Blog | Entrepreneurship

The Keys to Small Business Success

Here’s how you should leverage your passion and knowledge for profit.

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Starting a business can be intimidating for women. One venture capitalist says that this is because women need to know 80% of what they need to do before starting a business while men only need to know 20%.

Whether the statistics are true or not, the point is valid. Women are generally less willing to take risks than men. But, as this venture capitalist mentions, the reality is that most women already know most of what they need to in order to start a business. Once they realize this, they have the confidence to take the leap.

Following your passions

One piece of advice I give to women is to discover what their passions are and then find a way to make money pursuing them.

Now, if you've thought of starting a business, you've probably heard conflicting advice on this topic. Should you follow your passion? Or should you base your business on something more practical?

Doing what you're passionate about is an important ingredient to happiness in life. I believe everyone should have something in their life they're passionate about. And it's wonderful when you can get paid well for doing what you're passionate about. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. So how do you know if you should turn your passion into a business?

When considering the question of whether or not to turn your passion into a business, ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I leverage what I am passionate about to bring value to others?

  • How much will others pay for this value I am providing?

  • Are the margins (income - costs = profit margin) strong enough to provide the financial profits I desire?

  • Who is the business really for? Am I willing to make customer value my first priority, or is this really about me doing what I love?

If your honest answer to that last question - and you MUST be honest with yourself - is "It's really about me," that's ok. Sometimes adding the money factor to your passion spoils the passion. If your first priority is just doing what you love, then you can still pursue it - just do it as a hobby or a job where you get a steady paycheck, not as a business. Then find something else that interests you where you feel comfortable putting customers first and build a business around that.

Be innovative

I once read about Corey O’Loughlin and Nina Vitalino, who started their business, Prep Obsessed, in 2013. Prep Obsessed, as they describe it, sells “preppy items for the home as well as customized accessories and on-trend jewelry.”

The two ladies went about starting their business in a very untraditional way – by simply featuring items they liked on a Facebook page and Instagram. Before they had even sold a product they had 1,000 Facebook fans.

As O’Loughlin told Entrepreneur, "We never ask what [our customers] want us to offer them. Instead, they are confident that we know what they want because they're confident we love the same things."

Know your customer

Another key to success is truly knowing your customer. What are their specific demographics? What exactly are they searching for, and how does your product solve their needs?

Prep Obsessed, for example, initially targeted a relatively narrow user profile: U.S. women between the ages of 20 and 50 who have expressed interest in specific brands (Tory Burch, Lilly Pulitzer) and categories (including fashion and home and garden). The company also goes after those users' friends.

For entrepreneurial partners, it’s more important to focus on a niche rather than trying to reach everyone.

For the entrepreneurial partners, it’s more important to focus on a niche rather than trying to reach everyone. This focus has paid off. Prep Obsessed was voted Florida’s Best Boutique two years in a row, and listed on the Inc 5000 list of fastest growing companies in 2018.

Even better, they were able to ultimately quit their jobs and work full time to build their business.

Have the right mindset

Along with everything else, I'm going to tell you a simple formula you can consider for success. It provides a true "big picture" perspective on two key components to achieving what you want in life. That formula is:

Attitude + Action = Success

There are a lot of self-help books (and gurus) who talk at length about the power of positive thinking - in other words, having a positive attitude. There is a tendency for people to discredit this positive-thinking concept as too touchy-feely. They advocate more obvious methods - in other words, action.

But the reality is, attitude AND action in combination are essential to success. It's unlikely you'll achieve the results you're looking for if you spin your wheels trying things (and then giving up when you fail) without first establishing the right mental attitude. And all the optimistic and positive thoughts in the world won't buy you an investment or win you the prize you seek.

Getting started

So if you’re serious about starting your business - these are the essential pieces of advice I can give you to lead you to success. Remember not to lose sight of your goals along the way. If you make a mistake or lose your way, don't give up - reorient yourself, and begin again. Let your passions and your positive attitude be your anchor and your compass.

Original publish date: February 26, 2015

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