5 Key Steps to Turning Your Idea Into a Business
The hardest part of starting a business, for me, was actually launching. I launched my hair business last year, but the idea of starting it came to me 5 years ago. Doing hair is something I have always been good at and love doing so I decided it was worth turning into a business.
I spent years second guessing myself, trying to get everything to be perfect before I launched, I wanted to have the right amount of money to start, I wanted to be certain about the products, as well as the branding. I changed the business name and corporate colours at least 5 times; I would wake up with a different idea every day and then forget what the previous idea was. Even when I eventually decided to launch, I was still very uncertain.
However, nothing felt more liberating than launching and getting started. Yes, it was not perfect, but the best source of insights for my business has come from interacting with my customers and other business owners – an opportunity I would not have, had I not launched. My business still has a very long way to go but I have learned so much over the past year and I am now certain of what I want to do. While I cannot sit here and give you a step-by-step guide of how to turn an idea into a business, I can definitely share the few lessons I have learned thus far:
1. Pure passion for what you do isn’t enough
I always hear people say that the key to success is definitely doing something you are passionate about and I tend to agree to some extent. However, I also think that it is important to really ask yourself if what you are passionate about can be turned into a viable business idea. Remember, you will be making a living out of this business, so it has to be profitable. Make sure you have the necessary skills to run a business and if this is something you lack, at least figure out where you will be getting the skills from or if you can afford it. It can take such a long time to get your business off the ground; there will be real challenges and at times you have to make tough decisions to keep your business going. Passion has to be coupled with skills and a great deal of research which brings me to my next point.
2. Do your research
Yes, your idea is wonderful and you think you can turn it into a business, great! We are over 7 billion people in the world and perhaps somebody has already thought of your business idea, or maybe you are unique, but the only way to know this is by doing your research. It is not entirely a bad thing if your business idea already exists; it means that there is an existing demand and target audience for what you have to offer. In this case, it would be beneficial for you to do more research to find out what the gaps are that you can fill and that should become your unique selling point – the thing that sets you apart from competitors.
3. Create a roadmap
When I launched my business I was all over the place, I took on more than I could handle simply because I wanted to make my first sale. One of the things that really kept me focused was creating what I call a roadmap. I call it a roadmap because it details exactly where I want my business to be and how I plan on getting there. You can call it a plan if you like, but essentially it should include the necessary information to help you stay on track. Mine includes the following:
- A business overview: which includes market context, customer profile, distribution channels, competitor analysis and a marketing context.
- Situational analysis: this details all the drivers, inhibitors, opportunities and threats of the business, much like a SWOT analysis.
- Five strategic questions: in this section, I asked myself five crucial questions – where is the business now, why is it there, where could it be, how can I get there and what do I need to get there?
- Three key issues to focus on: from my five strategic question I chose the three key questions I want to tackle and how I want to do it.
- Competitor defence plan: it is important to note how you want to overcome challenges related to competitors which I have done in this section.
- Goals: I split my goals into short and long-term goals. The things I want to achieve in the next 1-2 years are my short-term goals and the ones I want to achieve in the next 5-10 years are my long-term goals. Here you should ideally also state your sales, financial and perhaps awareness goals for the next 5 years.
You do not need to have all the answers right away, take your time to do this because it will act as a guide along the way. I continuously amend my roadmap as I go along.
4. Find a support structure
Sometimes as an entrepreneur, it might feel like you are travelling the road alone and that is fine because not everybody will believe in your vision or consistently support you.
However, there are many organisations or people out there who are committed to supporting entrepreneurs. Look for networking opportunities and other platforms where you can speak about your company, share difficulties and get the support you need to keep moving forward. Future Females is an all-inclusive, collaborative organisation focused on empowering female entrepreneurs globally.
When finding a support structure, be careful who you take advice from, not every bit of advice will be suitable to what you are trying to do, even if it’s coming from a close friend or relative. This is why a roadmap is such an important thing to have, it can be your sounding board when you are not sure what to do.
5. Be patient!
Nothing happens overnight. I think when I first started my business I wasn’t patient enough, I wanted it to be an established business overnight, because of that I made some rash decisions and lost some money. I have since learned to be patient with my business and myself. Believe wholeheartedly in what you are doing and the work you are doing to see your business succeed. Allow yourself the space to make mistakes and learn from them. Focus on getting a few things right before moving on to the next. Once you find a winning formula stick to it and remain consistent.
Really take the time to build a solid foundation for your business. Register your business name, get the necessary licenses and permits, register for tax, use an efficient accounting or point of sale system and create a mechanism for continuous improvement. When you get the foundation right, it becomes much easier to build the business.