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Starting A Business

A Veteran’s Guide to Starting a Small Business

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Did you know that, out of the 27.9 million businesses in the United States, 2.52 million of them are owned by veterans?

That’s right—employing over 5.793 million different employees and bringing in over $1.220 trillion in sales—veteran-owned businesses have a big impact on the U.S. economy.

If you’re a veteran, how can you get in on a piece of the entrepreneurship pie?

Clearly, a small business in the United States would be nowhere close to where it is today without veteran entrepreneurs. But still, starting a business as a veteran business owner is much harder than it should be.

That being said, there are a handful of steps you can take and resources to take advantage of if you’re a veteran trying to start a business, including traditional forms of financing and various VA SBA loan programs.

Here’s your ultimate guide to starting and financing a business as a veteran entrepreneur.

3 steps to starting your veteran-owned business

The decision to even start your veteran-owned business is already a big, exciting, and possibly scary step. If you’ve never done this before, you have a few learning curves to get over.

Knowing that you want to start a business is just the first step—you don’t necessarily know how to start a business.

That’s where we come in. Let’s run through a crash course on how to start a business, then cover the many resources available to veteran entrepreneurs to help start your business along the way.

Step 1: Coming up with your perfect business idea

You might be going into starting your business knowing exactly the business you want to start. You have that stellar business idea, and you just can’t sit on it—business ownership came to you.

But on the other hand, there are many people who naturally have that entrepreneurial spirit. They’re born to be their own boss, but don’t necessarily have the business idea to get rolling with. If that’s the situation you find yourself in, then step #1 of starting your business is coming up with the right business idea to pursue.

(If you already have a stellar business idea and you’re trying to take it off the back-burner, then skip ahead to step #2.)

If you’re looking for a business idea that works for you, here are four questions to ask yourself:

What are my skills?

As a veteran, you have a very unique set of skills that could be utilized and translated into a viable business idea. Or, you might have skills from before you joined the Armed Forces, that you can tap into to spark some inspiration for your business idea.

Figuring out how to run and manage your business is already hard enough, so don’t make starting the actual business harder for yourself. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here—play to your strengths.

What am I interested in?

Many small businesses were built from ideas that just made plain sense—not necessarily related to the business owner’s passions, dreams, or interests. So, that whole “loving what you do” sentiment doesn’t have to hold true as you develop your business idea.

However, it’s worthwhile to consider your interests while you’re brainstorming your business idea. You might find that there actually is a great business idea in a realm that you thought might have just been a hobby for you.

What resources do I have?

You might already have the contacts, tools, resources, or equipment you need to start a business without even really knowing it. If you’ve got a stellar tool shed, and you’ve always been handy, then starting a repairs business might be a good idea.

Or, if you’ve inherited a storefront or retail space, you already have the foot in the door when it comes to starting a brick-and-mortar shop. Starting a business likely requires significant investment upfront, so it’s a good idea to start something where you already have a few of the things you need.

What need could I fill?

As you look around your local (or larger) community, is there a big, gaping need that should be filled by a great business? Then you could be the one to fill that missing puzzle piece.

Many of the most successful small and large businesses started because they were out to solve a problem. So put your thinking cap on, walk in the shoes of your potential customers, and try to solve the problems they face every day.

Step 2: Writing your business plan

Once you have a business idea to pursue, now it’s time to get it into writing.

Drafting a business plan is a crucial step for starting a business. Your business plan will lay out where your business is right now, and how you’ll get from point A to point B in the next two to five years.

Your business plan will help prove your case to investors, lenders, and potential partners for your business—showing why people should work with and invest in your business.

All in, it’s an important document to think carefully about. So, here’s what you’ll need to incorporate into your business plan.

1. Executive summary

Your executive summary is a general overview of your business—giving the readers a glimpse into what they’ll get if they flip through the pages of your plan.

This section shouldn’t be more than one or two pages—brevity and clarity are key here. While your executive summary is short, it’s probably one of the most important pieces of the whole documents. If an investor or lender doesn’t get what they need from the executive summary, there’s a chance they could just put your business plan aside all together.

Your executive summary should give a general explanation of what your business does, and where you want your business to be in three to five years.

Here’s what an executive summary could include:

  • Mission statement: Your mission statement is a paragraph (no more than four to five sentences) explaining what your business is and your higher-level goals for your business.

