FS | How to Start a Successful Business

New Featured Series Video: How to Start a Successful Business

Small Business Manager Vicky Valdez explains the best practices of entrepreneurs.

Austin, Texas – January 24, 2014 – MortgageDashboard’s monthly Q&A, The Featured Series, released today another powerful installment presented by Austin Small Business Development Program Manager Vicky Valdez. Demonstrating from experience the power of networking, funding, mistakes, and  support, Vicky gives a thorough and inspiring guide to starting a business.

start a small business

MortgageDashboard asks the following questions:

  1. What is the first thing I should do if I’m thinking about starting a business?
  2. What resources are available to me?
  3. How can I make sure my idea is sound?
  4. What are common mistakes I should avoid?
  5. Is funding available for a new business?
  6. What’s the best piece of advice you can give a new business owner
About Vicky Valdez

Vicky Valdez, manager of City of Austin’s Small Business Development Program (SBDP) enjoys the privilege of leading an internationally recognized program. She leads a high caliber group of individuals genuinely committed to their charge. SBDP is an integral part of the City’s Economic Development team. Vicky joined SBDP in March 2001 after serving in the City’s Planning Department. Prior to joining the City she was Deputy Director for a local non-profit agency and is a successful entrepreneur herself.

SBDP mission is to provide resources to help small business owners to start, develop, and expand their businesses. Ms. Valdez has been instrumental in founding and expanding several key SBDP since becoming the program’s administrator in 2008. In 2011 SBDP won two international awards from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), the Entrepreneurship Award for SBDP as a program and the Neighborhood Development Initiatives Award for its support of Independent Business Investment Zone (IBIZ) Districts, as well as the Liveable City Vision Award in the category of Economy. Her most recent accomplishment is the establishment of the Entrepreneur Center of Austin.

Video Transcript

What's the first thing I should do if I'm thinking about starting a business?

Vicky: “If you’re wanting to start a business the first thing you should do is come up with an idea. When coming up with an idea, formulate the idea. Come up with the product or service that you’re wanting to sell and then go out and visit with people about the idea. When you’re visiting with individuals about the idea, get a sense as to whether people are going to want to buy your product or service.  The second piece to that is: if you’re going to want to start a business, network. Go into the community and visit associates that are industry specific to what your idea. If you’re going to be a business owner, don’t be afraid to visit with other entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs, you’re going to find, are very helpful. They always open the doors for you.  They can may know someone else that can get you in sooner than if you just tried it on your own. The last piece of advice I’ll share is to seek out resources in your community. We’re fortunate here in the City of Austin to have the Business Development Program. In every community in our country there are resources available to help small businesses start and also to expand and thrive.”

What resources are available to me?

Vicky: “There are a lot of resources available. Resources are available on the local level, either with the small business administration (here in Austin, we have the small business development program). But there’s also numerous nonprofits and government agencies that provide resources at low cost or at no cost. Additional resources may come in the form of databases market research that you can get through either universities or public libraries. As you’re looking for resources, industry-specific resources are available. You can find those either in libraries or universities. Here in Austin the University of Texas has industry specific information at the library- there’s a business resource section that has market resources available for any idea you could possibly have.”

How can I make sure my idea is sound?

Vicky: “There are a couple of things you can do to make sure your idea is sound. First is visiting with friends, and just saying “Hey, what do you think of this idea? If I had this product or service, would you purchase it?” There is checking with family as well. In addition to seeking out advice or asking your family or friends whether your idea is sound or not. Also, seek out coaches, business development coaches, that might be in your area that can help whether at low cost or at no cost to you.. ”

What are common mistakes I should avoid?

Vicky: “The mistake I find in entrepreneurs is they have an idea and they think that idea is foolproof. Because it’s their idea they think, how could anyone not want this idea or want to buy this product or service? There are some ideas that, even though they sound like good ideas- really aren’t good ideas. People in the market aren’t going to buy that product or service. I always caution entrepreneurs when we’re visiting with them to go do your market research. Go check and see whether there are other entrepreneurs that have already been in that industry for a year or so, to make sure that business will sustain itself for a year. Learn from the mistakes they’ve made. Learn from the successes they’ve had. Model your business to include their successes but then make it unique to what your idea is.”

Is funding available for a new business?

Vicky: “Yes, funding is available for a new business, however it’s challenging to access that funding. Most traditional lenders will not lend to a new business because there is no history of the business. What I would recommend is that you seek out community lenders- organizations that lend to people in the start-up phase. They’re willing to take that risk with their business and grow with that business with that lending capacity. Another way to finance your new small business is by going and asking family and friends to invest. But that can be kind of awkward and if you’re not comfortable going to family and friends for funding, there is crowd funding.  There are a lot of websites that are now available to individuals who are looking to start a business that makes a sales pitch, if you will, to the crowd-funding audience who raises the money. Then that money goes to the business to be able to be seed money. In every community, there is business plan competitions and fast pitch competitions. In those competitions, you pitch your idea to a group of  individuals. And the reward can be, we’ve seen in this community, anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. That’s not a loan- that’s just funding. In funding your business, we get asked a lot “are there grants available?” Actually, there are grants available and you can search for grants under the small business development website. You’re going to find that there are grants available to either education, medical, or scientific research. That usually doesn’t apply to every new small business so we tell business owner’s “yes they’re available, however, if they’re not within that type of arena then the answers no”.

What's the best piece of advice you can give a new business owner?

Vicky: “Do not reinvent the wheel.  Every idea is a new idea, but it’s a new idea based on something that either is not in the market (and should be) or someone isn’t doing it as best as you think they should be doing it. Learn lessons from that business that currently exists and models yours after- be unique- but have that framework to begin with. Another piece of advice is that every idea is a good idea. We never want to make an individual feel like their idea isn’t a good idea. But, learn from business owners that have gone down that path and learn from them. Reach out to them. Speak with them. See what lessons can be learned. There’s a lot of do’s and don’ts for the industry you’re looking to be in. Business owner’s that are currently in that industry could shed some light on. Don’t be afraid to seek out and ask for help. Another good piece of advice for an entrepreneur is to network. It’s not only what you know, but there is a lot of truth in who you know. Get out in the community and visit with other individuals who are in the same industry. You may be cautious and not want to share your idea, because your idea is a new idea. But you may want to visit with them and get specifics on how you need to maneuver within the industry, how to work with vendors in the industry. They can share some lessons- they have the best advice when it comes to working in the industry. I read a good blog on brand culture on Brandcave.
 

Next Month: Scott Baradell, President of Idea Grove Inbound Marketing, explains the secret to branding yourself.

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