On Tuesday, veterans gathered at Salt Lake Community College in Sandy to speak with successful small business owners to discover if entrepreneurship is the right path for a former member of the military.
Veterans come from a very structured background from their time served in the U.S. military. This conference helped outline how a small business owner could start to structure their own business and help it flourish.
Steve Hatch of Hatch Family Chocolates in Salt Lake City emphasized that there are always risks when it comes to starting a business--but it's up to the entrepreneur to stare those risks in the face anyway. You can be scared, but Hatch advised to use that fear as fuel rather than an excuse to avoid doing what you are passionate about.
When Ron Tucker of SCORE asked how many people wanted to start a new business from scratch, several veterans raised their hands. So if you've got the guts and want to take on those risks head-on, here's how you can get started:
1. Idea: First you need an idea of what kind of business you want to open, what kinds of products or services you want to sell.
2. Research: Research everything you can about that idea, such as your potential customers, competition, demand and what you may be able to charge for it.
3. Plan: With that research, create a business plan. It can be elaborate or simple, but you need a plan. Here is the business plan template the U.S. Small Business Administration offers online.
4. Funding: Mostly every business needs funding to get off the ground. Perhaps make a list of startup expenses and brainstorm ways to come up with the money, like savings, loans, investors, grants and entrepreneurial competitions.
5. Compliance: Get a business license like state registration and a city license, along with any other professional certifications that would make you and your business credible and competitive. If necessary, negotiate a lease on a location for your business.
6. Party: Your business is about ready to go. Throw an open house, invite everyone you know and tell them about your business. Invite them to give it a try.
After all that is done, the work is just beginning. Nearly every speaker mentioned that many small businesses fail within a few years. To keep your business going, it's crucial to market and brand your business online. Marketing doesn't end there though; you have to be visible around the community. And whenever you meet someone new, make it a point to tell them about your business. What marketing does is help create customer interest in your products or services.
Sue Rice, the founder of Cavanaugh Services Group, says that networking can help expand your business opportunities, build relationships as well as your reputation as a credible resource, and also increases the value of your company and network. So network, go to conferences and make connections! Make it so people know your name and your business. Word of mouth is probably the strongest form of marketing there is and these connections are key for that.
Some marketing tools that Rice talked about include government and academic programs, universities, and business associations such as the Salt Lake Chamber.
It's also important to keep your business relevant (the goal should be to add value to people's lives), innovative and evolving to fit the demands of your customers and clients. Remember to set your business apart from your competitors.
What may help you along your entrepreneurial path could be to find a mentor. It could be someone in the same industry or not--you could have several mentors, each one with a different skill set advantage. The point is they can help you keep your business in mind and how to keep it going. Plus, it will be nice to vent out your business struggles with someone who has been there before.
Consulting and events offered by the Salt Lake Chamber's Women's Business Center are great resources for helping get your business of the ground, networking, marketing and all other aspects of running a business. If you have questions or want to come in for a consultation, please contact Ann Marie Thompson at email@example.com or by calling 801.328.5052.
VeteranBiz 2012 was provided by the Utah District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.