Are you Listening?

 

are you listening

 

I love to learn, especially about entrepreneurship and small business! I read book after book on the subject; I don’t usually read fiction unless it’s something like “All in Startup” which is fiction inside non-fiction (more on that in a later post). I attend professional development seminars on the subject and participate in frequent webinars. So when I exhibited at the American Camp Association Tri-State Conference last week one of my main goals was to learn. Learn if they were the right customer for my products, learn what their needs were, what problems they have that need solving and learn what ideas they had for product improvement and development. Having those goals in mind before even attending the show put me in the mindset to listen to the persons who visited my lemonade stand booth and wow did I learn!

 

Here are 3 big product ideas that I learned from the attendees: 1) They would like a Spanish version of the Biz Ops Game, 2) They would like the Biz Ops Game adapted for Camps (i.e. a Camp Ops Game) to train their staff, and 3) They would like to buy the lemonade stand that I made out of PVC pipe. Each of these ideas is very doable and without the time of developing brand new products and so they are now on my list. I also learned that the Biz Ops Game makes a great rainy day activity for camps; now I have a new way to sell the game. I also learned that e-seedling is confusing to the camp audience – many visitors asked if I had something to do with gardening. If you are going to be clever with a name – you need to think about your audience and make sure it’s clear. So I learned how to explain exactly what E-seedling does; empowers youth through entrepreneurship (hence the e is for entrepreneur and seedling is the youth) and that the More Than a Lemonade Stand book is a do it yourself youth entrepreneur curriculum that can be implement as a whole or individual activities (oh and don’t bring that much candy to give away unless you want to bring it home).

 

I also learned some tips from the other exhibitors: 1) have an information sheet for visitors to take with them (I was directing them to my website), and 2) put the game sheets in a binder so they aren’t accidentally walked off with.

 

It’s amazing how much you can learn just by listening to others and yourself! Being a Covey Facilitator for the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People I have heard this quote many times and agree that it is true. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 
― Stephen R. CoveyThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

 

Now I ask; are you listening?

Young Entrepreneur Lemonade Stand

There is never a PERFECT Time to Start a Business

girl-lemonade-standStarting a business is a lot like starting a family; if you wait for the time be perfect – it will never happen. They are both huge commitments in time, energy and emotion and that commitment will last for years. When I was 27, I started my first “real business” – an accounting services firm for small to medium businesses. I was fortunate to have an investor and a partner. This allowed starting the business with an actual office space, hiring a firm to develop our brand identity and many other things that a small startup might not afford. Today as I am starting my 2nd “real business”, I am bootstrapping and starting it as I work a full-time day job. So in both cases, how did I know the time was right? I’m not sure you ever know that it is 100% right. When starting a business (as with starting a family) you have to take a leap of faith. You are going into the unknown; the only thing you do know is that many others have gone before you and they survived and many even flourished. One thing I think about when starting a business is the future – what is my goal in 3-5 years and will starting a business help me get there; in both cases my answer was yes.

Here are 6 questions to think about to know if it is the right time for you. 1) What is your plan for 3-5 years and will a business help you get there (in my current business case –my plan is to retire from my day job so that I more freedom and can do what I really love to do) which brings me to #2. 2) Is there something that you have a passion for, that you are good at, that people need (and therefore will pay money for)? It’s not good enough to have a passion – you have to create services and products for others that will solve a problem or you will not make enough money to grow and sustain a business. 3) Do you have the time and energy to commit to working on the business? For example, it’s Sunday morning and here I am writing this blog; I wrote my book on night and weekends (you get the picture). 4) Does your family support you? I like the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”; you cannot start a business without the support of those close to you. 5) Do you have some savings or cash flow that will help fund your start-up costs?  No matter how much you bootstrap your business, there will be costs. In my current business, I’m using a home office and I already had a laptop and printer but you will need a website (if you want to reach a large audience), funds to develop products, funds to publish and edit a book, etc. The amount can vary greatly and if you have a good credit rating you may be able to get a microloan but it does take some amount of money to start your business. 6) Do you know where to find help for the things you are not an expert in? No matter how much we would like to think we can do it all – we can’t! You need to network with other entrepreneurs to learn from them and find out who helps them with services you might need. It’s a bit daunting at first but I have found that entrepreneurs love to share their knowledge! You can also check out your local resources such as the Small Business Development Center, SCORE or Women Business Centers – they all help start-up and growing businesses; sometimes at no cost to you (they are funded by the SBA).

So even though there might not be a PERFECT time to start a business, there is a right time. If you are ready to take the leap of faith and start-up, just be prepared for some of the most exciting and challenging times of your life (sounds like being a parent doesn’t it)!

This blog was written by Julie Ann Wood – author of More Than a Lemonade Stand™ and creator of the Biz Ops Game™; for more information visit www.eseedling.com.