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Women Entrepreneurs: 7 Tips to Start a Successful Business

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Have you ever dreamed of one day being your own boss or turning your passion project into a viable business? Successful women entrepreneurs take specific steps toward their success––and you can, too. Before you start your own business, heed these tips to help set you on the best path to reach your goal.

1. Start While You Have a Day Job

You might be tempted to take a leap of faith, turn in your two weeks' notice and strike out on your own in starting a new business. Unless you have ample savings and start-up funding, though, that approach is probably unrealistic.

Some of the most profitable and successful companies didn't start in a beautiful new office space or storefront––they started with a solid and profitable idea. So instead of rushing to begin, start where you are and do your research, keeping scalability in mind:

  • Have you considered competition in the market?
  • How would your product or service be different from what's already available? What's your selling point?
  • Have you sold your product or service yet? Have you made a profit yet?
These are basic questions to ask yourself before starting a business, but it shouldn't end there. The Small Business Administration (SBA), a helpful resource for would-be entrepreneurs, offers a great list of 20 questions to help you decide how, when and why to start a business.

2. Consider Your Strengths, Talents and Lifestyle

Take time to reflect on your strengths, your innate talents and the lifestyle you want to live. Your reason for starting a business might be to create flexibility so you can spend more time with your family. Or you might have dreams of growing your small venture into a large, global corporation. But be clear what kind of lifestyle you want and how starting a business fits with your lifestyle goals. Successful women entrepreneurs, especially those in the beginning stages, can spend many hours, evenings and weekends getting their business off the ground.

Also consider how you might need to build your skill set. You might be an ace of an accountant but realize you need to work on management skills in order to better manage a team of employees. Or, you might be an expert seamstress but are unsure of how to plan for and execute the financial side of the business. Gaining an education––and experience ––can be key to opening your own business.

3. Pursue a Business Degree in Entrepreneurship

A business degree can provide critical foundational knowledge for anyone who wants to open her own business. A degree in entrepreneurship can fill in the gaps in areas you may be unclear of, such as legal aspects of running a business, how to negotiate with vendors and clients, and what skills you'll need to effectively manage your business in a modern global market.

You can feel more confident opening a business when you learn how to legally set up a business, read financial statements, understand licensing and permit requirements, know the ins-and-outs of business taxes, and gain knowledge in hiring and retaining employees.

4. Commit to Writing a Comprehensive Business Plan

For many new business owners, drafting their first business plan can seem daunting. But not having one is akin to setting sail without a map or compass. Writing a business plan requires you take time to research your market, define your long and short-term goals, and plan how you'll finance your business. The SBA provides a tool to help you create and save your business plan so you don't have to do it on your own. Sections in your plan should include:

  • Business Summary

  • Business Description

  • Market Analysis

  • How the business will be organized

5. Be Financially Savvy

Starting out with a loan, or debt that supersedes your profit, creates unnecessary stress. According to the New York Times, not having enough of a cash cushion when profits run low is one main reason why small businesses fail. Instead, keep your financial plan smart and savvy:

  • Have a six-month business fund in place prior to starting your business, so you can continue to pay yourself while building your profits.

  • Opt to pay for business expenses in cash and not credit. Keep in mind that 80 percent of small businesses fail in the first 18 months, per Forbes. Debt creates risk and always requires a payback higher than the original amount you've received. Instead, focus on growing profits and all the ways you can keep business expenses low.

  • When starting out, lease or rent a space before owning one. Instead of buying a bakery for your new wedding cake business, for example, consider renting a space in an industrial kitchen and begin it as a side business on the weekends so you can get a sense of what kind of profits you can make.

6. Create a Solid Network

Men and women leverage their networks differently, according to Women's networks tend to be more personal in nature while men's more easily include business networking. Don't go it alone; having a good support network is important. Look for associations for women entrepreneurs and small business networks in your area to help you navigate the challenges of starting your own business.

7. Don't Give Up, but Be Flexible

Successful women entrepreneurs know that tenacity and going the extra mile are key ingredients to running a profitable business. You might doubt you'll be able to get your business off the ground, but in your first few years, expect to make mistakes and expect to learn from experience.

Ultimately, keep your end goal in mind. To aim for success, stay on track with your business plan and review it along the way, staying flexible and realistic to where changes may be needed.

Ready to take the next step? Explore a business degree in entrepreneurship at AIU.