How to Start a Brewery

how to start a brewery

In 2018, there were more than 7,450 breweries in the U.S.—well over than the historic high of 4,131 breweries in 1873, according to the Brewers Association. In such a crowded market, making good beer and opening the doors isn’t enough anymore.

But, the good news is, if all those people could start a brewery, then you can too—as long as you know what you’re getting into and have a solid business plan for your brewery.

From running coolant pipes to navigating regulations, starting a brewery is a messy, convoluted job full of twists, turns, delays, setbacks, and surprises—but it’s also one heck of a ride.

In this guide to starting a brewery, we’re going to talk with brewers who’ve been-there-done-that, and we’ll get insights from experts in supporting industries such as insurance and finance, as well as discuss regulatory issues.

While it may be your dream to brew great beer, this guide will help introduce you to the business side of craft beer.

This guide will cover the seven essential steps to starting a brewery:

  1. Planning a brewery
  2. Finding a brewery location
  3. Choosing brewery equipment
  4. Building relationships with vendors and the local community
  5. Funding a brewery
  6. Obtaining insurance before opening a brewery
  7. Keeping regulations in mind when starting a brewery

Step 1: Planning a brewery

No matter its size or age, every brewery was once a startup.

ColdFire Brewing, a 10-barrel brewery, came online in December 2015, founded by Dan Hughes and his brother Stephen. They’re constantly hard at work on business development and recipe formulation, navigating bureaucracy, and enduring the inevitable delays that come with brewery construction, equipment delivery, and regulatory approval.

“We began to get serious about starting our brewery several years ago, and we were still working out details as we prepared to open our doors,” says Dan.

The Hughes brothers developed a solid business plan and built a core team to bring their vision to reality. Backed by a team of private local investors, ColdFire gained access to additional capital through an SBA loan.

The ColdFire Brewing team meets to plan marketing.

The ColdFire Brewing team meets to plan marketing.

While Dan heads up operations, his brother Stephen is head brewer, and their team also includes directors of finance and brand, respectively.

Watch your finances

Having a key financial person in place has helped them get better at monitoring cash flow and their overall financial status and needs, says Dan. Most small businesses and startups that are looking to grow—hire a new employee, or buy a new piece of equipment, or open a new location—need to think hard about cash flow, or making sure they have enough money in the bank to meet payroll and other financial obligations.

Review your business plan regularly

Committing to regularly reviewing your business plan and financials is a good step toward making more informed, smarter spending decisions, that can have a big impact on a new business’s long term viability. Forcasting, and then comparing your actual results against your projections on a regular basis, will help you spot any issues before it’s too late to do something.

If you don’t have a business plan yet, don’t skip it

If you don’t have a business plan for your brewery just yet, don’t skip it. Planning is proven to help you grow 30 percent faster. Plus, if you’re going to seek a loan or investment, your funders will expect you to have one. If you’re not sure what you should include in your plan, check out brewery sample business plans on Bplans. You can download them for free to help you get started. Here are two of our most popular example plans:

Sedibeng Breweries

About the plan: Sedibeng Breweries is a medium-scale brewery located in the growing industrial center of Selebi Phikwe, Botswana. Initial plans are to produce three main lines of beer. These products will be distributed to remote yet extremely viable areas, where the market is appreciative of readily-available, good-quality brew.

Martin Cove Brewing Company

About the plan: Located in Medford, Oregon, Martin Cove Brewing Company has been a successful microbrewery for the past three years. This year, Martin Cove Brewing Company will gross $520,000 in sales. With this money, they plan to expand its distribution to selected metro areas within the state of Oregon. In addition, they will introduce a new product, a traditional German Marzen-style lager.

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Dan Hughes’ advice on starting a brewery

1. The most important detail is defining a clear vision

“We know what kind of brewery we want to create and we have tried to let that vision drive all of our decisions.”

2. There has to be a commitment to the craft

“We find this opportunity to open a brewery a privilege, and we certainly aren’t doing this for the money. In fact, we’re taking a significant pay cut to have the privilege to open a brewery. We do so with a vision toward creating a quality brewery that honors the traditions of those that have gone before us.”

3. Every relationship is important

“When you build a few good relationships, suddenly they open the door for more relationships, and that pattern has only continued to hold true.

“Our bank had heard of us before we ever met them, and our landlord had been approached by other breweries in the past. Fortunately, we have always found it important to treat people well and listen to good people who have good advice. That has ended up serving us well.”