  • General company information: Give some insight into when the company was formed, who the founders are and what their roles entail, the number of employees, and the location of your business.

  • Business highlights: Are there any key numbers and growth you’ve hit already? Include some examples of what you’ve already accomplished. This could be financial highlights or key milestones of the business. This gives the reader a snapshot of how successful your business has been and how successful it could be in the future.

  • Products and services: Give a brief description of what you actually sell and who you sell it to. (If you don’t have a fully formed product just yet, give a plan for what it will look like in the future.)

  • Financial information: If you’re looking for business funding—whether through a business loan or through equity—state your goals in the executive summary. Be sure to mention any banks or lenders you’ve worked with thus far.

  • Future plans: At the end of your executive summary, give the reader a look into where you want your business to be in three to five years.

2. Company overview

The next section of your business plan should be your company overview. A company overview is a look into the structure of your business and how it generally functions.

A good way to structure your company overview is to think about these three general pieces of information:

  • Give a brief pitch: Start by describing what your business does in a few sentences. This is not unlike an elevator pitch. This gives the readers an idea of what they’re working with.

  • Provide your value prop: Explain the nature of your industry and the marketplace that you serve. Position your business in the larger picture of the industry, explaining where you fit in.

  • Describe your structure: Once you’ve explained the business and your value proposition, explain how your business is structured. How many owners are there? What’s your legal entity? Be sure to explain this when you put together a company overview.

3. Market analysis

Next up could be a market analysis. You could spend days and weeks conducting and presenting the perfect market analysis of your industry, market, and competitors, but here’s a quick glimpse into what it should include:

  • Industry description and outlook: Give a description of your industry by presenting the industry’s size, trends, growth rate, and outlook.

  • Target market information: What market is your business specifically targeting, who’s in it, and how big is it? This describes your ideal niche, customer, or client. This data will also have demographical information to give a look into your business’s customers (think gender, age, household income, etc.). It’s good practice to also include the lead time in your target market (the time it takes for your product to get to your customer once they’ve ordered it).

  • Market research results: This section is probably the most important of your market analysis, giving the results and findings from any in-depth research you’ve done on your target market.

  • Competitive analysis: A crucial step in outlining your market is looking into your competition. Who’s out there serving similar customers in your target market? What makes them similar to you, and what makes them different? How are they doing financially, and how much market share do they hold? The people reading your business plan will want to know what you’re up against.

4. Business organization

The next step in writing your business plan is to outline your business’s organization and management structure. This explains who’s who in your business, what everyone’s background is, and their past experiences bring to the team.

This part of your business plan will break down the following:

  • Organizational structure: Before you go into detail on who each stakeholder is, lay out the structure in which they’re situated. This is like an organizational chart of laying out what everyone does and what team they manage.

  • Ownership structure: You’ve mentioned key owners before in your business plan, but go into detail on how your company’s ownership works.

  • Background of owners and board of directors: Next, explain your background as a veteran and relevant work experience you’ve had, and do the same for the rest of your owners, managers, and key team members. This information will prove to potential investors and partners that you’ve surrounded yourself with a good team. The SBA has a good list of what exact information you should include here.

  • Hiring need: What talent will you need to hire in the near future to make your team complete? Outline what key managers you’re currently looking for in order to grow your business.

5. Product development plan

Once you’ve gone through the nitty-gritty of how your business works and who’s involved, it’s time to walk through the actual product you sell or service you provide.

This section is meant to dive into your product and who it’s intended for. It can be structured as the following:

  • General product description: Give the details of your product, highlight the aspects of the product and service that make it stand out, and describe who it serves. Be sure to speak towards how exactly it fulfills your customers’ needs, and how it’s different than your competitors.

  • Current product status: Have you already rolled out the first stage of your product? Or is the design and fulfillment still in the works? This section will explain how fleshed out your product really is.

  • Product development research and goals: This section should explain how you plan to iterate on the product in the future. What research do you need to do before the product goes to market, and what do you want it to look like when it does? Also, if you have any plans for additional products in the future, give a brief description of what those might look like.

  • Sourcing and fulfillment: If you need to rely on other vendors or manufacturers to provide your product, you should outline what that looks like and the key players involved. Include information about what inventory or materials you need, how you get them, and how often you need them.

