It’s Monday morning. As you semi-tearfully leave your babe(s) behind, you dream about running your own business that somehow leaves time for you to have it all—family time, a career and the ability to pursue your passions.
Then the doubts start creeping in your mind: Where would you even start? How much money would you have to put in? What about job security? Is it really possible? It is. I did it. Over the years I’ve had tons of business ideas, but never pulled the trigger until now. Finally, I felt inspired and passionate enough about a topic (bringing natural baby products, from Europe to the US market) to take the next step.
Here is what I have learned along the way on how to make it work:
1. Create a unique value proposition
What is something you are passionate about and knowledgable on? What is something you wish you had that is missing or hard to get? What is something that would make your life easier? These are countless questions that have led me to come up with new business ideas. When I was pregnant, I started researching new baby products like any new mom. After reading a study about New Zealand changing mattress materials and reducing SIDS by 70 percent, I started questioning materials in all things baby-related. I found it really difficult to get straightforward answers and found that European brands generally had higher quality standards. It was hard for me to buy them, so I decided to fill this niche and bring it to other U.S. moms. Voila—value proposition!
2. Research the competition
Start with an easy place: Google. Search for similar concepts and think about how you could provide something they can’t. Don’t just stop at Google. Scour message boards, social media and your local community for similar ideas or value propositions and then write out how your idea is different.
Prior to Peurobaby, I had an idea for a half-liter wine sampling business (my other passion as a certified sommelier and former wine blogger). Turns out there are a ton of other companies doing the exact same thing. I stopped and kept thinking.
3. Create customer avatars
Write out profiles for who your customers are. Be specific with a name, age and where they live. What are their goals and values? Where do they get information? What are their challenges and pain points? This will help provide direction to you in everything from website design, wording, marketing and more. It will also be the ground truth you come back to when dealing with difficult decisions.
4. Create your own entrepreneur network
You might feel as if you don’t know any other entrepreneurs, but you can start small. I talked to a friend and her husband who started their own boutique, and a friend with her own acupuncture studio. I reached out to friends of friends and then their friends to ask about building websites, warehouses, SEO, social media campaigns and more. Some of the advice was helpful, some wasn’t—but it helped me take the first steps such as setting up an LLC and helped me ask the right questions to take the next steps.
5. Just reach out
The best way to get started is to contact experts. If you have an idea that needs to be manufactured, do a simple Google search for manufacturers producing something similar enough and schedule a call. If your idea is around a service, contact a company that does something related and see if they are interested in partnering in some way. They won’t all be helpful, but they help you formulate your questions and figure out what next steps to take. I was first super intimidated by the import process and felt overwhelmed on where to start. For a while, I stalled while researching the process. Finally, I started just getting in touch with companies I was interested in working with—many of which already knew the next steps and helped me figure it out for those who didn’t.
6. Set goals
Set long, short and medium term goals. Then set goals within those goals. I sat and wrote down my long-term vision for Peurobaby: To be the premiere destination for high-quality, non-toxic baby items. My medium and short term goals were targeting a specific number of customers and sales. Then I set weekly goals of what I needed to do that week to get to the next place. Seeing these written down created a goal-oriented to-do list.
7. Ruthlessly prioritize
You are a mom. You have a career. You need to use your time VERY wisely. Anytime you find yourself doing something for your business, immediately try to match it to a goal. If you can’t, why are you doing it? Then follow the next two pieces of advice…
8. Figure out what you are good at
Find out what you’re GREAT at, good at, terrible at and your kryptonite. Only invest your actual time in the great and maybe sometimes the good and get help for everything else. For me, research and investigating products fell into the “great” category while SEO was taking me forever to ramp up on. I invested my time and prioritized the things I was great at myself and sought resources for other things.
9. Get help
Find people who are good at your weaknesses. One of the brands I was carrying introduced me to a social media expert that taught a class on the subject at Stanford. Although working with him wasn’t free, I felt the investment to learn and the investment to my business would come back 10x—and I was right!
10. Invest everything back into the business
Don’t expect to profit right away… Or even soon. I went into my business with an explicit plan of taking every penny I made and investing it back into Peurobaby through marketing, inventory of new brands, launching exclusive products, giveaways and more. This is hard because it takes patience and requires continued investment into your current career, too.
11. Leverage your local community
Get involved with local businesses that can partner with you. They may not seem obvious at first, but think about your customer avatars and where they might go. For Peurobaby, I thought about local new moms and started speaking at events at yoga studios, pop-up shops at neighborhood block parties and talking to local moms.
12. Leverage a virtual community
Think about who your customers are online. Social media is a critical tool. Find bloggers, social influencers, Facebook groups and online message boards that are talking about the problem you are trying to solve and engage in conversations with them.
13. Don’t be afraid to fail
You will make mistakes. You will probably spend a little money that you didn’t need to spend or make a wrong choice. Don’t let it stop you or get in your way, just internalize and learn from it. At first, I spent way too much money researching the import process instead of just reaching out for free information. I also hired (and later fired) a web designer to help set up my online store, when I quickly realized how easy it was to do with Shopify. These were wastes of time and resources, but I didn’t let them stop me from taking the next step.
Above all, remember, you’ve got this, mama! ?