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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

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So, you’ve identified your business idea and have somewhat narrowed down who your demographic is going to be and the services/products that you will offer. Now you need to do some extensive research. You might be thinking, “RESEARCH?!?! That is WAY too complicated!” But, wait! It really is not as hard as you think, especially since now you can utilize my BFF Google for pretty much everything you need to know.

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Before writing a business plan it is best to do some research on the market. Think about questions like, who is doing what you want to do? How do they differ from what you will be doing? Will they be an ally or competition? What are they doing well and what could be improved? Who is their demographic and how does that compare to yours? This will allow you to get a good idea about what is happening in the environment, what businesses already exist, and what you can do to set yourself apart from the competition. This does not need to be enough research to write a dissertation about your particular industry, spend 15-20 minutes a day for about a week and you will have a pretty good idea of what’s going on locally and nationally.

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The second step of step two is to do some more research!! You have to find out more information about what your demographic wants and how they think. If you are targeting teenage girls, you will want to do some research to figure out the latest trends, what they are interested in, and how they think. You are not expected to understand every little detail about how your demographic feels, but you should have a good understanding of how to reach them and how to get them purchase your service/product. For example, it would be very difficult to sell a 401(k) policy to a teenage girl, she just has no interest nor is she worried about retirement at this point in her life. Instead think of where teenage girls hang out and when, like how long do they spend on Instagram and what times are they most likely to be online. See below for some ideas about education, income, gender, etc.

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Now you have an outline of who your competitors are, how your demographic thinks and what they’re interested in, and a good understanding of the local market. You can use this information to revise your business idea, add new products/services, or maybe you decide to change your idea altogether. The important thing is that you now understand what your customers want and how they want it, which makes marketing that much easier. It’s always good to meet people within your industry and talk to professionals, network, and ask one or two of them to be your mentor. This way you have a professional who you can contact with questions or concerns regarding your business.

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

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Want some concrete, tangible steps that you can take today to get your business off the ground and running? Then keep reading because you are not going to want to miss this. This blog series is not just another random list of things that every other blog talks about for how to start a business. I am going to outline a task list for those of you who have an idea, but you just don’t know how to put that idea into action. These are easy steps that you can take while working a full time job, taking care of your kids, or whatever else you might be doing throughout the day. Remember, no one else will start your business for you, so get off the couch and do something for your future.

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Step One:

Identify your idea, think about what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. Write it down, make a list of products and services you will offer. Don’t forget to make a list of things you won’t do, for example, if you want to be a graphic designer will you do print and web or only one? Will you do logos or design websites? Once you know exactly what you will and won’t do, you can more easily do your research to find out information about the industry. Also, when a customer comes to you wanting you to redesign their logo you can easily say if that is a service you offer and exactly what you charge for it. This doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list of every product or service you will ever offer, this is just a starting point for you to really think about what your business will look like and any tools you may need to get started.

How To Deal With Difficult Co-Workers

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Let’s face it, everyone knows that there’s always that one person in the office who’s a little bit crazy.  Maybe they aren’t medically crazy, maybe they are, but the one thing that they have in common is that these people are the difficult ones.  You know who I’m talking about, the one who sends out crazy emails to people who forget to wash their bowl for more than 20 minutes; they’re the ones that stomp around exacerbated by, well, no one really knows why.  This person is the one that you try to avoid the most and when you are forced to interact with them, you find yourself whispering quietly as you walk away, “Woosaaaaaaw.”

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So, other than listening to your iPod at excessive levels or pretending to be on an important phone call, how do you deal with these people?  How do you really learn to manage these relationships so that every day isn’t a battle.  Let me tell you, it will always be a battle because you will constantly be coming into contact with difficult people, and they will continue to test you.  Now, everyone is different and some methods work better than others.  You just have to read their body language and really get to know how this person works.  This doesn’t require much more than simple observation.  See how they interact with other co-workers, listen to their phone conversations (to a certain extent, some things are really not meant to be over heard), and most importantly figure out what’s important to them and learn how to appeal to their bottom line.

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I was given some advice a couple weeks ago about how to get what you want in life, in the work place, and with your boss.  Learn what your bottom line is, know what you want to get out of a situation, and be very clear about both these things.  Learn what this person’s bottom line is and appeal to it, show them how what you want will benefit them.  So, doesn’t sound too bad right?  Or, maybe you’re thinking that this advice is crazy and doesn’t make sense.  Try some of these other tips and see what works best for you in your specific situation.

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1. Get to know this difficult person through observation, learn what makes them crazy, this makes it easier to avoid being the one they lash out on.