  • Intellectual property: While it’s more relevant for technology-based businesses, make sure you outline any intellectual property that is proprietary to your business in the product description. Note if you have patents or are in the application process for one.

6. Financial plan and projections

The current financial status of your business—and your plans for the future—can be one of the most important parts of your business plan. This section of your business plan outlines the current state of your business’s financials, and any small business financing you’ll need in the future.

As you’re just starting your veteran-owned business, you might not have a lot to show here. But eventually, you’ll want to include the following financial documents:

  • Income statements

  • Cash flow statements

  • Balance sheets

  • Accounts receivable statements (if applicable)

  • Accounts payable statements (if applicable)

  • Documentation of debt obligations (if applicable)

And if you don’t have any of these documents because you’re just starting up, then the financial section of your business plan should include financial projections.

While there’s more that goes into your financial projects, in general, they’re your best guess at your financials based on the market analysis you did and the performance of your top (and most comparable) competitors.

When you’re projecting your future financial performance, here are some documents and information to include:

  • Statements of projected income

  • Cash flow forecasts

  • Balance statements

  • Capital expenditure budgets

And finally, if you have any plans to take on financing in the future, you should explain your needs and goals in that regard.

This may be to bring on more investors into your business (therefore giving away equity in your business) or to approach small business lenders to find debt financing for your business.

In this last part of your financial information, describe what type of funding you need right now, how much you might need in the future, and the potential impact of having that funding for your business.

7. Appendix

Most complete business plans will also have an appendix included at the end of the document.

The appendix holds any supporting information and data points that you didn’t want to clutter the heart of your business plan with.

Specifically, this could be tables, graphs, and charts that help explain any section included in your business plan.

Step 3: Registering your business

Now that you’ve outlined your business in a business plan, the next key step is to make it all official—registering your business and securing the legal documents you need to operate.

This is a hard transition to make after big-picture planning, but it’s a necessary one if you want to get up and running any time soon.

Taking the time to properly establish your new business from the get-go will save you a lot of headaches in the long-run.

Here are the steps you need to take to make your business official and legally established with the local and state government.

Register your business name

Your DBA name is a business name that’s different from your personal name, the names of your partners, or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation. This is important to note because when you form your business, the legal name of the business becomes the name of the person or entity that owns the business (you), unless you choose to rename it and register it as a DBA name.

If you decide to register your business as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC, you’ll need to register your DBA name.

You can do so at your county clerk’s office or with your state government.

Choosing a legal structure

The next official task to undertake is to choose a legal structure for your business. The structure you choose will impact how you file state and federal taxes, the roles and ownership of different team members, and how you’ll be held liable if someone files a legal claim against your business.

It’s a complicated decision—one that we could devote a whole separate guide to. But as a quick run-through, here are your main options:

Sole proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is a simple, common way to structure a business.

It is an unincorporated business in which there’s one owner, and no distinction between the business and the owner. That means that you, the business owner, are entitled to all of your business’s profits, assets, liabilities, and debts.

You don’t need to take any formal action to form a sole proprietorship—you’ll automatically be a sole proprietorship if you form a business as the only owner.

As for taxes, because you and your business are legally the same, the business itself isn’t taxed separately. You’ll file the business’s income as your income on your taxes.

Partnership

A partnership is a legal structure in which at least two business partners share the profits and liabilities of a business. In order to formalize a partnership, you should draft up a legal partnership agreement if you choose to structure your business this way.

With a partnership, the business itself doesn’t pay taxes—they “pass-through” to the partners. The partners then include their share of the profits and losses on their personal tax returns.

A benefit of forming a partnership is that there’s some shared financial commitment in the deal.

Corporation

A corporation is an independent legal entity that’s owned by shareholders. The corporation, not the owners or shareholders themselves, is legally liable for any assets and liabilities.

A corporation is a more complex business structure, and tends to come with more costly administrative fees and more complicated tax obligations.

S Corporation

An S corporation is a special type of corporation, designated through a separate IRS tax election.

Whereas a corporation is subject to “double taxation”—where the corporation is taxed once and then again to the shareholders—an S corporation helps you avoid paying taxes twice on your business’s profit. The main difference between an S corporation and a general corporation (C corporation) is that taxes for S corporations pass through to the shareholders.

Limited liability company (LLC)

A limited liability company (LLC) is like a hybrid between a corporation and a partnership or sole proprietorship.

