How To Start A Business in 10 Easy Steps: Step 1

So, you’ve got an idea for a business. Congrats! You have something to offer the world, and can’t wait to share it. But, hold on future business owner. There’s something you need, that your business needs, that you may have not already considered.

Whether you’re moving forward with an idea that you’ve been mulling over for years or are ready to expand on a concept you’ve seen recently, it is imperative that you have the roadmap for your future business sufficiently plotted out before you set up shop.

Step One: Develop a Business Plan

We cannot stress this enough: Having a business plan is critical to the success of a small business, particularly if you plan to scale, and yet thousands of new entrepreneurs fail to adequately plan for their ventures. We’ve had countless clients come into our offices seeking advising or loans for their businesses, only to find out that there’s a huge flaw in their plans: they don’t have one.

It’s easy to think that once you’ve secured a prime location, eager clients, and ample funding secured, the hard part of getting your business started is over, but that’s a false flag. You wouldn’t go on a road trip without a map or navigation system, so why you would start a business without developing a plan for it first? Do you know why eighty percent of new businesses fail within their first eighteen months of operation? While some of it is due to pure bad luck, most of it is due to a failure to plan. If you’ve ever watched “The Biggest Loser”, then you’re familiar with this frequently-repeated (okay, frequently-screamed) phrase: Failure to plan is planning to fail.

One of the main reasons entrepreneurs don’t develop business plans is because they simply don’t realize its importance to their success. It’s common for someone running a cash business to think that since what they’ve always done has worked in an informal setting, it’ll work once they go legit and establish themselves with a brick-and-mortar operation. It seems sound on the surface, but it’s actually a recipe for disaster. Instead of focusing on breaking even or making a little money to live off of, they should be prepared to answer the bigger questions that investors or lenders will ask. Do you know who your customers are? How do you plan to grow? Who are your competitors, and how is your business different? How will your business be managed? These are issues that are typically addressed in a business plan, and if an entrepreneur can’t address them, then the prospects for the business are grim.

Some people are aware of the concept of having a business plan, but avoid because writing one seems intimidating, time-consuming, and largely unnecessary since they aren’t out to get rich. This is a natural mindset, but a detrimental one to have. If you say ‘executive summary” or “market analysis”, to them their eyes glaze over. Such an individual might say, “Mark Zuckerberg may need a business plan, but I don’t”, and they couldn’t be more wrong. Even the small-time entrepreneur stands to gain the world by having a plan for his/her new business. And

who knows? Their idea might make them into the next Zuckerberg, but they’ll never know it because they didn’t have a business plan.

Now that you know the importance of having a business plan, you’re probably wondering how you, an aspiring entrepreneur, can write one. We’re glad you asked! The SBA has a wonderful guide on how to develop your plan, which can be found here:

Of course, your friends at BiGAUSTIN have a robust business plan template that is easy to navigate available for free. Our counselors will even walk you through the process and are available to answer any questions you may have. Stop by the office, schedule an appointment, or just give us a call at 512-928-8010 to learn more.

The Importance of Youth Entrepreneurship

 

business-idea-teenagers

 

It seems that we have forgotten that children are our future. Whitney Houston references aside, it’s true. We clothe, feed, and nurture today’s youth, but those are the basics. There are a few things that many are missing out on, and entrepreneurial education is one of them.

Over the past thirty years, school districts have significantly reduced or completely eliminated programs that inspire and nurture kids’ creative and entrepreneurial tendencies. When was the last time you heard about an art or home economics class being offered at a public high school? Even worse is that the next generation is increasingly being pushed to attend college, despite the increasing cost, and the fact that post-secondary education may not accommodate their professional aspirations and ambitions. The students who want to develop an app or a custom car stereo business are stuck with amazing ideas that they can’t use because the curriculum that could teach them the basics of entrepreneurship just don’t fit schools’ constrained budgets.

This country runs on entrepreneurship. Each year, more than a million Americans roll up quit their 9-5 jobs, roll up their sleeves, and launch small businesses. Our economy depends on the success of small businesses, but it is leaving a significant demographic of aspiring entrepreneurs behind: kids.

