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2017

It’s easy to think, when you examine successful companies like Apple or Starbucks, that they were Apple and Starbucks from the start.

 

They weren’t.

 

Apple started in a garage. The original owners of Starbucks were content owning four stores until Howard Schultz showed up. What’s important to remember about these types of businesses and entrepreneurs is that they started off small…very small! It took time, patience and energy for those businesses to become big.

 

Take Richard Branson of Virgin, for example. Nowadays, the Virgin Group is huge – comprised of over 200 companies in more than 30 countries, specializing in air travel, mobile technology and much more. What you may not realize is that Virgin began as a tiny record company above a shoe shop in London and Branson had to barter his rent.

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Originally, Branson started Virgin Records as a means of funding his culture magazine, Student. Virgin Records only found mild success, but it was enough for Branson to take the next steps toward expansion when he started an actual record studio. Branson took things slowly, step-by-step, but eventually bands like the Rolling Stones and the Sex Pistols signed with Virgin Music.

 

One of the keys to Branson’s success is that he created multiple profit centers. That is, he paid attention to what the world needed and made a point to fill niches. That is how Virgin Records also became Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Megastores and Virgin Radio; similarly, it is why Virgin didn’t go under when digital music took over. Branson has even added space travel onto the Virgin empire, with Virgin Galactic.

 

Talk about one small step for man.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

Bill Gates has a similar story. Nowadays, we automatically associate the name “Bill Gates” with massive wealth and success, but what many people don’t know is that Gates’ first company, started with his friend Paul Allen, was a dud. “Traf-o-Data” was supposed to analyze traffic patterns. It stalled.

 

After dropping out of Harvard and moving to New Mexico, Gates and Allen tried again, this time starting “Micro-Soft.” The first several years of Microsoft weren’t easy. Gates and Allen struggled to make a profit, and found themselves in a couple legal battles as well. With only 25 employees, Microsoft relocated outside of Seattle in 1979 – this is where they would eventually become successful. Gates’ mother, Mary, connected Bill to her IBM colleagues, to whom Gates would eventually sell a product called MS-DOS. It was those IBM connections that catalyzed Microsoft’s first success.

 

Before Microsoft got big, Bill Gates had to rely on family connections.

 

Or what about Martha Stewart? She is another one of the great small-to-big entrepreneurial tales. Stewart grew up in New Jersey and came from modest beginnings. As a teenager, she did some modeling to make some extra money, but eventually went to Barnard and graduated in 1962. Stewart finished her degree in European and Architectural History.

 

Martha worked on Wall Street for several years until she realized her true love was gourmet cooking. She decided to put her lucrative career aside to pursue her calling. She trained herself with Julia Child’s cookbook and started her own small catering company. It took about ten years before Martha Stewart became Martha Stewart, and notably, like Richard Branson and Bill Gates, Martha Stewart created many profit centers for her business – books, a magazine, hosting her own TV show, radio, and so on.

 

All of these anecdotes should be great inspiration to any entrepreneurial-minded folk with a big vision. As long as you’re OK with starting small, and only becoming bigger after time and hard work, then you have every reason to think that you can go out there and make your dream a reality.

 

READ GREAT ENTREPRENEURS WHO STARTED SMALL PART I

 

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.                                        

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

You can count me as one of those experts who paints a fairly rosy picture of entrepreneurship. I do so because I truly believe entrepreneurship can be a fulfilling, happy and lucrative endeavor.

 

But, as is the case with any positive enterprise, there are also pieces of the puzzle that one doesn’t often see. Here are my top five things that you need to know, but may not be told, before starting your own business.

 

Tips.png1. You will need more money than you think: One of the main issues entrepreneurs face when starting a new business is that it does indeed take money to make money. And the first question, of course, is where does that money come from? The usual suspects are yourself (savings, cashing out), friends and family, credit cards, SBA loans or a loan from your bank. The good news is that banks want to lend— it is their business, after all. It’s therefore your job to make your venture as solid as possible.

 

But another issue that often crops up for the new entrepreneur, as far as financing goes, is figuring out the amount of money that will actually be needed to launch the venture. This amount will likely be more than you suspect. You will need enough to open the doors, buy product, get inventory, market the business and pay yourself for at least 6 months, which is the minimum amount of time it takes to start, get the word out, get business and start the money cycle.

 

And as is the case with anything that requires a worthwhile investment— things will go wrong, mistakes will be made, unforeseen problems will arise. That is why you need to be prepared financially.

 

2. Make sure your e-presence is robust from the start: You must have a good website and a strong social media presence when you launch your business— this is not something that can wait for later, nor can it be done poorly. Nab the Twitter and Facebook domain names for your business as soon as you know what that name is. Get a good-looking website up and running before you have your grand opening party. You may even want to have some videos to post on the site and an e-newsletter ready to go for day one.

 

These days, your customers will find your company online as much as they will offline, maybe more so, so your online offering has to be top-notch.

 

3. You’ll need to use all your skills: Whatever your specialty at work is and whatever skills you’ve learned along the way, you’ll need to use those in business right from the very beginning. When you start, your resources and help will be limited, and you’ll wear a lot of hats. Whether you’ve always been good at accounting or have a knack for marketing, don’t discount your tried and true abilities even while you learn new ones.

 

4. You will need to get customers, pronto: Before you launch, no one knows about your new business, and you don’t have a built-in base of customers. You need to let everyone know that you exist. One way to start is by contacting everyone you know. Online platforms such as your website, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can help spread the word as well. Marketing and PR are another way, as is Pay-Per-Click. I suggest you come up with a multi-pronged approach to bring in customers before you launch.

 

5. Don’t forget to be patient: As you can see, it takes time, faith and perseverance— you must keep at it every day and stay true to your plan. It almost always pays off, especially if you were ready right from the start. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your new business won’t be either.

 

 


 

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

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