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Starting Your Own Business After Military Service

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The average age that American military personnel retire is 46.8 years old. After a full career of service, for many veterans the question is – what’s next? This is the ideal time to think about starting your own business and pursuing your passions in life. You can be your own boss, set your own hours and kickstart a new future for you and your family.

When you are starting your own business however, it is important to find your own niche market and develop your ideas. It is virtually impossible to compete with the conglomerate giants, but if you have a great idea that is realistic and manageable, you can build a successful business after military service. 

Funding your business

To get your business up and running, you are going to need startup funds. It may be that you have accumulated savings during your years of service, but if you haven’t, there are still ways to get your business off the ground. A Hero Loan is a VA loan program that is designed specifically for veterans and military families.

This type of home loan could give you the capital that you need to fund your business. Kickstarter is another popular option for raising business capital, but you will need to have a clear vision that you can market to the masses, showing that you have an investable product or service. Successful companies that were built using Kickstarter include Oculus, Pebble and M3D. 

Get some great advice

If you are new to the business world, it is a good idea to get some advice and mentorship to help develop your business plans. There are many free programs for veterans that can help you to succeed and thrive. In fact research done by Experian has found that businesses that are owned by veterans have greater sustainability and longevity than non-veteran-owned businesses. The Reboot program is open to all veterans and their spouses and can help you get to grips with entrepreneurial business concepts and fundamentals. VETRN helps to train new small business owners, completely free of charge, so if you’re on a tight budget, this is a great program to get involved in. 

Developing your ideas

Even if you are completely new to the world of business, the average veteran has a wealth of life experience and an understanding of the community that you can build on. Look around your local community and see what they need – it’s a simple concept – find a need and then fill it. You can then start creating a business plan to incorporate your goals, service or product development and financial projections. It will help to develop market surveys and take part in competitive analysis to help bring your niche business ideas into fruition. 

After military service, there can be a great career ahead of you, developing your own business. With some startup funding and a mentorship program, you can work towards turning your business into a thriving, successful enterprise.  

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Business Ideas for The Post-Covid World

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Are you looking to get out of the daily 9-5 grind that you’re stuck in? Maybe you’re not but better ideas have crossed your mind? Or the idea of being your own boss is simply too tempting to pass up?

Luckily, in a world where tech is at the forefront of a lot of industries, it’s easier than ever to go your own way. You don’t need a premises to open a shop, just the products and a website. You don’t need an office space to be a secretary, just a reliable Wi-Fi connection. You don’t need to move to LA to make music friends, just your home set up.

As the saying goes, restrictions breed creativity, which was proven in the lockdowns. A lot of good ideas came about, and the best stuck. We’re running down a few ideas that could prompt you to get out there on your own and make something of yourself. Read on for all the details of the best industry ideas that came out of lockdown.

Influencer

Don’t scoff. Depending on how you do it, there is a lot of skill and a lot of money in influencing. It’s likely that you are only seeing one side of things, which is usually a well-lit photo of a coffee cup taken in the golden hour. But what if I told you that a lot of skills – creative and business – went into taking that shot. It might feature a product placement for a coffee company, it might be used as a networking opportunity to catch the eye of a brand or generate buzz. It might simply be used to market their own business.

And then there is the content itself, which encompasses everything from capture to edit. Filming, photography, editing, music, graphic design, and presentational skills are all part of making quality content. There are a lot of transferable skills in both.

You can use influencing to market your own business, or even start your own affiliate blog, which serves as a site where you can showcase your favourite items for commission. A couple of hours’ worth of work a week can gain you a full-time employment salary.

Either way, getting the basics of the role of an influencer down will ensure that you can market just about anything else on your agenda, such as…

Food delivery
photo credit: Mart Production / Pexels

Hospitality

The hospitality industry had to go through a lot of changes through lockdown. Closing entirely soon gave way to take-out services, which eventually gave way to social distanced dining, but in that time, a lot of new ideas hit the table on how the food service industry could shake things up.

The most common idea was food through a window. A collection/delivery service where restaurants and cafes couldn’t serve food inside their premises so instead handed them over through a window. When things opened up again, the idea stuck. The roads are full of delivery drivers and cyclists for everything from the mom-and-pop café to the nearest fast-food supplier. It means less of premises and therefore less rent, or you can even do it directly from your home kitchen, making the gap between beginner and business a lot closer.