4. Prepare for license and regulation challenges

“They take time—so much time—to file, follow through, and gain approval. Having been planning this for so long, we kind of knew what we were getting into and have thus far been able to get through most of these challenges to-date. But they all take so much time.

“With that said, the federal license, or TTB [Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau] permit, was the longest and most arduous. The more complex the operating structure of a business, the more information and time required.”

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Step 2: Finding a brewery location

From land use to public taste, the location where you plan on opening a brewery is a crucial decision. Generally, brewers want to set up shop in their own backyard.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What are the relevant local and state laws affecting breweries? (And there will be plenty—brewing is one of the most regulated industries in the country.)
  • Where in your area will you find land or a building with the right zoning, size, facilities, and access for bringing in raw materials, attracting customers, and/or shipping out finished beer for distribution?
  • What local favorites will you need on tap to appeal to the market, and where can you innovate to stand out?
  • Will you only brew ales, or will you also make space for lagers, a barrel-aging program, and so on?
  • What type of brewery will you be: production brewery or brewpub?
  • How wide do you want to grow production and distribution, or do you want to focus on selling over your own bar?
  • Do you want to scale to multiple locations?
  • What construction will be needed to get the doors open on your first location?

All these questions and more will influence the right space for your brewery. However, the main thing is to start with the right space—and one that will be bigger than what you think you will need, says Jason Jordan of Propel Insurance.

“I cannot tell you how many brewers I have talked to in year two to three in business,” he says, “and they all said their biggest regret was not getting a bigger space that they could grow into.”

However, brewers also need to be willing to take a hard look at where they want to locate and do their homework to make sure they can establish a successful brewery there. Word of mouth is no substitute for market research, says Ben Price, co-founder of Hard Knocks Brewing, a small brewpub in its second year of operation.

“The single biggest mistake I have made was locating my business in a town that could not care less about craft beer,” says Ben. He recommends brewers use data firms such as Insightics to see where and how people spend their money in an area.

“You’re looking for a number of 70 percent or more within five miles of the zip code you desire,” says Ben. “I made the mistake of trusting in word of mouth. You want locally oriented people, people who want a good product, made local.”

Tending the Hard Knocks Bar

Tending the Hard Knocks Bar.

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Step 3: Choosing brewery equipment

Your initial system will likely be seven to 15 barrels, but run your own numbers. Figure out how much you’ll need to have in production at a time to be profitable.

What you need to know about buying new

A new system might be subject to delays, especially if demand from other breweries is high, but you’ll be able to design to your needs and specifications, and you’ll have support when issues arise (and they will).

“You’ll probably start with a seven-barrel system, spend anywhere between $130,000-$175,000 new,” says Patrick McCarthy, who works in the financial sector and aids breweries with capital and business planning.

Is it a good idea to buy used brewing equipment?

A used system might be through the door quicker and might save you money up front, but make sure you’ve thoroughly reviewed the system and seller—and remember that when you have problems, you’ll likely be on your own to fix them.

“Used systems are almost as expensive, so you’re really not saving anything, but you might get it sooner than ordering new. Some folks cut corners by ordering equipment made offshore. Many brewers avoid that due to perceived qualitative differences,” says Patrick.

How Ninkasi Brewing grew their brewing capacity

Ninkasi Brewing began in 2006 on a 15-barrel system and produced 1,650 barrels. In 2018, Ninkasi sold 90,000 barrels and was the thirty-fifth largest brewery in the U.S., and the fourth largest in its home state of Oregon, after powerhouse brands such as Deschutes, Rogue, and Full Sail. In April, 2019, the brewery sold its majority stake to a larger organization.

Co-founders Jamie Floyd and Nikos Ridge leased their startup system from a family running a German restaurant out of a former brewpub. While brewing and self-distributing their beer, Floyd and Ridge purchased property where they could relocate and expand operations. They moved into their current location with a 20-bbl brew system, three 60-bbl fermenters, and one 20-bbl fermenter. A year later, they replaced the 20-bbl brew system with a 30-bbl system, followed by another expansion a year and a half later to 50 barrels. Today they use an 80-100-bbl brew system, but the 50-bbl is still online for special brewing projects and research-and-development beers.

