How to Start a Business

Have a brilliant business notion and wondering how to make it real? Whether you want to start an Etsy shop or the next Airbnb, you’ll benefit from these expert steps to prosperous entrepreneurship.

1

Make Sure That You Really Love the Idea.

light-bulb-genius-idea
Photo by Studio Muti

Your week­ ends, your wallet, and your brain will be entirely devoted to bringing this concept to life. You’ll be talking about it, agonizing over it, strategizing around it. Says Julia Pimsleur, the author of Million Dollar Women, “Entrepreneurship isn’t a get­-rich­-quick scheme.” You have to be prepared—and motivated—for the long game. Pimsleur says that many “overnight success stories” have been at work on their projects for 10 years. That’s why enthusiasm is such a critical component. “You need to pick something that you love so much you would do it whether you were paid or not,” sums up Pimsleur.

2

Zoom Toward Failure.

Even visionaries such as Bill Gates and Walt Disney founded companies that collapsed before they built their empires. Assume that failure is part of the path so that the fear of it won’t derail you. “You have to start somewhere,” says Danielle LaPorte, the author of The Desire Map. And you have to know that when worries crop up, she says, “the power of your drive directly relates to your ability to quiet the doubts.”

3

Start Where It’s Easy.

Ask yourself: What can I do right now to advance my idea? What move can I make without a lot of time or effort? Who already wants what I have? Where are they? Right from the start, think about what it would take to secure your first client or your first sale so you can begin generating revenue. And keep your eyes open for available help. “If there’s a person who wants to work with you on your project, con­sider it,” says LaPorte.



4

Find Hidden Money.

Any idea requires capital. “The trick is to get money from sources without owing them a piece of the business,” says Nely Galán, the author of Self-Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way. She has created an app called Self Made that pulls together entrepreneurial contests in the United States run by nonprofits and corporate entities. Companies like FedEx and Chase host com­ petitions that give away anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000. Sometimes the money is targeted toward certain groups (women, African­-Americans, veterans).

5

Invest in Expertise.

A lawyer should be first on your list, especially if you’re going to be dealing with intel­lectual property or fund-raising, says Pimsleur. Once you have some capital, bring in people who complement your skill set. If you’re weak with numbers, 
for example, hire a part-time bookkeeper; it’s worth the short-term hit to your budget. “The right expert can create quantum leaps for you,” says LaPorte. Galán also recommends investing in formal training: “We have no problem hiring 
 a tutor for our kids. Why not hire one for yourself?” Another secret ace: virtual assistants—month-to-month helpers who can take care of administrative tasks 
so you can focus on larger priorities, says Pimsleur. Find one at upwork.com.

6

Build an Emotional Advisory Board.

“When you team up with others around goals, 
you reach them much faster,” says Pimsleur. So round up a handful of accountability partners to provide group encour­age­ment and help keep ideas moving forward. Think former colleagues, people from industry meet-ups, and even your entrepreneurial neighbor. Work-share spaces are beneficial here, says Pimsleur: “When people are sharing resources, there’s a nice possibility of collaboration.” Most important is a sense 
of trust and a shared passion for working toward goals, even if those goals are unrelated. LaPorte’s board grew organically out 
of a potluck dinner and 
 has been meeting monthly for eight years. The moral support it 
provides is “just as important as financial information from 
an adviser,” she says.



7

Ask and Learn.

“The quickest route to success is finding someone who has already achieved it and having them teach you,” says Pimsleur. The global network Entre­preneurs’ Organization offers peer­-to­-peer learning. Quora.com, the question­ and­ answer site, has a forum popular with the tech set, featuring entrepreneurs like AOL cofounder Steve Case. Etsy has an internal team that educates sellers. “Most people who have built a company are very sympathetic to those starting out,” says Pims­leur. Everything from YouTube tutorials to your local Chamber of Com­merce can help link you to those in­-the­-know.

8

Reveal Your Vision ASAP.

Introduce what’s called a minimum viable product (MVP) to test your concept. Don’t worry about perfection— launch a prototype or a simple website, then solicit feedback. Or use the MVP to sell the idea to investors. “Most people need to see something to understand it,” says Pimsleur. Adds LaPorte, “It’s better to launch in three months and feel the joy in your first 100 customers than to take six months and not have any nourishment. You need small victories along the way.”

9

Let Your Vision Be Your Map.

LaPorte suggests exploring (and repeatedly revisiting) your deepest motivation for launching your project. “This keeps you on track and allows your strategy and confi­dence to unfold naturally,” she says. “And don’t be afraid to say no to opportunities that could take you off course. So much of my personal success has to do with the things that I’ve said no to.” Opinions on how to run your business will be rampant, but “trust your own instincts,” says Pimsleur. “Even if someone offers a great suggestion, you’re the one who’s going to have to execute it.”