How did you get started?

In my last post I covered why I got started. In this one I want to cover the other part of the equation; how.  I get asked this question a lot. I'm never quite sure how to answer it. I feel like no one wants to hear,

"Well, I needed a way to pay the bills, and this seemed like it could work."

That's not really the right answer anyway. I'd love to tell you that I come from a long line of leather workers, and that this was my destiny. That would be a lie. The truth is that I had never even picked up a leather working tool until about ten months ago. So how did I get started? The answer is really simple. I just started.

This isn't my first business. I spoke about Little Bird Ice Cream a little in my last post. What is really important about this story is why it didn't work. I spent years playing it safe. I did research. I doodled logos, stressed out about the perfect name, developed recipes. It never got off the ground because I wasn't really making anything. The perfect logo, a well organized business plan, and a masterful secret recipe don't mean shit if you aren't making or selling anything.

The textbook method for starting a business goes like this.

  • Do market research and assess the needs of your target demographic.
  • Develop a formal business plan. This includes listing the names of your marketing department, accountant, and lawyer (I actually read one of those business-plans-made-easy books where you fill in the blanks and end up with a successful business. I gave up when the author actually wrote "If you can't afford a lawyer and an accountant you don't have enough money to start a business")
  • Sell this business plan to a bank (Here is where you stop being self-employed (the bank is now your boss) and get to play Russian Roulette with your credit score.)
  • Invest all of your capital in overhead ( a lease, fax machines, custom letterheads, and a flashy website)
  • Try to figure out why not enough money is coming in.

With Wright and Rede I tried a different approach. I got online and ordered an amateur leather working kit for $150. I spent the next month figuring out how to make a simple wallet. While talking with a coworker my new hobby came up and I showed him my wallet. He said he'd take one, and I sold him one for $35. I decided that if I could use my remaining materials and sell three more I would go into business. I sold three by the end of the month. I took my $140 and bought more leather. I was in business.

My very first wallet
My very first wallet

My point is that I didn't have a business name, a license, insurance, a series of goals, or even any experience. I just started making something. If you want to start a business then start a business.  Do not go get a loan. Start with $100 and figure out how to make money with just that $100. It doesn't have to be your dream job, just a way to make your own money. This way you can sidestep all of that daydreaming planning and start creating some momentum. When you have enough income to pay a graphic designer to create a logo for you, that is when you should worry about a logo. It's really a small risk. Wost case scenario you loose your $100. All the other things that are keeping you back are really just bridges that can be crossed when you get to them. 

I'd highly recommend the $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau  and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill  as good reads for starting your own business. You can gloss over the motivational parts if that's not for you, but there are some really sound ideas in here if you look for them. ***I am in no way connected to either of these authors and I am not profiting from recommending them in any way. (Besides, you can find both of these books at your local library.)