2. Figure out what their bottom line is and learn how to appeal to it.  If you know this person has to go smoke a cigarette at exactly 3pm everyday, don’t schedule a meeting during that time.  Tip: This does not mean that you are giving them what they want, it means that you learn what their goals are and then you frame what you want in a way that benefits those goals.

3. Don’t talk badly about them behind their back.  I know, I know, this is obvious.  But, you would be surprised at how often it happens and we all know offices are worse than middle schools so, please, keep it to yourself.  Go home, vent, move on.

4. Learn patience.  This is extremely hard and can be very trying.  However, that being said, it is one of the most underused methods in dealing with difficult people (this is not a fact, but simply a matter of opinion).  Not only will patience allow you to work more effectively, but it will benefit you in many other areas in your life.  Think of it as an opportunity to practice a virtue that takes a lifetime to learn.

5. Be kind.  This might actually be harder than being patient with someone who you just want to scream at.  “Kill them with kindness” did not become a saying for nothing.  Don’t be overly fake, but be kind.  Kindness can go a long way and you never know who is watching what you’re doing in an office setting.  I don’t know if you believe in karma, but I do and if you try to make their life a living hell, it will come back to bite you in the butt.

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Another thing to remember is that everyone has a past and you never know what is going on in a person’s life.  I have dealt with many difficult people and have found it very hard to find compassion for them.  However, if you are able to do this it will help you release your anger and resentment from them, thus allowing you to make emotional room for other feelings (like happiness, for example).

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What have you found to work when dealing with difficult people?  What are some creative ways to learn how to work harmoniously together?

Learning To Live On Less Than $800/Month

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Nonprofits are generally pretty tight for money and hiring staff can be anywhere from fairly easy to literally impossible.  This is one of the reasons that BiGAUSTIN hires AmeriCorps VISTA members to do a variety of the projects that need to be done.  AmeriCorps is essentially the domestic PeaceCorps, it allows volunteers to serve right here at home instead of sending them over seas.  While AmeriCorps is very similar to the PeaceCorps, there are a few differences.  AmeriCorps has three different programs; NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), and the Senior Corps.  Here at BiGAUSTIN we have four VISTA’s that are working on everything from creating a donor database to social media to fundraising.

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One of the downsides to AmeriCorps is that you’re a paid volunteer, so you receive a small stipend that is equivalent to the poverty level of the region in which you serve.  Here in Austin, TX, that amounts to exactly $796.84 per month.  You might be asking, how on earth does someone live on that little of an income? Well, that’s what Cally, our Marketing Coordinator, is about to tell you.

MAKING THE CHANGE

It wasn’t easy for me to wrap my mind around making less than minimum wage for a year, but not having to pay back my student loans and the idea of getting almost $200/month in food stamps made the idea a little less daunting.  Aside from these perks, I really had to assess my situation and what I wanted in life.  I had just graduated college and was feeling optimistic about where I was heading, I knew I wanted to get into social media marketing and work at a cool, hip start-up company that offered free snacks and ping pong.  After a couple of months of searching for a job, I realized that my dreams were a bit lofty so I settled for a glorified call center position that had pretty good benefits, monthly 15-minute massages and 18 days paid vacation.

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The problem was, I get bored extremely easily.  I couldn’t handle the data entry that was about 90% of my job alongside answering phone calls regarding gap insurance (what IS gap insurance anyway?!).  That’s when I decided that either I needed to go back to school or do something drastic to get the real life skills I needed for the job I wanted.  AmeriCorps was something I had done after graduating from high school so I thought, why can’t I do that again? Needless to say, I applied, got hired, and here I am today handling the social media and marketing for BiGAUSTIN.

I HAVE TO GIVE UP WHAT?!

Making just under $800 per month sounded a lot easier than it has turned out to be.  No more happy hour.  No more going out to eat.  No more lunches.  No more Starbucks, seriously, who can live without Starbucks?!  Alas, that also meant no more shopping and I could continue, but I will not bore you with everything I’ve had to cut out.  I really needed to take a look at my expenses and figure out where all my money was going, after two months I hadn’t been able to save any money and was spending pretty much 110% of my income.  So I sat down, downloaded an awesome budget template from Microsoft and got down to the nitty gritty.  When I say nitty gritty, I mean down to the penny.  Starbucks doesn’t cost just $3, it costs $3.52 or $4.78, those extra cents add up faster than you can blink an eye.

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I like to think of myself as lucky, right now I do not have to pay rent because I live in a house that is already paid for.  My boyfriend and I simply need to cover utilities and maintenance costs, which are also more than I imagined on a 30 year old house.  Not only is this house old, but the front door won’t open anymore because the foundation has shifted and now the opening for the door is too small; good thing we have a side door that is easier to use and has not shifted…yet.  Needless to say, the foundation is not getting fixed, but as you homeowners know there are plenty of other things to throw your money at.