“We continually planned for growth and capacity, catching up the entire first seven years of being open,” says Jamie. “In a way, it’s easy to build out in this way, as you always need something, so it becomes more about the funding and the logistics.

“We continually made beer while switching out new systems and adding capacity and infrastructure. One of our greatest strengths was our ability to work around the construction we were doing.”

Today, Nikasi has some serious brewing facilities.

Today, Ninkasi has some serious brewing facilities.

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Step 4: Building relationships with vendors and the local community

Starting a microbrewery and brewing great beer is not a solo endeavor. It is a constantly coordinated, ongoing set of relationships with customers, government officials, craftspeople, and your internal people.

Find trusted advisors

“The number one piece of advice I give new brewery clients that are in startup stages is to engage your main business vendors early on in the process and find the right people to serve your needs,” says Jason Jordan.

“You need trusted advisors that are proven in the beverage industry and have a decent portfolio of brewery clients. This would be the architect, business lawyer, intellectual property attorney, banker, insurance broker, real estate agent, label maker, hop grower, malt supplier, tank fabricator, and accountant.”

Hire the right team

Relationships and keeping an ear to the ground are key not only to establishing your brewery, but in how and when you grow. Jason Carriere, the owner of Falling Sky Fermentation Supply Shop and co-founder of Falling Sky Brewing, has gone through many twists and turns since Falling Sky opened its first Eugene, Oregon brewpub location in 2012. Since then they’ve opened a second location, a pourhouse that focuses on food production, and a third location, a pub and pizzeria on the University of Oregon campus.

“I’d been running the homebrew shop for a while,” says Jason. “I’d already seen several of my best employees move on to become brewers around town, so I thought I’d look seriously at making that expansion ourselves, keep the team together, make it so homebrewers who worked at the shop could have a way internally to go pro.”

The new Falling Sky Brewery even opens up onto a garden.

The new Falling Sky Brewery even opens up onto a garden.

In their first year of production, Falling Sky produced 800 barrels, and they produced 1,300 in 2015—and that’s while getting underway on construction for their third location, moving the homebrew shop, and expanding their current brewhouse.

Know your customers and your financials

Jason believes strongly in “knowing who your customers are and what they want,” balanced with skill and consistent craftsmanship instead of novelty. “I’m not a big believer in recipes, or special combinations of hops no one has thought of,” he explains. “Breweries don’t really win customers with one beer, but they can lose customers with one beer.”

When it comes to growth, Jason advises a thorough understanding of the brewery’s production numbers and financials, balanced with an on-the-ground understanding of daily operations.

That then informs your instincts and intuition. And all this must be tied together with ongoing communications with staff, business partners, vendors, and other key people affecting your business.

“You wouldn’t want to expand if your brewery is at 60 percent capacity and you have empty tanks sitting around,” Jason says. “You also have to have your pulse in the community and the industry to know whether or not you’re saturating certain things, or if you hear about people wanting your beer but not getting it. But it’s all about how we’re going to expand. Just because someone in a market wants your beer, doesn’t mean it’s part of your strategy.”

Be open to opportunities

You also have to be aware of opportunities that arise, though, even if it’s unexpected—and that brings intuition, opportunity, and relationships back in play.

“We had no five-year plan to open a third restaurant, but when we got approached by the University of Oregon, we listened,” says Jason. “It was one of those things where we didn’t really want to expand, but it was far enough in the future that we could plan it through without a rush. Our second location was more rushed.

We were busting at the seams at the brewpub, especially with the kitchen, so the deli expansion was more to let the pub do more of what it needed to do again. The second location had a bigger kitchen, cold storage, etc., to handle making fries and ketchup. It was a combination of good opportunity and vision.”

But that doesn’t mean it was easy. “It was scary, I’m not gonna lie,” says Jason. “When we first did the deli, it looked like a very bad idea for a few months. But it turned around.”

Don’t second guess—trust your team

Jason and his team are not prone to regrets or second-guessing. Not that everything has always been easy or rosy, but he credits solid planning and teamwork with being able to make key moves without looking back and wondering.

For Falling Sky, that includes a strategic decision to focus on location sales instead of wider distribution. “I’m not a big second-guesser. When I make a decision, it’s because I feel confident about that decision, and I’ve thought through the consequences and I’ve come to terms with the consequences of choosing one option over another,” says Jason. “I’m confident in our decision to focus on selling beer over our bar versus the shelf wars and SKU wars.”

