More specifically, traction is a sign that your business is growing. It’s obvious in your metrics: if you have a mobile app, your download rate is growing rapidly. If you are a coach, you’re getting more clients. If you sell a vitamin, your sales are increasing. If you are a chef, your contracts are getting bigger. You get the point.

Think of your potential audience in terms of cold, warm, and hot.

A cold audience is one who has never heard of you or your brand before.  People rarely purchase from a cold audience.

Warm audiences are those who have heard of you or your brand before.

A hot audience in one who has interacted with your brand. They’ve completed activities such as signing up for a free sample, joined your mailing list, are asking questions about pricing, or have added your product to their shopping cart.

The goal of traction is to move people inside this circle.

Here are a few traction channels to move people inside the circle:

  • Influencer Marketing
  • Referral Program
  • Social Media Ads
  • Viral Marketing
  • Guest Posting
  • Public Relations
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Display Ads
  • Offline Ads
  • Email Marketing
  • Expos
  • Affiliate Programs
  • Trade Shows
  • Facebook Groups
  • Podcasts
  • Speaking Engagements

For a better understanding of traction channels, check out the book “Traction” by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares It’s more start-up orientated but filled with some really great information.

 

Step 5: Hustle It Out

Now, this is the hardest part.  You’ll need to strategize and execute, but that’s what I’m here for.  On TheSixof7.com I will personally help you execute the following:

  • Build Your Website
  • Create A Logo
  • Brand Your Business
  • Write Your Welcome Email Sequence
  • Create Your Promotion Plan
  • Create You Content Plan
  • Grow Your Email List
  • Increase Your Sales
  • Find Your Audience

 

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How To Validate Your Business Idea

How To Validate Your Business Idea

Do you have a great idea? I’m sure you do!  The best businesses always start with that EUREKA moment.

But there’s one thing that’s more important than the idea itself.  That’s figuring out if the business will be successful or not.

What do I mean by that?

While there’s no way to be sure that your new idea will take off, there is one thing you still should do before investing time and money into your new business.  It’s called Idea validation.

Idea validation is the process of evaluating your idea for viability.  This means answering a few important questions like:

Will this idea make me money?

Are people going to buy what I’m selling?

Is building a business the right thing to do?

Idea validation does not have to be intimidating.  In fact, you may have already done it.  I know for myself, I unwittingly validated my idea without even realizing it. I created my company Fulfillity Hair, after finding a solution for my own hair growth issues. At the same time, I noticed that the natural hair and self-care markets were growing pretty rapidly so I decided to join the wave.

When I joined a coworking space in Salt Lake City, however, my idea was met with a lot of doubtful inquiries that left me questioning myself.  This led me to formally validating my idea.  I want to share this process with you for a few reasons.

To Encourage You – Idea validation is meant to encourage and not discourage you.  Once you are confident that your idea has a high chance of succeeding, you’ll find it easier to traverse any setbacks you may encounter.

Save You Time and Money – Imagine you have a stack of hundred dollar bills. Now imagine ripping each $100 note up, one at a time.  UGHHH! Hurts your heart doesn’t it?  That’s sort of what you’re doing when you don’t validate your idea.  You can have a ton of potential and a lot of good intentions with your product or service, but if no one wants to buy it, you can end up wasting your time and money trying to push a dud.  

Help You Avoid Stress – There may be many points in your journey that are hard.  Give yourself tools to address the doubts by firmly understanding the chances of your idea succeeding.

Raise Some Money – Whether you’re looking for a loan or venture capital, idea validation will help you raise money for your business.  The more research you have to prove your idea is a solution for a problem that people will pay for, the easier it is for investors to take a chance on you.

Now that you know why you need to validate your business idea. Here are a few ways you can do it.

 

Pre-Sales

Presales are the ultimate sign of viability. What are pre-sales?  Well, exactly what they sound like.  It’s selling the product/service before it is finished or created.  You can do this with a physical product, coaching, services, etc.  Presales help you test the waters and gather capital to create your product.  

You can do this through crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a platform where creatives/entrepreneurs can present an idea and engage friends, family or strangers to pledge funds to bring the idea to life. The ideas on Kickstarter vary from hydrating water, to films, to high tech winter coats!  Check out www.kickstarter.com for some inspiration.  

