By Peri Pakroo, Special to Overdrive
Women business owners have doubled over the years, and have become even more respected as entrepreneurs. As this growth occurs, critics try to break down the statistics of both sexes, and have discovered that there is no real difference between the two.
Women are just as likely to become small business owners or Fortune 500 starters as men- a good idea is a good idea on any level of business. Though there are heaps of advice that could be given to any successful business person- here are the top three tips for entrepreneurs by women entrepreneurs.
1. Start a business that works for you and fits with your personal life. There are no rules as to what a “real” business looks like. For some businesspeople, success might mean an international operation with hundreds of employees and annual revenues in the tens of millions. For others, a small consulting firm or artisan business that pays a healthy salary and allows generous personal freedom might be considered the pinnacle of success.
The key is to take the time early in the planning process to consider this question and decide for yourself what your ideal vision is for your business and your personal life. Remember also that small businesses can be quite profitable, particularly if they target an untapped (or undertapped) niche. It’s almost always possible to find profitable niche markets if you look carefully.
2. Don’t sweat the bureaucracy. A lot of would-be entrepreneurs, women and men alike, find themselves stuck on the verge of taking the leap into starting a business, but confused about how to tackle the legal rules of getting started. This hang-up is always grounded more in fear than reality; the truth is that clearing the bureaucratic hurdles isn’t usually a big deal.
You can usually start a sole proprietorship (the legal term for a one-owner business) or a partnership (a business with more than one owner) by registering with just one government office. And for business owners who want protection from personal liability for business debts — often referred to by the legal jargon “limited liability” — the simplest corporations or limited liability companies (LLCs) require only a couple more registration tasks to complete. In other words, once you have your business idea developed to a certain degree, all you need to do is visit a few government offices, fill out some forms, and pay some fees — and suddenly your idea will have become an actual, legitimate business.
Of course, there’s a lot more to launching a successful small business than dealing with bureaucratic requirements. For starters, you’ll need to have a sound business idea, and you’ll need to be able to develop good management skills to guide it to success. This is where you should put your mental energy and good ideas; don’t waste precious brain cells worrying about the legal hurdles.
3. For businesses with moderate to significant overhead, it is crucial to start the business with adequate funds. Starting a business without enough money to ride out the early lean days (described as “undercapitalization”) is the most common reason that businesses fail. Undercapitalization is less of an issue with small service-based businesses that don’t have many fixed expenses. But businesses with overhead such as rent, salaries for employees, utility bills, inventory, equipment, insurance, or other fixed costs absolutely need to plan carefully and pull together enough funding to support the fledgling business as it works up to speed.
Also, though it’s important to start your business with enough capital, that doesn’t mean that every business needs piles and piles of money to get off the ground. Plenty of mega-successful businesses were started on a shoestring: Apple Computer started in a garage; Hewlett-Packard started in the dining room of the Packard home; the list goes on and on. Generally speaking, a business that can find creative, thrifty ways to provide its product or service — especially in its early days — will typically find more success than a business that adopts a “spend more money” approach.