Starting a business is hard for anyone, but for moms, it can be especially tricky for moms. Here's how to get your company off the ground.
The great thing about being an entrepreneur is that you have a decent shot at defining your own path. That flexibility makes it an attractive option for moms re-entering the workforce and those looking to change careers.
Not surprisingly, I am contacted by moms who want to turn their passions into businesses almost daily. These women are capable and eager to get started, but feel overwhelmed. They over-think and worry too much about the what-ifs.
For all its flexibility, life as an entrepreneur is still hard. And when busy moms redirect their energy, it affects everyone who depends on them. Here’s how aspiring mompreneurs can move from analysis-paralysis to action:
1. Prepare your family
This is a big one. When mom’s schedule and focus changes, everyone has to get with the program. You may be still be the CEO of your home, but you’re going to have to run your household much differently. Do not underestimate the resistance you will get from your spouse and your kids. As far as they’re concerned, your main job is to make their lives easier! Start handing out age-appropriate chores to your children and your spouse. Everyone pitches in, every day.
2. Make a checklist
Successful entrepreneurs are supremely pragmatic. In 2009, Colleen Phelps founded Strivers Running Club for Girls, a for-profit running club that trains fourth through sixth graders to complete a 5K. Strivers has grown from 20 to 180 girls in 3 years, with projections for continued double-digit growth.
Some of Colleen’s earliest perceived obstacles were related to her status as a first-time entrepreneur, without coaching experience or formal athletic training. She worried that these gaps would affect her ability to be successful. Colleen created a checklist, which helped her fill these gaps while running her business. She assessed what she could outsource and what she personally needed to know. By transforming her obstacles into a ‘to-do’ list, she was able to remove the emotion associated with them. She continues to use this approach to tackle obstacles.
3. Don’t risk what you are not willing to lose
Before Colleen launched Strivers, she took a serious look at her appetite for risk. “If there was no interest, I was okay with walking away,” she says. “My biggest initial investment was my time.” Determine how much time and money you are willing to lose and re-evaluate regularly. Your appetite for risk may change as your business confidence changes.
4. Only focus on important things
You can easily make a list of a thousand things you need to do for your business. Don’t! Spend your time on those things that prove the value of your business’s offering.
Do you have an ecommerce business? Spend your time making your site intuitive, attractive, and engaging. Running a high-touch service business? Focus your time on customer experience. Colleen invests the majority of her time perfecting the runner’s experience. “I am constantly evaluating the experience the girls are having, to ensure that they reap the benefits of the program well beyond their time as a Striver,” she says.
5. Engage your customers early
Before she launched Strivers, Colleen began testing her ideas with her target customers. She thought Strivers would be a way to provide more sports options for girls in the fall, when there are many more options for boys. Colleen didn’t set out to sell. She talked with other moms and their daughters at school pick-up, on the sidelines of her kids’ games--wherever she could. Engaging her target customers helped her package her product while also growing her pipeline.
Stick to “what if” kinds of questions. Don’t worry if face-to-face discussions aren’t possible. Join chat-rooms or other online forums frequented by your potential customers. Post questions related to the value your product or service might offer, and ask for input. It doesn’t matter how or where you engage with your customers. All that matters is that you don’t wait to do it.
6. Build a community of evangelists
When you engage with people, guess what happens? By asking for their insights, you also built their personal investment in your product. That can help build loyalty and evangelism as your business gets off the ground. Strivers’ current families and alumni are her biggest marketers. “I send out emails and market through a few schools in the area. The majority of new girls who sign up register because they know someone else who is a Strivers runner or alumni. They read about us from Facebook and Twitter posts, and from old fashioned word-of-mouth from friends in their neighborhoods. I barely have to do my own marketing.”
Moms just like you are starting successful businesses every day, and so can you. Start with these six steps, and there will be no stopping you.
Scholar-practitioner, experienced high-tech marketer and advocate for meaningful innovation, PATRICIA FLETCHER is passionate about leveling the imbalanced technology playing field to include all the best innovators. She blogs at www.psdnetwork.com and tweets at @pkfletcher. @pkfletcher