And then there is the idea of food trucks. You’d be surprised how much a food truck is making during the lunch hour alone. There was a class bias there once, where a food truck meant low quality, “junk” food, but street food is on the rise. It’s usually very high quality, tastes like nothing you’ve tried before since they don’t have to convince investors the masses will eat it, and they go wherever is most popular in the moment. You’ll see food trucks at the park, at festivals, outside clubs, etc. It’s also appealing to the customer because it’s usually more affordable. If you’re worried about menu pricing, take a look at this guide.

Freelancer working on a project
photo credit: Artem Podrez / Pexels

Freelancer

When the doors to offices started opening up again, the response was a resounding, “Do we have to?” Middle managers were surprised to find that employees all around the world where in fact enjoying working from home. There was more freedom, whether to work around external obligations like childcare or an exercise regime, or to simply stop for five minutes for a breather without worrying that your boss thinks your slacking off. And we’d be remised to mention that workers were reporting getting more work done at their own pace, because we know managers love productivity.

So, it only makes sense that, while working from home, some employees started wondering why they needed the middleman at all, and suddenly freelance became a viable option again. You can work at your own pace, avoiding all the money spending and polluting that comes with commuting, and be your own boss on top of that.

And it’s easy to apply a freelancing role to almost any skillset. To start, take a look at the role you’re in at the moment. If you can do it from a computer, is there anything stopping you doing it for yourself rather than a company? Think about applying a freelance position to the role you have for an easy transition.

However, if you’re trying to get out of the job, you’re in, there are a lot of options there too. It’s all about matching your skillset to the right freelance job. If you have skills in numbers, you can look into accounting. If you’re handy, you can get a van and get into trades like plumbing, carpentry, DIY, etc. If you have organizational skills, you can look into being a personal assistant to various clients. If you have writing skills you can look into ghost writing, copywriting, journalism, etc.

Learning online

Teacher

And there is another option if you have all these skills that you can use: teaching. Teaching comes in many capacities. The traditional means of teaching in a school takes a lot of education and internships before you are there in the room, but lockdown has unveiled a lot of ways it can be easier.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, you can use the best lesson of business life in lockdown: use video calls. Sure, traditional teachers and lecturers had to adapt to Zoom, and some didn’t do well there, but you’ve been using Zoom for at least a couple of years now, and you can use it to teach all around the world. Get hired as a personal tutor or put university study groups together to give more personal tutoring to those who are willing to pay for a helping hand.

And, going back to the influencer’s …influence, a lot of online courses are popping up on big social media accounts. You can record a curriculum of your chosen topic and sell access to it for anyone who is interested.

The best part about this is that you can sell courses on just about anything, be it fitness regimes, makeup tutorials, cooking, DIY, or university subjects like social sciences and literature analysis.

If you can market yourself as a reliable source in your field of study, you can record everything you know in some simple, easy to digest content, and put it behind a paywall like Patreon.

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5 financial tips for millennial business owners

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Money matters

This content should not be construed as financial advice. Always consult a financial professional regarding your specific financial situation.

In 2017, I wrote an article about financial tips for millennial business owners. Five years later and two years into the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I was surprised to find that most of the original advice still holds true today. However, some changes are worth noting that will better empower millennials to succeed personally and professionally with their finances.

Five financial tips for millennial business owners

Here are five things today’s millennial business owners should consider. We will look at each tip in more detail.

  1. Pay down and pay off outstanding debt.
  2. Work alongside a financial adviser.
  3. Observe the money moves of Gen Z.
  4. Build an emergency fund.
  5. Establish Plan B.

1. Pay down and pay off outstanding debt

My original article emphasized the importance of getting out of student loan debt. I mentioned suggestions for managing that debt, like lowering student loan bills through better repayment or refinancing plans and making loan payments on time. Hopefully, doing these things would make it easier for millennial business owners to financially plan to start a business.

However, according to Bank of America’s Better Money Habits Millennial Report, student loans now only account for 25% of millennials’ debt. The Winter 2020 report examines the precarious balancing act that millennials have with outstanding debt. And this debt is no longer limited to student loans.