With an LLC, shareholders of the business are not legally liable for the business’s debts and liabilities (like a corporation), and they get the benefit of having taxes pass through to the shareholders (like a partnership or sole proprietorship).

Register for state and local taxes

Before you register for state and local taxes, you’ll first need to get a tax identification number.

Again, the IRS will use your EIN to track your business for federal tax purposes, but most U.S. states and territories will have you pay income and employment taxes for your business as well. (Certain states have additional requirements, like state-mandated workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance, but you can bet on having to pay income and employment taxes).

What you’ll need to do for registering for state and local taxes will vary widely from state to state.

Get all the documents, permits, and licenses you need

The last, nitty-gritty step you should take to make your business official is to get the small business licenses and permits you need to operate.

Virtually every small business needs a business license and/or permit to operate legally. So before you open your doors, make sure you’ve done your research to see what you need to hold before doing business.

We have a resource for how to get state-specific licenses and permits, so make sure to check that out.

Resources for veterans starting and managing a business

There are resources out there specific to veterans starting and managing their businesses.

If you don’t already, these are the resources that every veteran entrepreneur should take advantage of to start off their business on the right foot or be the best business owner they can be.

1. Office of Veterans Business Development

The Office of Veterans Business Development is an SBA initiative that offers programs and services to empower new and existing veteran entrepreneurs (and their spouses). Use this resource for training, mentorship, direction to get access to capital, and networking.

2. Boots to Business

Boots to Business is an entrepreneurial two-step program that helps train veterans hoping to become entrepreneurs. This program is a part of the Department of Defense’s training track for their Transition Assistance Program.

3. Veterans Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE)

Specifically geared towards female veterans and their families, V-WISE is an SBA-funded program that includes online training, conferences, and mentoring.

4. The National Center for Veterans Institute for Procurement

5. Veteran Business Outreach Center (VBOC)

Perhaps the most comprehensive resource for veteran entrepreneurs, Veteran Business Outreach Centers offers any kind of entrepreneurial development assistance—business training, counseling, and mentoring for veterans starting or managing a business.

6. SCORE

SCORE is a great resource for any small business owner, but shouldn’t be forgotten by veteran entrepreneurs. SCORE is a non-profit organization dedicated to giving free small business advice. Use them for contacting volunteer business counselors or go to one of their free business workshops and in-person appointments.

7. Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF)

The IMVF is a program at Syracuse University, meant to provide education and training for veteran-business owners. The IMVF can help educate you on how to access capital, manage your business financing, or bootstrap your business.

8. Veteran Entrepreneur Portal

The Veteran Entrepreneur Portal is a VA-run portal that connects veteran entrepreneurs to different federal, state, and local resources, opportunities, or financing programs.

9. Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small-Business Program

The Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small-Business Program is an SBA program that helps entrepreneurs land sole-source government contracts of up to $5 million. Not all business owners will be eligible, but if you own at least 51% of your business and have a service-connected disability, you should consider applying.

10. VetBiz

VetBiz is a Department of Veterans Affairs organization dedicated to all things small business.

The first way to use this veteran entrepreneurial resource is to become a certified veteran-owned small business with them, which makes you eligible to win federal contracts.

11. USA.gov Resources for Veterans

The small business section of USA.gov has a large number of tools, training sessions, and more resources for veterans looking to start a business (or improve one).

12. VetFran

VetFran is a more tailored program with resources meant to help veterans get access to franchising opportunities. The website helps you determine if franchising is right for you, and what kind of franchises you could access.

13. Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans With Disabilities (EBV)

The IMVF started the EBV program—a three-phase training program with the goal of helping disabled veterans become entrepreneurs.

Each phase is a different program that focuses on the different challenges for becoming (and being) an entrepreneur. The last phase is a 12-month mentorship program with EBV mentors.

14. The Bunker

The Bunker (from Bunker Labs) is an incubator for veteran-owned technology startups. The Bunker is like any other incubator, providing you with office space, networks, mentorship, and professional development, just specifically focused on veteran-owned startups.

15. SCORE Veteran Fast Launch Initiative

Another SCORE opportunity meant just for veterans is the Veterans Fast Launch Initiative. This initiative includes free business workshops, personal mentoring, business calculators, templates, and more. Plus, the program also offers five free hours of consultation from a certified public accountant.