Some of the greatest businesses to ever enter the marketplace have been helmed by kids. Ever heard of a little sandwich shop by the name of Subway? A high school student started the ever-popular sandwich chain in 1965. And some of the most influential small businesses being created by kids who have yet to hit puberty. Bee Sweet Lemonade is a Austin-based, multi-million-dollar company founded by seven year-old Mikaila Ulmer in 2011.

It’s never too early to teach entrepreneurship, or to encourage ideas. Kids are entrepreneurial by nature, and they’re not just interested in having neighborhood lemonade stands. They’re developing some of the most innovative and impactful businesses in recent memory, and it’s up to the adults in their lives, be it their parents, educators, or people who want to invest in the next generation to ensure that they achieve their goals no matter their age.

To the teens who may be reading this, we want you to know that your friends at BiGAUSTIN here for you. We know that you have business ideas, and that you want to see them grow. We can help. We’ve developed a curriculum that will teach how to start and manage a successful business, and how to find the investors and capital you need to get it going.

We offer  free youth entrepreneurship programs for high school students throughout the year. If you’ll bring your business ideas and willingness to work hard, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to make your small business dreams a reality. For more information, please visit the BiGAUSTIN website by clicking here, or give us a call at 512-928-8010.

Support BiGAUSTIN This Holiday Season

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As 2015 rapidly draws to a close, many of us are looking forward  to the holiday season. It’s a time of meaningful reflection, festive holiday music (Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You will never get old!), and Starbucks holiday drinks. It’s also a time for enjoying good food, being with friends and family, and, if you’re anything like your friends at BiGAUSTIN, frenzied last-minute shopping. Why shop weeks in advance when you can spend Christmas Eve standing in long lines with the other procrastinators?

Whether we’re doing battle with tryptophan-addled shoppers over the last 60-inch televisions or avoiding the madness by shopping online, we do it because family and friends are special, and we want to show them what they mean to us by giving them something that they’ll love. Gift-giving is the hallmark of the holiday season, and we hope that you’ll consider supporting BiGAUSTIN with a gift this year.

BiGAUSTIN has helped over 30,000 Central Texas entrepreneurs in its twenty-year history, and we stand ready to help thousands more as we look ahead to helping aspiring entrepreneurs build their dreams in 2016. We have big things in store for the fifteen counties of Central Texas, and it’s going to be fantastic.

But,  we need your help in making it happen. BiG has established itself as a one-stop shop for would-be entrepreneurs, and  provides robust training programs, business plan development, individualized advising, and capital to our hard-working clients. We would not be able to support these entrepreneurs without the support of our extended BiGAUSTIN family.

Will you consider helping us help underserved entrepreneurs build their dreams? We serve over 4,000 people start or expand their small businesses, many of whom would not be able to realize their dreams without the resources we provide.

BiGAUSTIN is a 501-C(3) non-profit organization, so your donation is tax-deductible. And, if you’d rather donate your time, we would love to have you! If you’d like to do both, well, then you’re a rock star, and you deserve fresh-baked cookies. Or a big hug.

Please click here to donate to BiGAUSTIN. If you’d like to volunteer with us, please give us a call at 512-928-8010.

Again, we sincerely appreciate all of the support we’ve received, and hope that you’ll join us in helping Central Texas entrepreneurs realize their small business dreams.

Have a wonderful holiday season, and prosperous new year.

Sincerely,

 

The BiGAUSTIN staff

 

P.S. Here is a little something for us all to enjoy. Come on, who doesn’t love this song?

Have Hard Hat, Will Build: Tips For Winning Construction Bids

construction-worker black femaleAustin’s construction industry is having a bit of a moment, and anyone who has spent more than five minutes driving in this city knows it. You can’t swing your arms without hitting a construction site or newly-opened business, and generally speaking, that is a very good thing for the local economy.  Hundreds of people migrate to Austin daily, and as a result, the city is under perpetual construction with new projects and openings of new businesses. New business bring jobs, and not just the owners will create with their businesses, but also for construction professionals. As the city continues its exponential growth, there is an ever-growing demand for construction firms to build schools, roads, high-rise apartments, and shopping centers to accommodate. It would seem that getting a project or two is anyone’s game, but the most projects are often awarded to large construction firms. Small, independent contracting firms, especially those owned by minorities and women, are left scrambling to pick up what’s left. 
How can small firms effectively compete when they lack the resources that their larger counterparts seem to have in spades?

