Starting Up? Get the Basics Right
By Jim Kendall
This column originally appeared in the June 1, 2015 Daily Herald
This might be a good time to start your own business: There’s an abundance of pre-start help available, much of which can be pretty valuable.
You’ll need the help. Even if your fledgling business is just you, a cell phone and a tablet, starting up rarely is as easy as new entrepreneurs expect. You’ll want to talk taxes with an accountant, for example, and discuss contracts and intellectual property with an attorney. You probably should check out the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, too.
But before you have those discussions or make an online visit to the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, MO, make certain you have realistic answers to two questions too many start-up owners fail to consider: Who’s going to buy whatever you’re selling? Why should they buy it from you?
What research have you done? How do you know there are customers who want what you’re hoping to sell? Who are they? Where are they? Why should they buy from you rather than from a business that has served them for years?
What sets your business apart? What makes it different? How will you convince potential customers that your app, or advice, or restaurant is better?
There are additional questions, too. Will you go it alone or have a partner? How will you market your business? Where will the start-up money come from?
This is where the Kauffman Foundation, a private foundation established in the mid-1960s to focus on entrepreneurship and education, might be useful. Its free, online Kauffman Founders School is a not-to-be-missed series of topic-focused video modules intended to help hopeful entrepreneurs think before they start.
The modules I watched ran about six minutes, but you’ll likely spend additional time pondering the issues discussed. The Founder Genius Videos were helpful, too.
Go to www.Kauffman.org, scroll down to the entrepreneurs graphic and click Visit the Site; then click the Kauffman Founders School graphic and Start Learning, where you’ll find a dozen topic options.
Also helpful, and closer to home, are the Small Business Development Centers found at most suburban community colleges – and a handful of other locations. You can find the locations at https://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/sbdc. Click on Illinois.
The suburban SBDCs I know offer classes and seminars and, perhaps more importantly for start-ups, one-on-one consulting.
Make a contact.
Check out SCORE. SCORE chapters, part of the SBA, provide workshops and mentoring programs.
SCORE Chicago provides support in Cook, Lake (Illinois) and part of Will counties. SCORE Fox Valley does the same in DuPage, Kane, Kendall, DeKalb, McHenry and Will counties. www.SCOREChicago.org or www.FoxValleySCORE.org.
If you’d prefer to start-up with an existing structure, look at franchises. The franchise fee means you’ll probably have higher upfront costs, plus continuing fees to the franchisor, but if you’re more comfortable starting with a operational plan already in place, franchising may be the way to go.
The Entrepreneur’s Source, FRANLAW and FranNet are among the resources.