16. Coalition for Veteran-Owned Business

The Coalition for Veteran-Owned Business is more of an advocacy group for veterans. But because it’s a free service that promotes veteran-owned businesses through B2B product and services awareness, it’s worthwhile to get involved for networking and promotion purposes.

17. National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NAVOBA)

NAVOBA is another advocacy group for veteran entrepreneurs that you can become of a member of for free. You’ll get your business listed in their marketplace—so businesses looking to work with yours can find you there.

18. Patriot Boot Camp

Patriot Boot Camp provides free in-depth business education, mentorships, and live events. This boot camp is more geared towards technology-based companies, so if you operate a veteran-owned business in this space, don’t miss out on this program.

19. GovCon Ops Consulting

GovCon Ops is a private organization (owned by veterans!) aimed to help other veteran-owned businesses receive government contracts. This consulting business also helps veteran entrepreneurs navigate the process of simply finding the right government contracts for their companies.

The bottom line

The above resource has everything you need to do and every resource you can use to make your entrepreneurial dream a reality. Each one of these resources and initiatives is designed to help veterans like yourself launch and grow their own small business.

We know that as a veteran, your training and skills leave you well equipped to start a successful business. Thank you for your service, and good luck!

This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

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Starting A Business

How to Grow Your Small Business Startup: 4 Essential Steps

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Around 90% of startups fail. And while some of those failures can be attributed to bad luck, many others were the result of poor decisions at the early stages of building the company. 

But while that statistic may seem discouraging, it can also provide motivation to those entrepreneurs who are willing to follow the best practices of launching a startup and push through the various challenges that will inevitably come up during the process.

With the help of a few simple (but fundamental) strategies, you can separate yourself from the majority of other startups and give yourself a real shot of making a product that will break through and make a difference.

To help you get started, let’s look at four crucial aspects of launching a startup that you should consider.

Start with the “Why?”

The number one thing you should do when launching a new company is to ask yourself a simple question:

Why is this solution necessary? 

There are millions of startups globally, and the majority of them would fail to provide a viable answer. Some just want to break into a hot market because they think that will increase their chances of success. Others believe they have a unique idea without knowing whether there’s any demand for it. 

But in most cases, ideas that might seem reasonable at first glance crumble when their purpose is questioned even a little.

So, if you want to avoid pouring your heart and soul into a project only to find out that it was a waste of time, it’s a good idea to spend a fair amount of time thinking about the core purpose of your product and the effort it will take to launch it.

Most of the successful startups you might have heard in recent years started with a very clear idea of the purpose behind the company. It can be a feature that no other product in the market can offer. Or, it might be a unique process for solving a problem that will change the industry forever.

Most of the time, there’s at least a clear answer to why the startup needs to exist in the first place. If you strip away the gimmicks and the additional features, you should still be left with the core idea of what you can offer that no one else can.

Take Care of Your Employees

No matter how you decide to finance your startup, you won’t be able to go forward alone for long. And that means that at some point, you will need to figure out how you’ll take on employees and ensure that they are happy and protected.

Then, there are various state and federal regulations that determine how much paperwork you’ll need to file out, what protections you’ll need to offer, and countless other details that someone outside of the HR world has probably never dealt with.

Because of that, startups can benefit from using HR outsourcing services that can take over the entire process. The team at SnackNation recommends using services like Bambee or Workday, which provide comprehensive solutions for companies of all sizes.

These companies can offer HR consulting, benefits administration, performance management, payroll, bookkeeping, and various other services that can be a hassle to manage on your own when you’re just starting a new company and have a lot on your plate already.

Plus, it ensures that you implement the best HR practices of today and that your employees are taken care of. And that will make attracting the top talent you need for growth that much easier.

Use a Proven Website Platform

Launching a startup is impossible without a strong web presence. And that inevitably starts and ends with your website. But if you don’t have experience with building and designing websites, the entire process can be a bit overwhelming.

The good news is that with a platform like WordPress, you can have a website set up in a matter of days if you want something simple. But at the same time, the platform offers robust customization capabilities and it can get a bit confusing when picking the right ones. That’s why it’s a good idea to curate your own WordPress toolbox that includes a wide variety of powerful themes, plugins, add-ons and WordPress resources that you know would always work for your website. 

