Happy New Year! The start of a new year often calls for resolutions, and let’s be honest - most of us don’t stick to them. This year, we’re trading in fleeting resolutions for steadfast goals. If you’re a budding entrepreneur with dreams and a vision, now is the time to start your business. While this can seem daunting, thousands of successful business owners have started where you are now, with an idea and the hopes of bringing it to fruition. It’s important to remember that everything takes time, and there are steps to getting where you want to be. There is no such thing as an overnight success, but you can get there. And here’s how. We’ve teamed up with a few successful Black entrepreneurs to bring you ten tips for starting your business in 2021.
Do Your Research
One of the most important steps in starting a business, doing research is one of the first things you’ll do. You can approach this in a series of ways. First, make sure there is a market for your business. It’s not enough to assume that others will want to use your products and services. Talk to others, preferably those outside your immediate friends/family circle, to see if they’d be interested in buying.
Second, regardless of the business you’re forming, you should aim to become an expert in the industry. It includes making yourself familiar with the products and services offered by similar businesses. Joining professional associations in your industry will also give you a leg up by providing you with the latest market information as well as helping you keep track of potential competitors.
Third, know and understand your competitors. Competitive research is something that will be necessary on an ongoing basis. Find out what similar businesses are selling and how they’re selling it. Knowing what drives potential customers to shop another business is a great way to anticipate your customer needs and give you ideas for how to satisfy them.
Ultimately, doing research before the start of your business will give you the tools to create a well-rounded and efficient business plan.
Create a Business Plan
Some would say it’s impossible to succeed in your business without a business plan. How can you envision where you’d like your business to go without a plan for it? Nathan Groce, the founder of the Black-owned clothing brand Agape Citizens, is a big proponent of the power of a business plan. Groce says, “Planning is a proven way to help you reach your goals and hold yourself accountable. Your plan should include steps around setting up your business, developing your product or service, and launching and promoting your business.”
Your business plan will act as the blueprint you build off of. Consider including target dates to help you keep track of your goals as well. For more tips on creating a business plan, check out LinkedIn’s Seven Essential Elements of a Business Plan.
Let’s be real. You’re not going to love every part of your business. In fact, there will probably be some parts that you absolutely hate. Although this is normal, you’ll find it’s necessary to be passionate about your work. Whether you’re designing clothes or offering financial services, the passion behind what you do is going to get you through the struggles that come with every business. Ask yourself, is this worth my time, money, and energy? The answer should always be “yes,” and if it’s “no,” you might have to consider pursuing another avenue.
Create Systems and Structures
Samantha Sinclair, the founder and CEO of Pathway to Purpose, offers the advice of creating systems and structures once your business is off the ground. Her college preparedness company offers students the tools and resources for learning the ins and outs of the college process. She recommends creating a plan, putting a system in place, and sharing it with the team. Having systems and structures in place will allow everyone to remain aware of the goal and the planned way of getting there. It is a necessary step to keeping everyone on the same page as your business grows.
Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks
Starting a business is seen as a risk for many, but Latoya Nicole of Entrepreneurs Color Too reminds all entrepreneurs to be unafraid of taking risks. The Black female entrepreneur describes witnessing the successes of others, particularly authors, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many people now supporting Black-owned businesses, she offers that “the key is that they were not afraid to start and take calculated risks.” Playing it safe doesn’t always work in business, and while it might be something you’re uncomfortable with, taking a calculated risk could lead to great success.
The year 2020 showed everyone, business owners and employees alike, just how unpredictable life could be. At the end of 2019, Sam Davis-Allonce, the founder of Hot N Saucy, launched her hot sauce brand. With hopes for growth in 2020, it’s safe to say that the year tried to throw her off her game. After pushing her business to grow, she reminds entrepreneurs to keep pushing forward and remain unafraid to pivot. While you can plan and plan and plan, it’s impossible to anticipate everything that could happen. As cliche as it may sound, expect the unexpected. While we left 2020 behind for the history books, moving forward, we strive to be flexible and consistent in 2021 and beyond.
Don’t Compare Your Year One to Someone Else’s Year Seven
“Started from the bottom, now we’re here.” Regardless of your feelings about Drake, this line is actually fitting for most businesses. To reiterate an earlier point, there is no such thing as an overnight success. Businesses often start at the bottom before they can reach their target. As you launch your business, Emir Horton of Eartha Watch Company has an important reminder. “Don’t compare your year one to someone else’s year seven.” Life is something that seems as if it’s constantly shaping us to compare ourselves to others. And while you should pay attention to your competitors, Horton considers comparison and doubt as two of the biggest hindrances to success. He reminds other promising entrepreneurs to be authentic while remaining confident in their products or services.
Let the Market Guide You
It was previously mentioned how important industry research is before starting your business. Whether you’re preparing to launch this year or it’s been a few years since your start, continued market research is mandatory. Growing a business comes with a lot of trial and error, so prepare yourself for the work that comes with it. Loccessories’ founder Kamaria Hill advises to “Set your hypothesis and test. Let the data confirm or deny. You will undoubtedly have lots of great ideas. That’s the nature of being an entrepreneur, but the market will let you know what it wants and if it’s ready.” Let the market guide you. If you find a lack of competitors in your field, you’re dealing with one of two things. Either your idea is so inventive that others have yet to think of it or there’s not a heavy demand for those products or services. Market research will help you come to a sound conclusion regarding your business.
Learn From Others
As you do the work to become an expert in your industry, use other resources to your advantage. Experience is one of the best ways to learn, and learning from others is an ideal way to achieve a sense of understanding without the years of working in your field. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. If necessary, professionally slide yourself right into some DMs. Ask experts if they’d be willing to mentor you. Join entrepreneur groups to have conversations with like-minded people. Attend conferences and participate in any training courses that will help increase your knowledge. An obvious mistake is thinking you know everything there is to know. No entrepreneur is ever done learning, so open yourself to learning from others.
Continue to Try New Things
Very few things ever stay the same. As time progresses, people change, and your business will have to accommodate that. Similar to our tip of taking calculated risks, don’t be afraid to try new things. Businesses are about learning what works and what doesn’t. Everything won’t work, but some will. A big part of running a successful business is anticipating its predictability and adjusting. Gradually introduce new products or services to your business to see what sticks and what you should scrap.
There is no foolproof way to entrepreneurship. What works for others might not work for you, but this list is a great place to start. Starting a business is trial and error, and you’ll go through a series of failures and successes. What will set you apart is how you navigate through them. Remind yourself that every successful business owner started with an idea. If you’ve been looking for the push to bring your business to life, this. is. it.