First published in Practical Homeschooling Magazine. This article is adapted from the original. This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for helping to support this network.
Have you ever thought, “I’d like to start my own business someday?”
How about turning “someday” into “now”!
Whether you’re a homeschool student, starting a microbusiness to gain experience and college application “talking points,” or a homeschool parent looking for supplemental income that could perhaps grow into a family business, we all have to start at the same spot.
First up is selecting a business idea.
This is less complicated than you might think. Let’s break it down to two ideals. The first is starting with little cost, and the second is to get paid doing something you love.
Business in A Nutshell — Right from the Start
It will take brainstorming, ingenuity, and research to discover ideas that you can start on a tiny budget, that you are passionate about, and that can be profitable. Passion is the drive that often leads to success and will cause you to stretch the extra measure needed to finish the race.
For Christians like me, being in prayer about your new business is a must. Where does the Lord lead? What doors does He open? Where are you prompted to go that is contrary to the way the world thinks? Faith isn’t always “practical,” but it also isn’t delusional, so don’t trust any “leading” that requires you to get into serious debt or to disrupt your family’s life or homeschool, that creates major tension among family members, or that requires you to entrust yourself to a “business guru” type of figure (usually paying him buckets of money along the way). “The love of money is the root of all evil” (I Tim 6:10). So any guidance that involves you restructuring your life around money, to the detriment of your existing commitments, or to overextend yourself in the hope of getting rich, clearly is not from the Lord. The right business idea will bring you peace, not feverish excitement.
Then there are the simply practical questions. Which business ideas will work? What can you offer in the way of product or service that will yield the desired result, which is a solid profit for the least amount of effort?
To find a business idea ask these four basic questions:
- Do you have a talent, skill or hobby that can translate into a service for hire?
- Do you have a talent, skill or hobby that can create a product for sale?
- How is your talent or service better than your competition’s?
- Do you see a need and have an idea to fill the void?
My first products were book. I was happy to begin with one that was attached to a seminar I was giving at a homeschool conference. However, the one book quickly turned into three in one year. I do not recommend that type of growth since it was a very busy and harrowing year, juggling a business, home and homeschooling. However, this book business has turned into a company that produces many different items.
The quickest start-up businesses are those using a service that takes no supplies or additional cost. However, their growth is limited by time constraints, as you only have so many hours in one day.
Beating the Competition Right from the Start
Your fledgling business can fail for any of these three reasons:
- Insufficient desire for your product or service
- Insufficient finances to support the startup
- Insufficient effort (starting a business takes hard work)
Assuming you have chosen a needed product or service that requires a very small initial startup cost, and are willing to work hard, there is still one hurdle in your way: the competition.
Even established businesses fail when they underestimate the competition. You are not going to make that mistake.
Before you start, get to know your competition. Then ask yourself this question:
“What service or product can I offer that is better than theirs?”
My daughter’s friend loved sailing but couldn’t afford a boat. Her dream job was to sail a boat for a living. After she was married her husband was able to find a job sailing yachts for the wealthy. Then, they added this competition-beating bonus: they offered to prep the boat with food and supplies, and even stayed aboard the yacht when the owners chose to stay on shore. Her job was a dream come true.
Before writing my book Information in a Nutshell: Writing and Publishing, I researched the competition. I looked for ways to make it unique. I found all the other books on writing and publishing were formidable! Four-hundred-plus pages was the norm. My competition-beating idea was born. I decided to make my book short and to the point, 126 pages. On average it took me four hours to tell someone how the process worked from start to finish. My goal was to write a book that could be read in the same amount of time. I accomplished this and it launched the idea for an “Information in a Nutshell” series of books that teach important information in a brief and easy-to-understand format.
Thinking outside of the box and brainstorming will yield the highest results in terms of competition-beating innovation. For example, if you babysit, offer to also do light housekeeping or fun crafts. Or offer to sit for the elderly.
What Do You Know?
Begin with jobs that come naturally. For example, do you like to bake? Offer to create custom cakes, plus host a themed birthday party for children complete with party favors and games. My son is gifted with small engine repair and took a broken weed-eater he found in the neighbors trash, replaced the $6 part and could have sold it in a garage sale for $25. He is considering a repair service for the neighborhood. If you sew, you can offer to mend or create one-of-a-kind clothing. My parents did this in my elementary years and worked out of the finished basement in our home. They were extremely successful and took the money from this venture and purchased a restaurant. My daughter is a talented photographer and has pictures for sale of on iStock photo.
Authors are told to write what you know. First-hand experiences translate well in the written word, and so too in the world of start-up businesses. Begin with what you know, brainstorm to find ideas that excite you and begin your research. Check the feasibility of your idea against the competition. And pray!
Next issue we’ll look at a business plan and ways to begin on a shoestring budget!
Author and publisher Felice Gerwitz and her husband, Jeff, have homeschooled since 1986. Three of their five children are adults and she is graduating one this year and currently homeschools her youngest. Felice is a serial entrepreneur and has learned (the hard way) that not every good idea is a profitable one. The author of eleven books and co-author of seven, Felice also hosts several podcasts, including Vintage Homeschool Moms on this network, and you can catch past episodes of Information in a Nutshell Radio for Authors by searching for it online. Felice is the publisher of the series “Information in a Nutshell,” which so far includes the titles Writing and Publishing (by Felice) and Business Tips and Taxes for Writers (by Carol Topp, CPA). Her website is MediaAngels.com.