In the end, you want to find fast hosting, install robust security features, and provide a seamless User Experience (UX) to all of your site’s visitors.

Designing a site from scratch can be appealing. But WordPress can give you enough versatility to get any features you need while remaining user-friendly enough to keep costs down and provide you with a simple way to get started.

Maintain Focus

As a startup owner, you will probably never run out of avenues you could pursue. Whether it’s the new shiny marketing tool or a promising networking opportunity, there will be times when you’ll want to do everything at once because that’s what could give the company the best chance of success.

But in reality, maintaining focus and clarity in terms of priorities might be the most practical choice for your startup in the long term.

By only focusing on a few things at a time, you will allow yourself to really give them time, tweaking your approach until you find what’s working. Moving on to something else is easy, but then you might miss out on incredible opportunities because you were too quick to dismiss something without giving it a real shot.

So, whether it’s a marketing approach or adding features to your product, always weigh the potential benefit against the resources it would require and against how it would impact what you’re doing right now.

Sure, at some point, you will need to cut your losses with projects that didn’t pan out. But it’s a good idea to stick with them for a bit longer than you might want to, especially if you know that it’s a sound strategy that could deliver big if you would just find the right approach. 

Final Words

Launching a successful startup is a dream that drives millions of entrepreneurs worldwide. But only those that follow sound business principles and are disciplined in their decision-making can expect to see success.

The strategies listed above may not be flashy, but they represent essential parts of running and scaling a startup. And sometimes, taking care of the less flashy details like HR management can set you up for exceptional results in the future.

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Business Ideas

Starting a new online business during the pandemic: Two COVID-era tales of renewal in Miami

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The pandemic forced more than three-quarters of small businesses across the U.S. to temporarily close up shop in the spring of 2020, and thousands have since shut down for good.

But the COVID-19 pandemic also led to a record number of people trying to start their own businesses: 4.5 million filed new business applications in 2020, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Economic Innovation Group.

That’s the highest number ever and a 24% increase from 2019.

 

And the momentum isn’t slowing. The Census Bureau says 492,000 new business applications were received in January 2021, a 43% jump over the previous month. Many more informal businesses are believed to have been created, often as side hustles, but never registered.

Few cities saw more aspiring entrepreneurs than Miami. Although new business creation was not distributed evenly across racial and socio-economic lines, green shoots of entrepreneurship popped up across the metro area, helping to bring a dose of resilience to the local economy.

[At the same time, untold numbers of existing small businesses — restaurants, neighborhood shops, salons — decided to establish a digital presence, allowing them to find new customers and take orders from beyond their immediate area.

In all, the number of digitally connected microbusinesses in Miami-Dade County rose 6.7% from 2019 to 2020, according to data from GoDaddy’s Venture Forward project, which studies the economic impact of these small online businesses. The Miami metro area, which includes the neighboring cities of Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach, has more microbusinesses per 100 people than any other large metro area in the country.

These everyday entrepreneurs make a big impact on their communities, with each new one leading to the creation of two additional jobs, Venture Forward data shows. Additionally, each new microbusiness per 100 people can reduce the unemployment rate by .05 percentage points.

And between 2016 and 2019, every microbusiness per 100 people that’s active online was associated with a $485 increase in a community’s household median income.

Here are the stories of two inspiring women entrepreneurs who took the initiative when the pandemic upended their lives.

Natasha Nails: Rethinking the press-on

It took a painful case of contact dermatitis, a type of allergy, following a visit to a nail salon for Natasha Williams to come up with an online business idea for the future of press-on nails.

The Miami native, who lives in Little Havana, has had her nails done since her teens.

But after her allergic reaction in March 2020, she was forced to switch to press-on nails that used hypoallergenic adhesive pads.

Unhappy with the appearance of what was available — they felt cheap and plasticky — Williams started buying clear nails and hand painting them with her favorite colors and designs.

Around the same time, the pandemic shut down the local economy. A well-known tap dance performer and teacher around Miami, Williams suddenly had a lot of time as lessons and gigs dried up.

By July, buoyed by the admiring comments she got from friends and strangers on the street, she realized there was a market for her creations, so she quickly built an online store and Natasha Nails opened for business.

At first, it was as much a hobby as a career plan. But soon she started asking questions and understanding the opportunity was real.

