Continuing on with the series of videos I’ve been creating where I describe my own struggles as a startup business in the early stages. My first business, a portrait photography business, started very differently from my second one, which is success strategy consulting for aspiring or early stage small business owners.
My big idea
In the last video, I was talking about how I had no big idea when I actually started my business and I didn’t know what business would entail. I had a hard time starting out. I taught myself photography and I got into business and obviously struggling to bring in paying clients because I had no clue where I would look for them, how I would start, etc.
I started my second business completely differently because while I was still an active photographer in my portrait business, I had an idea of wanting to help small or startup business owners. This was because there were a lot of clients who came to me, particularly women, who were wondering how I managed to hold down a corporate job while being a single parent and also running a business.
I thought that it would be nice for me to be able to help them out. That’s when I thought that I could come up with a way to help startup businesses get started.
My startup business model
The current business model is based on me providing support to a startup business for the first year because statistics show that more than 30% of startup businesses actually close shop within the first two years. Therefore, providing really good support for the first year would probably be very beneficial to a new business owner. This support would help eliminate the challenges sooner and would allow them to sustain their businesses.
What I did was I started thinking really hard as to how I could help them. I have this slew of business knowledge, which I have picked up over the last five years. And I could now use that to help other aspiring entrepreneurs.
Having a mentor helped
Early on in my photography business, I found a mentor, in fact a couple of them, from whom I took away a lot of business ideas. Just attending workshops and business sessions helped me a lot. So I thought, why not impart that knowledge to the startup entrepreneurs? Because when we start we don’t have an idea of how much marketing knowledge, or how much business skills are required. We just think that we’ll sell what we have, which is either a product or a service, but selling involves a ton of art and science.
Involving functional experts
I drew from my past experience and I decided to team up with a few experts in different areas because I didn’t want to be stuck in just running the business. I wanted to be the thought leader and come up with great ideas. I wanted to be creative in my business, and not just work in the business but on my business as well.
I came up with a few ideas on what I could actually do, which is mainly start with prepping people on their mindset. That was so important for me as well when I started because in the beginning we all have this fear of failure. It’s a crippling fear and it’s very normal so I wanted to first work on that with people so that they can start thinking differently looking at their work and their dreams differently and then start to prime them with information on how to set their businesses up.
Start with a Business Plan
I started with a business plan this time. Another reason why I started with a business plan was because I was hoping to get some funding, which didn’t really end up happening.
I would have liked to have funding the second time around because I grew my first business completely on my own with no external funding whatsoever and it was expensive. When running a business, you have monthly running costs as well as all the other expenses you incur when you’re dealing with clients, especially in photography.
Beware of Negative Cashflow
It was quite expensive last time so I was hoping to be able to mitigate that situation this time. But unfortunately the funding didn’t work, which I’m actually quite okay with. I like to bootstrap and that is one of the things I also teach my students – how to work on minimal budget. This can help us to not run out of cash, which is a big reason why startups fail. They spend their funds willy-nilly and soon have negative cashflow that hits them hard.I didn’t want that to happen so I created a business plan where I could teach them really basic skills just so that they can start up.
Another problem with us business owners is that we are always chasing every shiny new object. In my case it was a lot of expensive photography gear when I first started up and I definitely didn’t want that in my second business so I have been very, very careful where I spend my money.
Starting with an idea
The difference between the first time I started out and this time is that I had a very clear-cut idea. I knew right at the outset where I wanted to go as opposed to, with my photography, I had no clue. I had started with nature and wildlife and I realized that I wouldn’t make money out of that so I started doing portraits. But it took me a while to figure out where I wanted to go with the portraits, mainly what kind of portraits I wanted to shoot, etc.
With the new Startup Success Strategies business, I didn’t have that problem because right at the outset I knew I wanted to help an aspiring entrepreneur or a startup business owner with different aspects, for example, their mindset, how they should set up their business, how do they do their market research, what is the basic minimum they need to have to create an online presence, etc. Also, staying energized and healthy also becomes a challenge with startup business owners because they’re so focused on making things work. So I brought in a wellness practitioner as an expert in my team to give advice to new startup entrepreneurs to help them harness their energy and use it the best way they possibly can.
Be proactive rather than reactive
Believe me, I am so much more excited with this business because it all seems to make sense. And this is because I thought it through. When most of us get into business for the first time, we don’t have time to think anything through because we are reacting.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t react in my current business because it’s very different from the first startup business and I still have to do everything while working (albeit, part-time now). I’m mostly working on it on my own with a little bit of help from my son and obviously the other experts have their own areas of expertise, but sometimes I’m still reacting.
I’ve tried my best to paraphrase the contents of the video as much as possible here in the blog post. But you can watch the video to get the rest of the content.