It turns out that while having innumerable resources can certainly tip the scales in a large firm’s favor, actually winning bids comes down to having effective bidding and estimating strategies. This is where bids are most often won (or lost), and while many independent contractors submit their bids along with everyone else, they often make mistakes that end up costing them the project.

Here are a few tips for improving your bids:

Know your worth. This goes without saying, but many small firms don’t properly assess what their services and skill sets are worth prior to submitting bids, and dramatically undervalue what they have to offer to a developer. It’s not uncommon to find an independent contractor or small firm submitting bids and hoping to at least break even on a project because they don’t know what their time and effort are actually worth. When the sawdust clears, they bid on additional projects using the same flawed strategy and base their rate on previous projects.

Don’t miss out on quality projects or more money because you don’t know how to quantify your firm’s ability to get the job done well. Identify the metrics you think you need, and if you’re unsure of what these should be, reach out to other contractors for ideas. Set aside a half-day or so to conduct staff appraisals and conduct performance evaluations, staff interviews, and skills assessments. Compare the results to your firm’s needs, and use them to accurately determine what you bring to the table for future projects.

Don’t bid too low. Many firms believe that in order to be competitive for a coveted project, they have to submit the lowest bid in the bunch. This is a colossal mistake that seldom works in the contractor’s favor. If the bid is successful, the contractor is more than likely missing out on thousands of dollars they otherwise would have had in hand if they’d evaluated the project and their time properly.

Bidding too low often signals to a developer that your firm isn’t  particularly savvy about its bidding strategy. Many, many contractors employ this strategy as a means to an end, because they simply don’t know a better way, but it can cost them scores of projects that they are more than capable of completing. In a developer’s mind, receiving undervalued bids indicate two things: 1) the contractor doesn’t have the competence the developer needs, or 2) the contractor is careless and unprofessional in how they approach the process. Presenting a clear, coherent bid that adequately assesses the cost of the project, rather than low-balling it will increase your chances of winning.

Estimate, don’t “guesstimate”. It’s 2015, which means that if you’re still using an old school spreadsheet, a notebook, or just guessing at the total cost of a project, you’re far behind your competition. Programs such as Quick Bid, Clear Estimate, or Plan Swift can help you produce a coherent, effective bid that will greatly increase your chances of winning the project.

These are just a few suggestions to help contractors improve their strategies. BiGAUSTIN offers an array of workshops for independent contractors looking to improve their firms as part of its Contractor Readiness Program. We also offer a plan room with directory of current projects available for bidding. Please give us at a call at 512-928-8010 if you have any questions about the program.

BiGAUSTIN Events – August 2015

BiGAUSTIN provides comprehensive workshops that will help entrepreneurs build healthy, thriving small businesses across Central Texas. Please review the list of our August courses below, and check back regularly, as the list will grow daily. If you have any questions, please call us at 512-928-8010.

MBAPersonal

MBA of Personal & Business Finance

August 5, 2015 // 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

It’s easy for both new and established small business owners to become overwhelmed with maintaining the financial health of their businesses as well as their personal finances. This three-part series will teach small business owners how to find balance and move forward successfully.

Register here: http://bit.ly/1II09iV

Business Law Basics

Business Law Basics

August 7, 2015 // 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

This class is taught by licensed attorneys who understand the complex legal issues small business owners face. If you own a small business and don’t have a strong grasp of what your rights and responsibilities are as a small business owner, then this class is for you.

Register here: http://bit.ly/1SX6B72

Borrowing Basics

Borrowing Basics

August 11, 2015 // 11:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m.

Getting a business started means raising capital to get your dream off of the ground. Borrowing Basics will help you make the right moves when looking to finance your small business.

Register here: http://bit.ly/1II0i5X

We’re Looking For Interns!