Why did women tend to apply press-on nails and leave them on and then throw them out? Given how easy they are to remove and reapply, particularly the adhesive-pad type, wouldn’t it be more fun and affordable to have collections of nails so they could match outfits or daily moods, the way they choose which shoes to wear or purse to carry?

“I want people to be able to mix and match, like ‘let’s see what I have in my closet to wear today,’” she says.

If she can popularize this approach, women may one day not feel obliged to suffer the daily inconveniences of wearing long nails.

“Just try typing all day with these things on,” she laughs, showing off long, olive nails. “You really can’t do much. And anyone who tells you differently is lying!”

While her new business doesn’t make enough money for her to quit her teaching, she spends about the same number of hours on both.

That includes 30 minutes each morning tending to her growing Instagram account — where she has amassed more than 5,000 followers who account for most of the orders on her website — and a few hours in the evening painting nails, including custom orders, and packaging up boxes for customers who opt for her monthly subscriptions.

Many challenges remain ­— particularly how to scale production beyond her ability to hand-paint nails while maintaining the artistic quality. But Williams is definitely a long-term thinker who hopes that, some day, her creations will be featured at major retailers.

“I don’t see obstacles as problems, but as challenges,” she says of the process of building a company. “You just have to follow the steps.”

Read more about Natasha’s story here.

Starting an online charcuterie-to-go

Like so many healthcare workers around the world, Maryam Kheirabi faced new demands when the pandemic hit. An oncology pharmacist with a Miami-area hospital, she suddenly had more hours, more stress and more fears of the unknown.

To deal with the growing pressure, Kheirabi decided she needed a new activity, something that would take her mind off her stressful job and give her a newfound source of fulfillment.

That’s when Fig & Brie, a charcuterie-to-go business, was born.

 

“I’m happiest when I’m extremely busy, and I wanted to create something beautiful for people to share,” she says. “In a way, I think the business got me through the worst days of the pandemic. It gives me hope, and hopefully it gives other people hope, as well.”

The idea came to her soon after the pandemic began, when she saw groups of friends eating from plastic containers full of snacks at a park across the street from her home for socially distanced get-togethers.

“How cool would it be to have a charcuterie box to go,” she remembers thinking. It would give people the option to pre-order a food board that could be delivered just when it was needed.

A native of Queens, N.Y., who moved to Miami with her speech pathologist husband in 2016, Kheirabi grew up being responsible for creating food platters for family gatherings.

“We Persians are very big on hospitality, and I never lost my love for creating beautiful, delicious things,” she says.

Once the first spike in COVID-19 cases began to ease in August, she started doing research, which included the creation of a variety of charcuterie platters for colleagues at the hospital.

A cousin in New Jersey agreed to help her secure a domain name and choose website-building tools.

“The rest was left up to me, but it was mostly dealing with aesthetics, which I love, anyway,” she says.

In early November, Fig & Brie officially launched, with a range of offerings, from a $20 “solo” platter to an $85 “soiree” box.

The seed capital was $2,000 that her husband, Francisco, urged her to take from their savings, with the understanding that they wouldn’t spend any more if the business wasn’t profitable after a month. She ended up spending $1,900 of it in that time, but by early December the business was making money.

Kheirabi’s digital marketing strategy initially was solely based on Instagram, in part because she wanted to grow slowly at first. But sales jumped more quickly than expected over the holidays, as friends and fans spread the word. One local real estate broker ordered platters as gifts to her clients.

It wasn’t easy, but she and her husband managed to keep up with demand while maintaining their jobs in healthcare. It helps that most orders come on Thursdays or Fridays, for delivery on Saturday.

Francisco does everything from taking photos to taste-testing to driving their only car around the city making deliveries. When he once asked what he would be paid for all his work, she quipped, “Sorry, but we pay in cheese.”

Her near-term goal is to have enough demand to hire a driver or two, and then to find a way to ship around the U.S. (That will require some innovation, to either find a way to keep fruits and veggies crunchy and fresh, or to come up with boards that meet her standards without those foods.)

Ultimately, she’d like to open a storefront in Miami and share her business model so women in other places could follow suit.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if it was only for the money,” she says. “That’s just icing on the cake.” The primary reward, other than enriching customers’ lives, is to empower women, including herself.

