This column first appeared in Silicon Prairie News for Prosper Women Entrepreneurs, where Aimee serves women entrepreneurs as Senior Director of the Prosper Institute. Thanks, SPN!
Dear Prosper Women Entrepreneurs,
I’ve been thinking about an idea for business for a while, and recently have started checking out programs for entrepreneurs in my area. The networking has been fun, and I’m learning a lot about the startup community, but I know I need to focus on getting MY business going. What should I do so that I’m not still thinking about it this time next year?
Dear What’s Next,
Although studies show that only about half New Year’s Resolutions make it past the first month of the year, we think this is one worth going after! The start of 2016 is as good a time as any to get focused on your business and start moving it forward. As we’ve talked about in previous columns, entrepreneurs often have so many ideas that it’s difficult to pick one and get started. But the upside of that entrepreneurial spirit is that you are tenacious and driven towards your goal. So go for it!
Here are some thoughts to help you turn all that thinking into doing:
Up until now you’ve probably kept your idea mostly in your head, on the back of napkins and in a few notebooks. You might feel like you don’t know enough, or have a good enough plan, to start talking to people about it. That is a mistake. You’ll only be able to move your idea forward if you’re open to sharing it with others.
If having a well-constructed elevator pitch will make you more comfortable, google “elevator pitch” and start building one. If practicing will get you ready, grab a friend, your dog, or your neighbor and try it out on them. Record yourself and see how you sound. Watch videos of successful and terrible pitches. We shared some tips about how to talk about your idea in a previous column. Just get talking!
Whaaaat? You’re a smart and tenacious entrepreneur who’s not supposed to need anything, right? Wrong! Along with talking about your idea to other people, you should also be asking them for help. No one knows everything, and certainly there are parts of building a business that you’re not an expert at. Maybe you’re a great product designer, but don’t know squat about intellectual property law. Maybe you’re great at the books, but don’t know how to promote your venture.
Think about what you don’t know, prioritize those needs, and ask for help. At the very least you’ll get some feedback on your idea and the steps you’re taking (learn more about being open to feedback here). Hopefully, you’ll get some good leads and introductions. But how will people know what you need if you don’t tell them?
You’ve already started networking, and that’s great. By now you have a feeling for what resources are available and where startup people congregate. But as you start to grow your business, you’ll quickly learn that time is your most limited resource, and you need to be thoughtful about where you spend it. We would suggest finding a few networking events that offer both really good content and the connections you need – you can’t go to everything! Or, find a startup program or educational opportunity that will keep you on track.
Some days, you’ll have to be heads-down reviewing a spreadsheet or updating your website. Some days, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with a potential client or attend an event where you can run into people you need to know. It’s a bit of an experiment, but start to learn where your time is best spent. And getting connected with the right people on a regular basis will help with that “lonely entrepreneur” feeling!
Above all, just start. No secret formula, no excuses, no delay… just go do!
Prosper Women Entrepreneurs