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BiGAUSTIN is seeking current college students, current graduate students, or recent college graduates in the Austin area to fill three internship positions for the fall semester. The interns will provide a wide range of marketing, outreach, business development, research, and general support to the BiGAUSTIN team. In return, BiGAUSTIN will provide an opportunity for the interns to gain experience in and familiarity with areas such as fundraising, small business development, micro-finance, program development, and the day-to-day operations of a nonprofit organization. Interns will also have opportunities to attend and network at BiGAUSTIN events. These positions will report to the Business Development Coordinator and the Chief Brand & Culture Officer.



Communications & Development Intern (Sophomore standing or higher)

The ideal Communications & Development candidate will be particularly adept at writing and editing, marketing, and utilizing the Internet and social media for strategic messaging. He/she should also be familiar with basic HTML, Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) and Adobe Photoshop.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Assist staff in entering data into BiGAUSTIN’s databases
  • Conduct research on and correspond with potential donors, markets, and industries
  • Identify funding opportunities (e.g. grants, sponsorships, etc.)
  • Manage social media accounts and the BiGAUSTIN blog
  • Develop promotional materials for classes, events and programs
  • Draft correspondence, reports, proposals and donor appeals
  • Assist staff in planning donor events and other activities
  • Maintain donor files and other development materials
  • Attend department and staff meetings
  • Assist with special projects as needed

Women’s Initiatives Intern (Graduate student or recent graduate)

The ideal Women’s Initiatives candidate will possess a robust understanding of microfinance, women’s issues and the  obstacles they face when starting small businesses, and have a passion for helping women entrepreneurs overcome these obstacles through outreach, advocacy, and educational programming.

Business Development Intern (Business, finance, and accounting majors preferred)

The ideal Business Development candidate will possess a robust understanding of the mechanics of small business and entrepreneurial culture. He/she should also possess a profound passion for helping underserved entrepreneurs develop their ideas and launch successful, thriving businesses in Central Texas. The candidate should also be skilled at performing market research and cultivating and managing long-term partnerships within the private and public sectors.

  • Assist education team with course design, development, monitoring, and administration
  • Assist consulting staff with advising new and established entrepreneurs on growing their businesses
  • Assist staff with evaluation and implementation of organizational strategic plan
  • Identify and evaluate specific growth opportunities for BiGAUSTIN
  • Assist with other projects as needed



How to Apply

To apply for the position, please submit a cover letter, résumé, and one-page writing sample by email to elizabeth (@) bigaustin.org (please select one position and put “Communications & Development Intern”, “Women’s Initiatives Intern”, or “Business Development Intern” in the subject line), or fax the information to 512-926-2997 by August 10, 2015. Candidates are encouraged to submit applications as early as possible. No phone calls, please.

Please visit our website at www.bigaustin.org to learn more.

Business Investment Growth (BiGAUSTIN) is an equal opportunity employer.

BiGAUSTIN Partners with Pflugerville CDC to Create “BiGPflugerville”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Press contact:

Amy Stansbury

Stansbury Public Relations

512-968-4511

amy@stansburypr.com

PFLUGERVILLE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORP. PARTNERS WITH BiGAUSTIN TO PROVIDE LOCAL BUSINESSES FUNDING, RESOURCES, SUPPORT

 

BiGPFLUGERVILLE program launches with an entrepreneurship skills day camp

at Hawaiian Falls Pflugerville for high school students in July.

 

BiGAUSTIN’s Stephanie Douglass w/Amy Madison of Pflugerville CDC

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (May 20, 2015)—The Pflugerville Community Development Corporation (PCDC) today announced

a new partnership with nonprofit organization BiGAUSTIN. BiG, which stands for Business Investment Growth, provides entrepreneurial education, customized business counseling and flexible loans to Central Texas businesses. Under the partnership, a program called BiGPFLUGERVILLE was formed to provide additional resources and support to Pflugerville entrepreneurs and businesses.

As part of the program, BiGPFLUGERVILLE has already planned a free youth camp called BIGSTEP Pflugerville Youth Entrepreneur Camp July 20-24 at Hawaiian Falls Pflugerville.

