The Women's Guide to Small Business
Your entrepreneurial spirit is ready to take on the small business world, but you're wondering what your first steps should be. With more than nine million women-owned businesses in the US, you'll find yourself in good company after you go through this guide and start on the path to success.
Finding Your Perfect Business Idea
The small business creation process starts with an idea. You need to decide on the type of business that you want to run. Truly original concepts might stand out due to their uniqueness, but that's not the only way to figure out your future company. With millions of small businesses worldwide, it's likely that someone has already thought of the same thing.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to evaluate your ideas and pick the perfect one.
What are your customer's needs in your target audience?
You should be solving some sort of problem or improving the audience's quality of life. Try to avoid business ideas that involve a solution to a problem that doesn't exist, as you won't have built-in demand for your products or services.
Where are you operating?
The geographic business demands should also play a role in determining what idea is the best one for your small business. Look for gaps in the market and other niche opportunities that would allow you to get a strong foothold early on.
What does the competition look like?
A lot of competitors does not necessarily mean that you can't go ahead with your business idea. In fact, that many businesses may exist because the demand is so high. Likewise, a lack of competition is not always a good sign. The need might not be available in your local market.
Do you want to work from home or at an office?
Some business ideas give you the opportunity to stay at home, as you won't have foot traffic coming through the door. You may prefer to have an office location, as that might keep you more focused on the task at hand due to fewer distractions.
How to Write a Business Plan
Your business plan acts as a blueprint for your company. You're creating a comprehensive document that details all of the relevant information needed to understand what your small business is about, how it operates, its financials and other information.
When you're putting together a business plan, here are the most important sections to include:
- Executive summary: This is a brief overview of your business and the most important facts and figures.
- Company overview: You go into detail about your business idea, the business model and a brief mention of the products or services you want to offer.
- Market research: Go into detail about the market, from the typical demographics to the revenue it generates each year.
- Business structure: Explain the management structure of your business, the type of legal structure you're using and other information about the company framework.
- Products and services: Go into detail about your offerings and the ways they'll benefit your target audience.
- Marketing and sales strategy: How are you going to market your small business and generate customers and leads? Provide an overview of the channels and tactics that you'll use to attract interest.
- Funding: Lay out your funding requirements and requests from any funding sources that you're working with.
- Financials: Estimate your potential revenue, company growth, cash flow, expenses and other financial information.
If you're pitching your business to investors and other stakeholders, do as much research as possible into your market. Focus on finding hard data to back up the potential demand for your products and services. You want to be confident in the need for your offerings.
Sometimes stakeholders will reject your business plan. They may be willing to offer constructive criticism so that you can improve it and try again. Consider connecting with other small business owners and finding resources to get additional feedback.
How to Find Small Business Grants for Women
A business grant provides you with money that you don't have to pay back, unlike a loan. You have four primary categories for grant types: government, private, corporate and professional.
You can find these grants through government agency websites, professional organizations, chambers of commerce, general purpose grant websites and networking groups. Minority and veteran grants can also be good sources of business funding.
The eligibility requirements for each type of grant vary based on the issuing party, the amount of funding and other factors. Typically, you get complete information on the grant application.
The application details what you need to do to submit the request for the grant. You may need to send your business plan, provide information on why your small business should get the grant, agree to donate goods and services to a cause and other requirements.
Growing and Expanding Your Small Business
Don't wait until you start your small business to think about its future. Having a solid plan in place for developing and expanding it is important. Here are a few things to consider for your future growth plans:
- Adding locations
- Building a franchise
- Acquiring other businesses
- Adding new products
- Licensing products:
- Creating partnerships
- Diversify your company
How to Find Small Business Loans for Women
Another way to fund your small business is to look into loans. The costs, fees, flexibility and repayment are important factors to keep in mind when you're evaluating options.
Small business loans come in many forms, but not all of them are appropriate for a small business startup. Here are a few that make the most sense for early-stage small businesses:
- Working capital: Funding designed to keep your business going while you build up your revenue streams.
- Equipment: Purchase essential equipment and supplies that you need to start your woman-owned small business.
- Professional practice: A small business loan designed to give professionals funding for an office or other needs.