Making it on your own
Sarah Ramcharitar’s guide to owning your own business
Starting your own business has always been one of those ideas that seem to increase in popularity during January – the month of resolutions. Then by mid February to March it fades into another unfulfilled resolution. Not this year. If this is one of your dreams then reaffirm to yourself now that this is the year to make it happen – whether full-time or part-time.
This issue is filled with inspiration from women who are making it big on their own, through their talent and commitment to the path they chose. And I intend on being another catalyst for those who want to generate their own income.
I want this article to help you focus on an action plan to achieve this dream. Bear in mind that this is about those who want to make it happen for the long haul, not those who see an immediate opportunity and want to dive in and make a quick buck and then leave.
To begin this process you must first start with truthful self-analysis. Critically analyze why you want to become an entrepreneur. To think that “my boss gives me hell”, “I hate what I do now” or “I spend too much time at work” are worthy reasons – is to be fooling thy self. You need to ascertain that spark within you that will keep this business going in its most trying times. Ask yourself:
- What’s my exact motivation?
- How long have I been dreaming this?
- What am I passionate about?
- Is this passion linked to my idea?
- What is my risk threshold?
- Am I resourceful and self-assured?
- Do I have a winner’s attitude?
If after your self assessment you realize that your reason is primarily due to avoidance of some person, issue or responsibility, then you are probably not fully ready to take the leap. Entrepreneurial success is primarily due to the mind and spirit of the entrepreneur; as such, the simple, right reason you want to start your own business may not even be financially motivated. Usually, if your reason is birthed from some unexplained inertia that makes you feel you must do it, you are at the right starting point.
Your next step is to plan and research your idea. This step is sometimes the most overlooked part of the process and yet it is so crucial to success. This can be a daunting process, but I have summarized some of the more pertinent issues into three categories below. This stage usually indicates very clearly the financial feasibility of your idea and represents a map or guide as you begin its implementation, so please be very realistic and careful in determining this stage. Even if you are not motivated by financial goals, please bear in mind the projected cost or loss of your idea, so that you can keep this in check. Do not let your losses go beyond what you have predetermined. On the other hand, if you have some idea that is expected to generate financial losses, but given the right amount of time, will start reaping profits, you again have to be very cognizant of the length of time it takes for profits to kick in, and be realistic about the length of time you can sustain a loss. Here goes:
Your Idea: What is your idea?
- Do you know/ have experience in the industry?
- What will your idea do? (make a difference, fill a gap, satisfy existing demand?)
- Is your idea done by anyone else?
- Can you finance the venture?
- How much is the start up capital?
- Do you have enough financial coverage to cover the slow periods? If not, where will you get it?
- What form is your business going to take - Sole trader, Partnership, Corporation?
- Where will you sell from?
- Did you prepare a business plan for the first 12 months? (marketing, cash flow, costs etc.)
- Do you know how to project sales for the next 12 months?
- Do you understand the legal, financial and accounting responsibilities?
- Can you do it alone or do you need staff and technical expertise? (marketing, IT, finance, accounting)
- Do you have a mentor?
- Will you dedicate your time full-time or part-time?
- Do you have good networking and communication skills?
- Do you need additional training?
- Do you have the support of your family?
The final step is the implementation of your idea. Be guided by your planning stage as to the timing, nature, product volume, location, marketing method etc. This is the boldest step in bringing your idea to fruition because it is the stage where it actually comes to life. You see your dream move from being a latent idea to a reality.
To help you through your process and into implementation I have listed below some government funded institutions, which provide assistance for business startups in the Caribbean. The website for SME Toolkit Caribbean is filled with forms for various stages of your planning, from self assessment to cash flows, to budgets etc. so be sure to visit that site if you are doing a lot of the planning yourself.
- National Entrepreneurship Development Company Ltd. http://www.nedco.gov.tt/
- Business Development Company Ltd. http://www.bdc.co.tt/
- SME Toolkit Caribbean http://caribbean.smetoolkit.org
- Youth Businesss Trinidad & Tobago http://www.ybtt.org/
- Barbados Investment and Development Corporation http://www.bidc.com/
- Jamaica Business Development Corporation http://www.jbdc.net/
- JN Small Business Loans Limited http://www.jnsbl.com/
Remember: Your idea is worth exploring.
Even if the conclusion is that it is not worth pursuing, you would have deduced that much. Steve Jobs started in his garage and made an indelible mark on the world. Thomas Edison failed about 1,000 times before he was successful at inventing the light bulb. Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 and did not write until he was 7. Colonel Sanders was 65 and broke when he started his KFC franchise.
Do not be afraid of success or failure. Let these be the stepping-stones to accomplishing something great in your life. Be prepared mentally and physically to work longer hours, endure more stress and earn less pay (in the beginning) but yet still feel happier than you have ever felt being in control of your own destiny.