Launch4 - Start your business in 4 easy steps
Our guides are informational resources that tell you how to do something. This guide includes tools to show you how to do something. Our tools are interactive, some include templates that you can use as a starting point and were created for you to use to complete specific steps in starting or growing your business. Most are in the form of Google Slides, so feel free to copy them to your Google Drive for an editable version of any tool.
This guide is meant to help you cover the basics like finalizing your business idea, confirming there is a market and making your first sales or presales to make sure you’ll make a profit. It will help you create a basic plan for how your business will work, how it will make money, and how it can help you achieve your goals. It will also help you define and understand your customers so you can plan how to reach them and how to get them to buy from you. You can achieve all this in the 4 steps below and by completing the listed activities.
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Understand Your Reasons for Starting a Business
When you start your own business you are the owner and, of course, the boss. That means that if you wake up and don’t work on your business, no one can fire you, but that can become a problem if nothing gets done! When you understand why you are so passionate about building you business, that passion will keep you going when times get tough. If you know what your goal is, you will be better prepared to truly appreciate your progress each day/week/month as you get closer to achieving your goal.
People start businesses for all kinds of reasons, but whatever those reasons or motivations are...they’re very strong! For example, some entrepreneurs don’t want to work for somebody else, some entrepreneurs want to make a difference in the world, some want to make money, some want to be independent, some want to take care of their family, etc...And people’s goals or definitions of success are different. Some people have a financial goal (how much money they want to make), some people want to see their company’s name in stores across the nation, some people want to be able to make their family proud, etc.
Activity 1.1 - Complete the “Understanding Your Why Template”
Learn about your reasons to start a business and jot them down. If you understand why you are building your business and what success looks like, then you will be more likely to be happy with your business.
Activity 1.2 - Complete the “One Page Business Plan Template”
If you can clearly describe your business idea, this will help you talk about your business to other people. The best way to figure out what your business should make or do is to listen to potential customers!
Understand Your Customers
Building a new business is hard. But building great businesses that last the test of time is harder. To create great businesses, it takes skill, intelligence, dedication and discipline. And it requires taking big risks and balancing how fast we deliver our product or service while maintaining high overall quality.
Your business will succeed if you can make or do something valuable for customers, something they will pay you for. But you have to deeply understand your customers in order to make the right products and services for them. In order to deeply understand your customer, you need to study them and talk to them - you want to know as much information as possible about your main type of customer so that you can build your business around your customers.
For example, our customers are young entrepreneurs who are
Between the ages of 18 and 29 years old
Over 90% identify as Black, Latino, or Asian
Working, unemployed or in college
Some work part-time or full-time, some are unemployed or working full-time on their business idea, and some are in college - and some are a combination of all of these life situations! All of our entrepreneurs are passionate about building a business and pursuing their dreams. Most of our entrepreneurs don't have a lot of money because they are young, but they still try to make their business work with what they have. They are starting every kind of business - many entrepreneurs are starting businesses in food, clothing/apparel, the trades, or other service-type businesses.
Activity 2.1 - Complete the “Customer Deep-dive Template”
Gather as much information as possible about your main type of customer so that you can build your business around your customers.
Activity 2.2 - Complete the “Marketing Messaging Template”
Define how you will communicate with your customers. Your customer type(s) will become your target audience, which will help you define the market you want to enter. This foundation will help you prove that a market exists for your product or service and narrow the range of potential customers to the ones who are willing and able to buy your product.
Activity 2.3 - Complete the “Competitor Landscape Template” and “Competitive Analysis Template”
Learn what your competitors do well and learn from their mistakes! It’ll also help to make sure that your products and services are unique and special and can inspire you to create new ways to create great products and services.
Review your competitor research with your Skysthelimit.org mentor. Don’t have one yet? Create an account with us!
Activity 2.4 - Complete the “Customer Survey Template”
Think about the problem that you are trying to solve for your customers. Ask potential customers people how they’re currently solving this problem and how they could solve it differently. Then tell them what your current solution is and make sure to ask them for feedback! Would they be willing to purchase your product or service if they could?
Test Your Business Idea
To have a customer actually pay you for something your business made or did is a great feeling. Your job as the business owner is to make things that people want, making your customers happy. When you do something that makes your customer happy or solves their problems, they give you money - that’s at the foundation of entrepreneurship. One of the hardest - and most important - questions an entrepreneur needs to be able to answer is: “Why should a customer shop at your business?” The better you can answer this question, the better you can attract customers to your business!
For example, skysthelimit.org’s young entrepreneurs often have the following problems: 1. they don’t know all the steps to take to start their business or grow it, 2. they don’t know where to get money for their business, 3. they need business experts who can help them solve specific problems for their business (like questions about business laws and regulations, or how to increase their sales), 4. they want someone who can help them stay accountable to keep working on their business idea and they want to be around other entrepreneurs, 5. they need experienced people who are trustworthy, reliable experts who they can bounce ideas off of and who understand their particular business.
Activity 3.1 - Learn how to design the first versions of your product/service
Define the steps you will take to design the first versions of your product/service.
Activity 3.2 - Complete the “Test Your Idea Template”
Create a strategy, or plan, for how you will improve the first versions of your product/service.
Get the word out! If no one knows that you are open for business, then no customers spend their money at your business and you can’t grow. Many entrepreneurs are afraid about people stealing their ideas, but you really WANT customers to know about your business. Getting the word out about your business is a big, important job - and it takes time! Start as soon as you can, as soon as you feel comfortable talking to people about your business. Since this is the validation step, we recommend having presales, setting up a crowdfunding page,
Examples of how to get the word out about your business include: word of mouth, sending an email to all of your friends and family, or throwing a launch event, or passing out flyers where your customers are, building a website, hosting a booth at a festival, giving free samples at a concert, etc. For example, skysthelimit.org first went out and found two community-based organizations that worked with young adults who wanted to start a business but didn’t know how. Then, skysthelimit.org pitched their idea for a nonprofit to lots of donors who could fund this work before launching their program. skysthelimit.org also threw a launch event to attract attention in the community and let everyone know that they were open for business. skysthelimit.org’s founders emailed family and friends, asked them for referrals, built a website, created flyers, filmed a video with the first successful entrepreneurs in the program. All of this together helped get the word out!
Activity 4.1 - Learn how to sell to validate your business idea
Read about different sales tactics and pick which you will use to make sure there is a demand for your product or service.
Activity 4.2 - Learn how to sell for your product or service based business
Create a plan for how you are going to actually sell your first products or services.
Activity 4.3 - Complete the “Make Your First Sales Template”
Will you create pre-sales or hand out free samples? Many businesses can ask their first customers to pay them up front before they make their first product or services. This doesn’t work for every business so consider offering your product or service for free so that you can learn what works and what doesn’t faster!
You are now ready to move forward with the next steps for your business.
Check out our Pathway to Business Ownership to educate yourself and get more help to launch your business.
Ready for Next Steps?
By letting us know you’ve completed this Launch4 Guide, you may be eligible for our Friends and Family Fund!