If you ever started a business, you know how it feels to leave your comfort zone. It can be a labor intensive and financially exhausting process, and success is far from guaranteed, even with solid financial resources. You don’t get a lot of breaks and most of the “luck” you get, you have to create for yourself.
However, ours is a culture that celebrates and rewards innovation. The size of the problem you solve determines the size of the rewards you receive. With creativity, resourcefulness, and ability to get things done with and through other people, you can make it work.
James Chittenden, a consultant at the Florida SBDC at the University of South Florida assists startup businesses every day, as well as other businesses that are in growth mode. It is his responsibility, and the responsibility of other SBDC consultants to connect businesspeople with resources they may have overlooked, or did not know to exist. Here are some examples.
- Finance. Chances are near zero that a major bank will provide a “startup” loan without sufficient personal collateral and credit. In recent years however, online portals have appeared that connect people with funds, filling a need that traditional banks often can’t. There are smaller lenders that can lend for specific purposes, such as a piece of equipment or vehicle, with sufficient collateral. There are other ways to find capital if you can make a strong case that the money will be paid back with a return for an investor or lender.
A thorough but honest look at your finances and a willingness to abide by the needs of banks or investors will reveal unexpected opportunities to find money. There are ways to finance using receivables. There are ways to borrow against stocks, bonds or life insurance. Also, there are a number of resources available at no cost, such as SBDC consulting. Cost savings can achieve profits just as increased sales can.
- Marketing. Marketing is not just sales material such as brochures or websites. It is a complete strategy of identifying a market for your product or service, and the process of moving your product or service to that market. Demographic research is available at no cost from a variety of websites provided by research organizations, U.S. Census data, and other sources such as universities. Such data is usually just a Google search away.
For sales support, there are portals that provide website design at minimal to no expense. There are places to get business cards and stationery created and printed for little or no money. If you need logo design, there are sites that connect you with freelance graphic artists, offering many options at surprisingly low prices.
To boost your chances of being found online, get your business listed in free online directories such as Yellow Pages, Superpages, Merchant Circle, Bing, Google Plus and so many others.
Do you need to figure out an ideal place to locate a store or office? Your state’s department of transportation often has highly accurate daily traffic counts on most major streets available online for free. Need to figure out what your real estate costs will be? Just browse commercial real estate listings online for availability and price per square foot.
While on the subject of office space, you may not have to sign long-term leases if your business involves a professional practice such as consulting, law or accounting. Check out co-working as an inexpensive alternative that offers month to month contracts.
Co-working also provides an instant network. They are like business incubators in many ways, with other entrepreneurs always working nearby. Other entrepreneurs can become tomorrow’s customers, partners, or even investors. Other entrepreneurs are often a great source of support, ideas and suggestions.
Expanding your network of businesspeople maximizes your chances of success. You are always more likely to prosper when you connect yourself and your business to other people.
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