The reason? Millennials are no longer twentysomethings. Millennials began turning 40 in 2021. The report shares the various types of debt that millennials carry in middle age, including auto loans (40%), credit card debt (37%) and mortgages (36%). Each makes up a higher percentage of debt than student loans.

Further, the report addresses the worries that millennials have surrounding their debt. Those surveyed say that having debt keeps them from reaching professional and personal milestones. Millennials today feel like they can’t or can’t yet fulfill the following goals:

  • Buy a first or nicer home (42%).
  • Save for the future (40%).
  • Welcome children or grow their family (21%).
  • Get married (21%).
  • Start their own business (19%).

Despite these grim percentages, millennials are not giving up.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the American workforce with the Great Resignation. Millions of workers are quitting their jobs, with a January 2022 study from Cengage Group citing 38 million workers who resigned in 2021.

Quitting does not mean millennials do not plan to work again. Instead, they are taking back their power. Ninety-one percent quit their jobs to make more money, 82% are reconsidering priorities amid the pandemic and 81% wish to pursue another passion or career path and are reskilling appropriately.

For many millennial business owners, relying on traditional financial tips like refinancing, budgeting, and making on-time payments isn’t enough to get entirely out of debt. Resigning from a job where you feel stagnant, or experience stagnating wages is a critically important next step for paying off debt and revitalizing your career trajectory.

2. Work alongside a financial adviser

Couple holding hands with a contract and pen on table in front of them

No matter your stage in running a business, every small business benefits from working with a reliable financial adviser.

What can a financial adviser do for you? These advisers assist millennial business owners in making sound financial decisions. An adviser is well-versed in financial literacy and understands planning in certain and uncertain times of economic stability. Many also work with niche-based entrepreneurs, like those within the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) and HENRY (high earner, not rich yet) communities.

Best of all, millennials can even work alongside a millennial financial adviser if they choose.

If you’re currently on the hunt for one, check out this roundup on Business Insider of the 23 most influential financial advisers for millennials.

3. Observe the money moves of Gen Z

Millennials and Gen Z “allegedly” don’t like one another very much. Something about a TikTok dance? I digress. Millennials can learn from individuals at all stages of entrepreneurship, including the class of creators that makes up Gen Z.

How exactly does watching the entrepreneurial moves of Gen Z translate to financial advice?

Gen Z came up in a world where many cheaper tools are at their disposal. They are natural social natives that utilize digital platforms to build their brand.

Watch which tools they use to build their business and how they save money through using them. A good example is observing the platforms they use, like Square to accept payments and Etsy for creating an ecommerce presence. These tools are cost-effective and allow Gen Z to focus on their business. Take a few notes if you haven’t started already, millennials.

4. Build an emergency fund

If business owners have learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the importance of having and maintaining an emergency fund.

Emergency funds are exactly what they sound like: three to six months’ worth of expenses set aside to be used in the event of an emergency. This emergency can be anything from a pandemic to a natural disaster. Having an emergency fund means having the ability to cover an unexpected expense without taking out a loan or using a credit card with a high-interest rate.

Three additional pro tips I have for building an emergency fund are below:

  1. If you withdraw a certain amount from your emergency fund, remember to pay it back. Ideally, do this as quickly as possible.
  2. Use this fund only in the event of an actual emergency.
  3. Add to an emergency fund regularly. Treat it as you might a retirement fund. Strategize with the help of a financial adviser as to what this fund’s maximum contributions might look like every year. Then, add to the fund accordingly. Too often, emergency funds are viewed through a one-time lens. Business owners should set up the fund in a safe space like a high-yield savings account and keep contributing funds to it over time.

5. Establish Plan B

Plan B was in the original version of this article, and I’m using it to conclude this updated list of financial tips for millennial business owners.

Having a Plan B is essentially creating a backup plan for your life. The phrase is often used negatively as if to say that because a particular business venture didn’t work out, you can’t be an entrepreneur again. That’s not true. Having a Plan B means having a safety net for every good and bad “what if?” scenario.

If something doesn’t work out now, you have options, and Plan B will help you find and pursue them.

This content should not be construed as financial advice. Always consult a financial professional regarding your specific financial situation.