PCDC Assistant Executive Director Amy Madison said BiGPFLUGERVILLE is part of the economic development corporation’s business retention and expansion program.

“The PCDC’s capability to support local entrepreneurs and businesses grows exponentially with BiGPFLUGERVILLE because they are able to provide so many of the services we cannot—whether it be due to resources, or laws and restrictions that come from our designation as a 4B corporation,” Madison said.

The PCDC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with BiG this month.

The partnership between the PCDC and BiG is designed to stimulate job creation in businesses bringing new money into the city through consulting, education and lending.

BIGPFLUGERVILLE will focus on new jobs training with a goal of diversifying the city’s economy. The program supports the cost of training new employees at business startup companies, as well as the expansion of existing firms by using a unique financing mechanism.

“BiGAUSTIN has witnessed the exceptional growth in our neighboring community of Pflugerville, which boasts one of the most diverse populations in Texas,” said BiGAUSTIN Executive Director Stacy Dukes-Rhone. “It was the right time for us to build a strategic partnership with PCDC, whose vision and goals are the same as BiG—to provide the resources and support that businesses in our community need to grow and flourish.”

BiG plans to eventually add a satellite office in Pflugerville to support the BiGPFLUGERVILLE program. A timeline and location for the location is to be determined.

Summer camp for teens

BiGAUSTIN hosted an entrepreneurship skills camp for teens last summer in Austin, and a large percentage of the students who attended were from Pflugerville ISD.

“With such significant interest from Pflugerville students, we wanted to respond and bring the training to their community,” Dukes-Rhone said. “We are eager to meet them where the live and hope to work to provide more fuel to the spark of interest and ideas these students have. The venue and the training will be exceptional and an experience to remember.”

BIGSTEP Pflugerville Youth Entrepreneur Camp is a five-day camp for high school students (ages 14 to 18.) Campers will learn basic business skills while also enjoying fun and engaging experiences. The camp will culminate with a business plan competition.

To register for the BiG Startup for Teens in Entrepreneurship summer camp, click here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bigstep-pflugerville-big-startup-for-teens-in-entrepreneurship-tickets-16844675879 or call Stephanie Douglass at BiG at 512-928-8010.

About BiGAUSTIN

BiGAUSTIN is a local 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that assists small businesses to successfully grow by providing comprehensive education for entrepreneurs, customized business consulting services, and flexible micro-loans to underserved small businesses in Central Texas.

BiGAUSTIN was the first micro-lending organization in Austin. BiG opened its doors serving fewer than five clients. Since then, BiG has helped thousands of businesses turn their dreams into   reality. Thanks to our strong financial supporters, BiG continues to pursue its vision to be the best source for entrepreneurs to start, grow and fund their business operations. As of 2014 BiG has provided more than 8 million in loans, consulted with  20,000-plus individuals, and produced more than 8,ooo jobs. For more information, visit www.bigaustin.org.

About the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation

The Pflugerville Community Development Corporation promotes Pflugerville as a desirable place for new businesses to operate. The organization also supports existing businesses by helping to address their needs. PCDC can provide funding for use as an incentive to businesses to begin doing business in Pflugerville. PCDC funds, which are 4B money generated from a half-cent of the city’s sales tax revenue, can also be used to construct needed infrastructure such as roads, utilities and drainage projects. Located 16 miles northeast of Austin and just south of Round Rock, Pflugerville is well-situated in Central Texas. New state highways 45 and 130 and Interstate Highway 35 all offer direct access to other nearby cities and the region’s main airport. For more information, visit www.pfdevelopment.com.

Happy Birthday Gloria Steinem!