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Maybe it’s not quite this bad…

Back to my monthly budget, as I started hashing out penny for penny where I’ve been spending my money I realized that I’m spending around $300 on miscellaneous items!  You might be thinking, holy cow that’s a lot!  Or, perhaps you’re a spender too and think that’s pretty reasonable.  Whichever side of the fence you are on, it doesn’t work when that $300 is an entire paycheck.  So, here’s how I’m really doing it.  Little by little I’ve started to cut things out.  Don’t do it all at one time or you will go into “not spending shock” and get burnt out very fast.  Skip Starbucks one morning, make your own coffee.  Don’t stop at Target on the way home, everyone knows that you don’t leave Target without spending at least $50.  Lastly, don’t do happy hour and don’t go out to eat.

IS IT REALLY WORTH IT?

You might be asking yourself, is AmeriCorps really worth living in poverty for a year, possibly longer?  I can’t answer that for you because everyone is different.  However, in my opinion I believe that AmeriCorps is totally worth it.  Not only have I met some amazing people, but I got a free trip to Colorado for training!  But seriously, the skills that I have learned and the projects that I have worked on are things that I never would have been able to do in a “real, paid” position (mostly because I couldn’t even get hired).  Where else can you be given the freedom to learn as you go?  Without experience, no company or organization is going to hire you to perform a job that you can’t prove your success at.

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For me, being a recent college grad with experience almost exclusively in retail, it has been a blessing.  It’s almost like a second opportunity to learn valuable, marketable skills while connecting with the community.  Not only am I networking with professionals in the area, but I’m getting real, quantifiable experience that will (hopefully) help me get a job after my year of service has ended.  Even though this year will be financially stressful, I am confident that it will make me more conscious of my money and help me find some direction in my life.  While I’m trying to figure out my future, I’m working at a nonprofit that helps other people make their dreams a reality through business education, flexible lending, and one-on-one business consulting.  It’s like a double wammy, by helping others I’m helping myself.  I also decided to look at it like this, I am not a paid employee and as such I get to look at this as an experience instead of a job.  By changing my perspective I can more easily drive past H&M or Nordstrom’s or Jimmy John’s; notice I said more easily because it is still not easy.

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So, if you are still wondering how the heck I can live on less than $800 per month, just remember the old cliche “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  And stronger I will be.

Tough situations build strong people

 

The Challenges Of Marketing For A Nonprofit With No Budget

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Everyone knows that nonprofits generally don’t have any money.  The image of people working at folding tables with old computers and paper everywhere comes to mind when I think of what the office of a nonprofit looks like.  This is the environment of a place where people value the work they do more than the money they are putting in their pockets.  Being able to see the impact that they are making on the community is why so many people choose the life of meager pay and long hours at a nonprofit.

One of the day to day struggles is that there is not much money for stuff, which is typically taken for granted in the corporate world.  This goes from providing your own coffee to having no marketing budget.  As the new Marketing Assistant, one of my challenges has been having no budget to work with.  Any of you who are familiar with marketing and social media know that this is a difficult task.  However, I believe that we really have made progress in our marketing strategy and social media despite the lack of budget and no marketing plan in place.

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TWITTER

We went from only having 1,370 Twitter followers to having 1,615 in just six short weeks.  Perhaps to some of you that doesn’t sound like a lot, there are people who go viral and gain thousands and thousands of followers in one day.  Well, let me tell you, that is not us.  We haven’t gone viral nor do I think that we will any time soon.  But, we do try to establish real relationships with people by posting relevant content and engaging with our followers.  Does that mean we get hundreds of favorites or retweets everyday?  Nope. But, those numbers have been increasing as we engage more with our followers and reach out to others. I expect that we will continue to grow and gain the trust of our followers and hopefully some of those followers will then become clients.

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FACEBOOK

Now, you might be thinking, but what about Facebook?  Facebook is a another ballgame all by itself.  This is probably the area that we struggle in most due to not being able to “pay to play.”  It has been significantly more difficult to engage with others and to get others to engage with us.  Not only have we seen less growth, but with Facebook changing their algorithms our posts are being seen by less and less people.  With the current landscape of Facebook it is almost impossible to gain more Likes and engage people in your content, mostly because the majority of the people who currently Like you don’t even see your posts.  Many companies are frustrated with the way Facebook has changed and nonprofits nationwide are left scrambling to come up with more money for their marketing budget.

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WHAT CAN YOU DO?

