If you’re interested in starting a business in 2011 or expanding your existing business, Guilford Technical Community College is hosting the 2011 Small Business Summit this Friday, January 7th from 9am to 5pm. Included in the topics of discussion:
- How to Fund Your Start-up
- Growing Your Company
- Researching Competitors and Customers
- Finding Government Contracts Online
- plus much more…
For those looking for daily tips on growing small business success, Melinda Emerson, known to her followers as ‘Small Biz Lady’ has done a lot of the planning for you by starting her own business and sharing her methods to success on her blog, her Twitter page and through her book, “Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months: A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.”
When I had the chance to speak with the ‘Small Biz Lady’ she made it clear that thinking about owning your own business compared to spending the time planning and preparing to be your own boss is far less glamorous and much more stressful than anyone could ever imagine. As Melinda explains, it’s all about knowing what you want, planning the way to get there and working the plan.
Gillean Smith: Melinda, when you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Small Biz Lady: I wanted to be a journalist since I was in 8th grade.
Gillean Smith: Why?
Small Biz Lady: I really enjoyed expressing myself through writing and eventually I gravitated to the school newspaper and I was hooked.
Gillean Smith: Who were your favorite journalists or reporters?
Small Biz Lady: I loved Tom Brokaw from NBC News, Bernard Shaw from CNN, and William Raspberry from The Washington Post. I especially loved reading Raspberry’s op-ed pieces. I loved Carl T. Rowan, too for his Rowan Report on the radio each morning. Oprah Winfrey was always tops with me as well.
Gillean Smith: Were these your favorite journalists and reporters as a high school student?
Small Biz Lady: I would say high school and college. I also did a lot of research and writing on Max Robinson in undergrad as well.
Gillean Smith:You sound like you were focused on a career at an early age. Many in high school or even college find it hard to figure out what they aspire to become. How did you know that your interest was really a serious career path you were going to follow?
Small Biz Lady: My parents really encouraged my writing ability so it was an easy choice for me. I did internships in high school with a local radio station and American Urban Radio Networks. I learned a lot about storytelling in the news department. I also participated in the National Association of Black Journalists summer camp in Pittsburgh for kids interested in journalism careers. I also read the newspaper often as a kid, so I realized that people had careers as professional writers.
Gillean Smith:That’s quite impressive. Do you feel this paid off when you got your first full-time job out of school?
Small Biz Lady: Oh yeah, it definitely helped in college because I knew going into college what I needed to do in college to get a job. I came out of college with three major internships. I worked for Weekend Today Show in New York, ABC News in London, England and CBS Evening News in Washington, DC. I am told that my first job as an associate producer at WPXI- TV in Pittsburgh was the best job of anyone my graduating class.
Gillean Smith: It’s often been said that writing down one’s goals can often lead to seeing them fulfilled. Did you write down yours?
Small Biz Lady: Sure. I have a life plan and a vision board.
Gillean Smith: What is a vision board?
Small Biz Lady: It’s homemade artwork that represents your big picture vision for your life. It should be a poster of what your best day looks like five years from the day you create it.
Gillean Smith: Where did you find out about a vision board?
Small Biz Lady: We’ll a few places. I had a business coach Marquesa Pettway years ago who first told me about it and made me do one. Then I came across a book by author Joyce Schwarz who wrote The Vision Board; The Secret to an Extraordinary Life. I believe these documents are so important for keeping yourself motivate. You must always remember who you are and why you do what you do.
Gillean Smith: How did you move from a TV producer to owning your own business?
Small Biz Lady: When I was in college Oprah Winfrey started HARPO Studios and I thought it was so amazing. I knew that one day I could to start my own business. But I knew that I needed to learn the business first and that’s just what I did for six years in the television industry. Then I started my first company Quintessence Multimedia in 1999.
Gillean Smith: What products and/or services did you offer?
Small Biz Lady: Quintessence Multimedia provides Social Media Strategy, Video Production, Web Development, and Multimedia Content Development. Through my company, MFE Consulting LLC, I am a professional speaker and I provide business coaching, marketing consulting, and professional writing and blogging services. I also develop training materials and courses for entrepreneurs.
Gillean Smith: Did you run this alone or did you hire staff?
Small Biz Lady: I ran my first business as a solopreneur. For the first two years, I worked out of my house. Then I won a business plan competition which earned me free office space for one year and $20K in prize money. At that time, I hired two part-time staff prople, but I mostly used freelance employees. From there, I rented professional office space, and I hired more part-time and full-time staff.
Gillean Smith: It sounds as if your business was successful to the point where you had to hire staff. Were you at all fearful of failing as a first-time business owner?
Small Biz Lady: I think once a day I feared failing, but I also knew that running my business was what I really wanted to do. I made myself a student of small business so I could remove the fear. I knew going back to get another job was not an option.
Gillean Smith: Why is that?
Small Biz Lady: I think some people just know they are not meant for office politics and bureaucratic environments. I am one of these people.
Gillean Smith: Many people may feel the same way. But starting one’s own business seems an out of reach task as well. How did you go about moving from working for someone else to beginning to become a business owner?
Small Biz Lady: In my book, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months, I tell people to start with developing a life plan first. You need a life plan before you ever write a business plan. It’s important to figure out what you want out of life and then build a business around that. Then you need a financial plan, so that you can determine if you can afford to become an entrepreneur. Then you need to validate your business concept and examine what skills you have and need to run your business. Then you must develop a marketing plan and determining who’s going to buy and why. Then I walk them through writing the business plan and then starting the business, which I think should be done while still working a job. You should do both until it hurts. Who needs sleep anyway?
Gillean Smith: Is the advice you offer in your book exactly what you followed to begin your business?
Small Biz Lady: Yes and no. I only planned six months before I started my first business. I definitely followed my financial planning advice in the book. I also validated my business idea, assembled a kitchen cabinet of advisors and I had a detailed marketing plan and business plan before I started my business. Based on my 12 years of experience, I believe the longer you plan, the more research you do, and the more money you save, the more likely you are to succeed in business. The challenge with starting a business without a plan is with that approach you will learn plenty of lessons the hard way, and that can be expensive. If you live by a budget, have your debt under control, and have a significant amount of savings, you will be able to start your business much sooner rather than later.
If you are serious about becoming a small business owner and are interested in finding out how the ‘Small Biz Lady,’ can offer some help specific to your business goals, visit:
SmallBizChat Facebook Group: http://tinyurl.com/l7gs7z
For more information on this Friday’s 2011 Small Business Summit in the Triad, visit: Small Business Summit 2011
Tomorrow, find out how Melinda put her plan into action to attain her goal as a successful businesswoman and what tools she offers that can help you get started in owning your own business.