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How to Kick-Start Your Online Clothing Resale Gig

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With the recent rise of resale apps like Depop and Poshmark, the idea of selling old clothes online is becoming more fashionable. Many people have turned clothing resale into a lucrative side gig or even a full-time job, gaining thousands of followers and making dozens of sales per week.

The secondhand-clothing market is projected to more than triple by 2030, according to a 2021 study by reselling platform Mercari and research firm GlobalData, as more fashion enthusiasts clean out their closets and search thrift stores to find valuable pieces to resell.

But whether you have a collection of band T-shirts or office attire, finding success on these platforms takes time and effort. Before diving into your closet, there are a few things to know.

You set your prices

Unlike consignment and resale shops, you can price items yourself on an online platform. Before listing a piece of clothing, look it up on multiple platforms to find out what it’s currently selling for. Depending on age, condition and brand, prices can vary widely.

You can also take advantage of direct messaging to negotiate with buyers and use features on apps like Depop and Poshmark that let you accept offers and create multi-item discounts.

“Sales can be sporadic,” says Andres Castillo of Los Angeles, who sells rare designer pieces through Depop, eBay and Instagram under the name Debonair Vintage. With rare or high-value items, it may take a while to find the right buyer, especially if you’re looking to break even or make a profit.

There’s a big time commitment

“I treat [reselling clothes] like my job,” says Eve Perez, a full-time student in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who sells under the name Fitsfinesse and was featured in Teen Vogue in 2021 for her Depop success. She responds to messages daily, on top of taking product photos, sewing custom pieces, and packaging and shipping orders.

Communicating clearly with first-time buyers is essential: “If you don’t build that relationship, then you won’t get sales and returning customers,” she adds.

Although you have control over the prices, reselling online takes much more time and energy than selling to consignment stores. According to Depop, sellers who list consistently — around 15 items per week — sell more over time.

“It takes a lot of time and dedication,” says Castillo. Top-notch sellers have to learn to take eye-catching photos, understand shipping rates, negotiate over text, and research brands and trends to make the most of their inventory.

Overhead costs add up

Yes, you can set your prices — but there are a few overhead costs to factor in. Online resale platforms charge commission fees, plus additional fees for shipping through the platform or accepting payments through a processor like PayPal. Depop takes 10% of every sale and eBay takes 15%; Poshmark takes $2.95 for items under $15 and 20% for items over $15. PayPal, which integrates with Depop, Poshmark and eBay, charges another 3.49% plus 49 cents per transaction for payment processing.

On top of that, you’ll need to pay for packaging, label printing and possibly storing inventory including bins, hangers and shelves. Top sellers also recommend adding a personal touch in shipments, like free stickers, small accessories or a thank-you note. When all those costs add up, you may find that only higher-value items are worth listing.

You can cut costs by reusing shipping mailers and boxes, and printing labels at your local FedEx or UPS store instead of purchasing a label printer. Or, reduce shipping costs for buyers by bundling several items into a single shipment, which can motivate buyers to purchase more from your shop.

The social aspect is a priority

The most successful online resellers have one thing in common: a strong personal brand. Finding your niche and building a loyal following is essential to long-term success on a resale platform.

“It’s like Instagram, but for selling,” says Perez, who focuses on curating a consistent aesthetic and marketing her shop on social media platforms like TikTok.

Castillo grew his business by catering to a very specific market: vintage designer collectors, specifically for Moschino and Chanel. He sells across several platforms, using his Instagram to rent pieces out to stylists for photo shoots and red-carpet events. Though he targets a fairly small community, his narrow focus helps him reach his ideal buyers.

Other top sellers on resale platforms can be seen taking a similar approach, with shop themes ranging from band T-shirts to vintage gowns. “Lean into your personal taste,” says Castillo. Even if you don’t have a curated collection to sell, personalized packaging or a unique photo background can help your items stand out.

Both Perez and Castillo emphasize the importance of cross-linking social media platforms to reach as many potential customers as possible. Creating a dedicated Instagram Business account and following other online sellers and designers can help drive buyers to your shop. Check popular pages for trendy hashtags and add those to your posts. Making the time to promote on social media can help transform your closet into some serious income.

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