Happy Birthday Gloria from WOW1000

As we continue to make strides for women’s equality, it’s always great to reflect on those who have paved the way for this advocacy work and continued conversations.  At BiGAUSTIN we have always prioritized women’s economic equality through entrepreneurship and small business ownership.  Today, women still only earn 77¢ to every male $1.  Women also only own 28% of all businesses and receive only 5% of all venture capital funds.  With Austin being home to a booming economy supported by local small business, these numbers are truly unacceptable.  With our focus on Women’s economic equality, we launched the Women of Worth Initiative 1000 (WOW1000) which envisions a prosperous Central Texas where all women are empowered to shape their own destinies.  WOW1000 gives women the foundation to build the business of their dreams through training, business consulting, networking, advocacy, and microloans.  We exist to bridge the gap between resources, opportunities, and all women entrepreneurs who dare to dream BiG!  So, on this day, we take the time to say thank you and Happy Birthday to Gloria Steinem, a fearless leader for women’s rights for the past 5 decades.  Here’s a short clip on her life and work:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zl5qeF0aqs

How to Start a Business in 10 Easy Steps: Step Five

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Now that you have a business plan, you know the legal structure of your business, and you have a good understanding of your demographics, you are ready to assess your finances and what your limitations are. It is very important to know where you stand financially and what exactly your business requires in terms of money. Is your business something that you can start out of your home? Or, does your business require a larger financial investment, like a manufacturing company? I must admit that I have never been a big numbers person and personally hate dealing with finances. So, for me, this step was difficult.

Realistically evaluating your finances is a difficult step for most people, it can also be kind of depressing (depending on how large or small your bank account is). Unless, of course, you are Bill Gates, in which case you can pay someone to do this step for you. Some people will want to skip this step simply because it can be difficult to be honest with yourself about where you are at financially. No matter how difficult that may be, it is absolutely essential that you determine what you can afford for you business and what you can’t. This can help prevent you from taking on too big of a loan or investing too much too soon.

LoansMAG Infographics - loansmag.com

Figure out what your business NEEDS (notice, needs and wants are very different) to get started. Don’t go out and buy yourself a brand new van when you could buy a used one off Craigslist, don’t go rent a shiny new office downtown when you could work out of your home. You want to try to start your business with as little investment as possible, that way if you do fail (that’s a big IF), you haven’t just lost every penny you ever saved on some $40,000 van that you can now only sell for $30,000.

The-model-for-creating-wealth

Remember, finances don’t just include how much money you have and how much you need. This also includes your time. You need to assess how much time you are realistically able to spend on your business. After all, time is money. How much is your time worth? Don’t sell yourself short, you deserve to paid what you want to be paid. So, make sure you set up your products/services in a way that pays you no less than what you value your time at. If you want to be paid at least $25/hour, don’t go clean people’s houses with your own van and cleaning supplies for $15/hour. Factor in cost of production, materials, time getting to and from different locations, and time spent on administrative tasks. Even if you charge $25/hour, but are still using all your own equipment, you aren’t getting paid $25/hour. Take your minimum pay + all expenses and that is what you should charge, whether it be by the hour or by the service.

Remember, always pay yourself first. My fiance always says, “Find a way to make your money work for you.”

How to Start a Business in 10 Easy Steps: Step Four

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Now that you have established your legal status of your business, you are ready to start write your business plan. You have done all the research, know your demographic, and know exactly what products/services you are going to offer. At this point you were probably hoping that I wasn’t going to bring up writing a business plan. Seriously, who wants to spend that much time writing out a plan when things are going to change? According to a survey of Business Plan Pro software users, people who had completed business plans were nearly twice as likely to successfully grow their businesses or obtain capital than those who did not craft a business plan.

small-business-sink-or-swim

Entrepreneurs nowadays go back and forth about whether it is essential to write a business plan and if it really increases your chances of success. Each individual needs to assess their specific needs and make sure that writing a plan is what they really want to do. An advantage to writing a thorough business plan is that you have laid out the groundwork for where you want to your business to go. Remember, a business plan is a living document and is meant to be changed.

Your business plan should include the following parts;

-Executive Summary

-Company Description

-Market Analysis

-Organization & Management

-Service or Product Line

-Marketing & Sales

-Funding Request

-Financial Projections

-Appendix

This may look like a daunting list, but it really is not. Your business plan can be as detailed or as open ended as you want it to be. Need more help writing a plan? Contact BiGAUSTIN and make a FREE appointment with one of our business consultants to learn how you can make a business plan work for you.