“We’re living in a time when women are standing up and taking charge of themselves,” she says. She even welcomes the competition from other female-owned online charcuteries in the city. “There’s enough demand to go around,” she says. “Women shouldn’t compete with each other. We should lift each other up.”

Related: Research shows that women have what it takes to make great CEOs

The post Starting a new online business during the pandemic: Two COVID-era tales of renewal in Miami appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.



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Starting A Business

New to Entrepreneurship: Here Are 6 Tips You Can Bank On

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Entrepreneurship is not a career, it is a life choice. Many people have mind-blowing business ideas. It’s almost enticing to jump right into starting up your new business. But as fun, as that sounds, the reality of running a successful business is a lot more complicated than that.

Most times opening up a business is usually a learn-as-you-go experience, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are essential tips that when implemented well can be the smartest decision you will ever make for your business.

Brand Your Business

What does the term branding mean to you? Most people perceive branding as the logo, colors, and visual component that you associate your business with, but it’s a little more than that. Branding is the entire identity of the business. It is what makes your business stand out in crowds.

In a fast-growing business world, it is important to create a strong brand for your business. This way it outshines your competitors, gets people’s attention, and makes it more recognizable. Branding gives you a chance to get some control over how people perceive your business. 

Build a Team

Manpower is a vital part of any successful company. It is significant for ensuring that operations are running smoothly and efficiently. Coming up with a good workforce is the secret ingredient for achieving a good relationship between your company and your customers. They are the face of the company and give an essence of the human touch to your business.

It can not go unmentioned that with improved technology manpower is rapidly being replaced with machines. That said, creating and maintaining a reasonable amount of manpower for your business can be a life-saver hack. Coming up with a team of educated and well-trained individuals will improve productivity, provide innovations, and maintain the relevance of your business in the market, something technology can’t provide.

Buy Raw Materials in Bulk

Depending on what your company’s end product is, consider purchasing the raw materials required at wholesale. Stockpiling the raw materials when they are at their lowest prices is a money-saving hack. Buying raw materials at a low enough wholesale price reduces the cost of production and in the long run, maximizes profits from your retail sales.

Consider finding a reliable wholesale distributor, this makes purchasing more efficient and you are assured of the quality of materials you will be getting. Ensure they supply within your geographical region, have prices you can afford and are trustworthy.

Advertise Your Business.

Promoting your business is a key aspect if you want to outshine your competitors and make your product or service known to your potential customers. Businesses have different ways of promoting their brands; they range from handing out flyers to postcards to brochures to advertisements in newspapers to online marketing.

Using social media platforms to promote your product or service is a no-brainer. It is the best way to get your name out there fast enough, while also providing solutions to about ninety percent of the population online searching for similar products. Some businesses opt to invest in a large indoor LED screen because of its efficiency in displaying stunning images. These types of screens are eye-catching, outstanding, and popular for their diversity in use, hence playing a major role in advertising brands.

As a business owner, take time to research which medium of advertisement will best suit your enterprise and proceed to invest in it.

Invest in Packaging

While most new business owners overlook the need to properly package their product you must seize the chance and stand out. packaging is the first touch that customers will have with your brand.

It is therefore important to create enticing packaging for your consumers that will draw attention to your brand. It is imperative to incorporate eye-catching shapes, colors, quotes, and packaging material that is unique to your brand. This will make the unpacking experience for your customers exciting and unique hence creating loyalty and enhancing customer retention. Keep in mind that with evolving people and markets, your packaging must evolve to keep up. 

Be Sure to Keep Records

For any business, accountability is key. Efficient record keeping will help to keep everything in order and help to analyze your company’s financial status, provide insight into what your real profit is, answer tax problems, or keep track of deductible expenses.

Precise record-keeping of finances and expenses throughout a business’s lifespan makes it easier for you to adjust your business plan accordingly to help solicit new business partners or investors. 

Even after a business picks up, managers are tempted to focus more on production and profits and overlook record-keeping, so don’t fall into this trap. 

Choosing whether to keep the record in soft copy or hard copy is totally dependent on the business owner’s preference.

Conclusion.

Let’s be honest, starting a new enterprise can be a little bit hectic because it requires a lot of planning, sacrifice, and money. That said if you have your business idea don’t wait for the right moment because it will never come. Take the leap and trust your instincts. All you need to do is apply the six tips explained above and you are good to go. Good luck setting up your new enterprise.

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