So, how do we overcome these obstacles?  The obvious answer is to get a budget approved specifically for Facebook and target your ads accordingly to get maximum exposure to the right audiences.  But, what if you can’t get that budget approved and you are left posting into never never land?  Unfortunately, there is not a good answer to this.  There are some things that you can do, one of those is making sure that everyone in your office is sharing your content and promoting your page.  This way more people are seeing the nonprofit’s content and people are more likely to Like something that a friend has already Liked.  One downside to this method is that the majority of people do not want to use their personal Facebook page to constantly promote the nonprofit.  This just means that you need to be more conscious of the things you are sharing and how often you share.

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These are only a few of the challenges of marketing for a nonprofit with no budget, naturally there are many more challenges than this.  The main thing to remember when marketing for a nonprofit is that there are going to be many challenges and you have to look at them simply as opportunities to learn creative ways to solve problems.  This will make you a better marketer and help you keep a positive attitude when things aren’t going your way (like not getting a budget approved or no one liking your awesomely crafted post).  Don’t expect to go viral like the Ice Bucket Challenge or the Budweiser “Puppy Love” ad from the Super Bowl (they got over 1.9 million shares).  DO try to come up with ways to get noticed in your community.  Look at how these particular campaigns were successful and look at how you can take your campaign and introduce some of those techniques.

What are some of your marketing challenges?  Do you work for a large company or a small organization?  Comment and tell me about how you have overcome some of these obstacles!

The Best Business Class Tailored Just for You!

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BiGAUSTIN has a full schedule ahead of us with tons of classes and information for everyone!  Are you just starting your business?  Or, are you moving full steam ahead but have specific issues you need to discuss with a professional?  BiGAUSTIN is your one stop shop for everything you need business related.  We have classes from Business Law Basics to a 4-part MBA Home-Based Business series that has helpful information for everyone.  

Looking to start a franchise?  Not a problem!  BiGAUSTIN even has a class for learning how to start a franchise the right way! This class is taught by a representative from the Small Business Administration, this way we can bring you only the facts without trying to sell anything.  

Check out our list of classes for further details regarding topics, price, and availability.  There is limited space in each class so make sure to sign up today!

Business Law Basics: September 5th, 11:30am-1:30pm 

MBA of Home Based-Business 4-part series: September 8-September 29th, 6:30-8:30pm

Maximize the Power of Quickbooks for Small Businesses: September 23rd & 24th, 6:30pm-9pm

Intro to Franchise: September 25th, 4:30pm-6:30pm

Start Smart: October 6th-November 20th, 6:30pm-9pm (7 week course, twice a week)

Commercial Leasing: October 21st, 11:30am-1:30pm

SBA Small Business Certification Program: November 4th, 3:30-5:15pm

Borrowing Basics: November 18th, 11:30am-1:30pm

All classes are held @BiGAUSTIN Business and Technology Center

5407 N IH 35, Suite 200

Austin, TX 78723

Poochie Trends: The Best Baked Biscuits for Your Favorite Poochie

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Everyone knows that many dogs in America live a life of plush beds, organic treats, and cashmere sweaters.  Okay, maybe not cashmere but, they are wearing anything from sweaters to life jackets.  The point is, there are plenty of dog lovers out there who care about their pet as if they were a human because face it, they are like children.  Being an avid dog lover myself, I like to do anything that will make my poochie happy.  Including buying homemade, organic doggy treats.

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Poochie Trends Pet Boutique and Bakery is a local business that bakes fresh dog treats daily.  This mother-daughter duo creates treats that your dog couldn’t have ever dreamed of!  They have everything from Wheat Free Apple Bacon Bites to Peanut Butter and Carrot Treats.  In addition, they have a Yappy Hour and even host Paw Parties, just in case you wanted to throw an official birthday party for your special pooch.

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Recently Poochie Trends participated in the retirement of a special officer who served his country and the Austin Police Department for over 12 years.  His name is Rocky and he is a black retriever mix who was born in the U.S in 2002, shortly after he received extensive training in the U.S Air Force.  After that he trained with military K9 Handlers and then was adopted by the Austin Police Department.  He spent his time with APD working in narcotics detection and was very active in the community.  APD held a retirement party for him where Poochie Trends made homemade treat bags and pup cakes.

Read the article here

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One of the great things about local businesses is that they really care about what is going on around the community.  Rocky served his country and Austin working to protect the citizens of this great nation and couldn’t have asked for better party favors than those of the flavorful organic, treats.  Poochie Trends really made his retirement party a success and has shown their appreciation for what he has done for our community.  Local businesses tend to help local initiatives and Poochie Trends is no exception.

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Here at BiGAUSTIN we are proud to say that we support these local entrepreneurs and that Poochie Trends is a loyal client of ours.

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