Here are a few other ways to collect presales:

  • Sell your online course before you are finished creating it. Once you have pre-sales, start creating the content.
  • List your item/service on Craigslist or Ebay and gauge the interest.
  • Create a Splash or Landing Page and start collecting emails of people who are interested in learning more or who want to reserve your product/service at a discounted price.
  • Create Social Media Profiles and try to build engagement (I like to use namecheckr.com for a good idea on what social media profiles are available)

 

Find Your Competitors

This may sound counterintuitive, but the presence of competitors can help validate your business idea.  The great thing about the existence of others in your niche is that they have already done the work of identifying the target market and testing products that sell.  Even better, is if you can identify what is already out there and just upgrade it!  Here are some ways to validate your idea by checking out the competition.

  • Use Search Engines – Google your niche and click on the top websites and advertisements that come up. Evaluate the business for size, scale, and 
  • Search Amazon – If you are selling products, look for competitors on Amazon.
  • Create A Google Alert – Create a Google Alert so that you are notified each time your competitor or niche is mentioned.
  • Find Competitors on Social Media – Use hashtags to explore businesses doing the same thing.
  • Talk To Potential Customers – Ask around. Find out how people are currently solving the problem that your product/service addresses.
  • Yellow Pages – If you still have that book around, skim the ads to see what’s there.
  • Use Directories – A service like InfoUSA can provide a curated list of existing businesses (or even potential clients) in your niche.

 

Identify Your Problem

Many new business owners make the mistake of assuming they know what a potential client wants.  The goal here is to make sure to identify a real problem so that you can focus on perfecting a product/service that solves the problem.  How do you find problems?  Ask! (Here’s a tip.  Ask ONLY about problems, not for a wishlist of solutions.  People have problems everyday, if they knew a solution they would have found it already.)

Here are a few ways to identify your target market’s problems

  • Ask open-ended questions similar to the deep-dive survey in the book “Ask” by Ryan Levesque. (You can get a free copy at fb-messagegetaskbook.com)
  • Reach out to your target audience by sending private messages via Social Media – When I first started The Six of 7 I was unsure what women were struggling with when starting their business. So I sent private messages to almost 100 female entrepreneurs of color. Not everyone responded, but those that did respond, gave me a long list of topics to start with. 
  • Lurk in comments sections of articles and relevant groups.  You’ll learn alot about the needs of your target audience.
  • Create a Survey with simple tools like Google Forms, Survey Monkey, or Facebook surveys to help you get anonymous feedback on your idea and the problem that you are trying to solve
  • Reach out to people who leave poor review on your competition’s products.  They have a clear idea of the needs that are not being met and will likely enjoy having an ear to vent to.

 

Research

What’s selling?  Have you noticed that women are really into natural hair these days?  Well maybe, it’s time to get into the natural hair market!  Or have you noticed that people around you are really interested in vegan diets and clean eating?  Perhaps a natural food product is a perfect idea to launch. Researching current market trends can be a great way to validate your business idea.  Here are a few ways to go about it.

SimilarSites.com – If you’re only aware of a few other businesses in your niche use this site to find even more.

Google Keyword Planner – This tool helps you get a pretty good gauge of how popular your niche is. Google’s keyword planner has data on how often certain phrases are typed into Google’s search engine.

Alexa – Alexa allows you to research websites. You can peek at a website’s traffic volume, ranking, demographics, etc.  It’s pretty expensive but 7-day trial should give you all the access you need to get started.

SimilarWeb.com – This site is similiar to Alexa, but it provides a lot of free information without signing up. I find the information to be a bit more digestable organized.

Facebook Audience Insights – This tool allows you to study the interests and demographics of Facebook users. Facebook has so much information about its users.  This is a great way to research Facebook groups, pages, and followers in your niche. I talk about how to use this in my FREE Ideal Client Course.

BEA.gov – A government resource based on census and economic data. 

Google Insights – Google insights is made up of 3 tools- Google Trends, Surveys and Correlate. All 3 are great for exploring market trends and consumer behavior. 

Sell The Damn Thing

I’m talking finding customers. Actually creating and selling a small batch or samples of your idea is as close as you can get to validating your idea.  This works in all cases.  If you are selling food, why not sell small goodies at a local event or to your neighbors?.  If you are offering a service like design or coaching, try recruiting up a few test clients at a discounted rate.  It’s a small investment that can pay off in the long run.

 

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