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Step 5: Funding a brewery

Sure, at its heart beer is made from water, malt, yeast, and hops—but there’s an invisible yet crucial fifth ingredient: money.

Form a relationship with the right bank

Raising capital for any business can be a difficult process, and breweries are no exception. In his various roles in the financial industry, Patrick McCarthy has most recently worked as Vice President Commercial Relationship Manager with Bank of the Cascades, which has 35 companies from the craft beverage industry as customers.

Over the years, institutions he’s worked with have directly banked six breweries, a cidery, and a kombucha producer, and Patrick has also advised dozens of startup breweries, from reviewing business plans to helping prospective brewers network with key people.

Patrick sees his role not just as analyzing a business plan or crunching numbers. “You want to be helpful and move the whole business along,” he says. “If a business comes into the bank that’s wonderful, but at the least you’ve made some friends.”

Here is Patrick’s overall advice for startups to make sure they’re not only brewing quality beer, but keeping solid books:

1. Banks are not consistent sources of startup capital

A new brewery is probably not going to a bank for a startup loan (banks usually come into play for capital to fund growth once a brewery is more established). Friends and family are the most common backers, and many startups bootstrap. Some cities, such as Portland, Oregon also have what Patrick calls “beer angels”—private angel investors who understand the beer business and invest in select breweries and cideries.

Loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) can also be a good avenue, but from “bank to bank the SBA program is used differently,” says Patrick. “Some bankers have a great deal of interest, knowledge, and depth, and can be a champion for a startup brewery. But a lot of banks look at breweries as restaurants and avoid them, or want to see them in business three to four years before they invest.”

2. Be realistic about your business potential

When Patrick looks at a new business, here are some of the things he looks for to inform his sense of the brewery’s chance of success:

  • Do they know how to make good beer? Have they made good beer elsewhere? Won awards?
  • What is their brewing experience? If someone’s been a garage brewer for five years, that’s different from someone who’s been brewing at an established brewery for the past 15 years.
  • Do they have good credit? If not, why not?
  • How much skin do they have in the game financially? Will they be able to handle delays? Do they have access to contingency capital?

3. There’s no one model—or one business plan—for breweries

Each brewery will have its own unique business model and business plan. Before opening a brewery, prospective brewers have to figure out the right business model for their plans, location, interests, startup resources, and long-term vision.

Typical models include taphouses, production breweries, and full brewpubs. There’s also a new phenomenon called an “alternating proprietorship,” says Patrick, where brewers brew part-time on someone else’s system.

Within any model, there are things breweries can focus on to stand out and increase revenue. “Some brewers emphasize food in part because the food dollar can translate into more dollars profit for beer,” says Patrick. “Managing your own distribution is ideal. There are overhead tradeoffs, but I’m seeing it more and more.” Exports are becoming another component, he observes, with international markets such as Japan becoming thirstier and thirstier for American craft beer.

“Everyone’s trying to find what they can afford, what works,” he explains. “Merely making good beer isn’t enough anymore. There’s way too much good beer out there to stand out immediately.”

Even if you’re not seeking funding, it’s still a really good idea to create a Lean Business Plan that you can use to help navigate your business as challenges and opportunities arise. The benefit of a Lean Plan is that it’s meant to be reviewed and changed regularly, so you’re not just taking a snapshot of your business and goals once, and then shelving it for five years.

4. Cash must be available to cover costs and offset delays

On an industry-wide basis, for small to medium-sized breweries, the ratio between sales and fixed assets is typically for every $6 of sales, a brewery has $1 of fixed assets.

Estimate brewery startup costs

Start with estimating your startup costs. A new and growing brewery’s biggest costs tend to be the brewing system (e.g., $130,000–$175,000 for a new seven-barrel system) and tenant improvements to the property (which in Patrick’s experience in Oregon, including Portland markets, has typically ranged $200,000–$350,000).

“It’s expensive to alter a commercial space that doesn’t have drains, certain water lines, the required electrical, ventilation, etc.,” he explains. “Many also put in a back bar, seating, etc.” Costs vary by scope, location, and market.

Anticipate delays and setbacks

“Problems with licensing or permitting with the city that cause delay of opening can be extremely expensive,” says Patrick. “Every day they can’t pour their own beer is catastrophic financially. That’s the biggest risk I’ve seen in startup stages: timing.”

Delays are a reality in startup breweries. Brew system fabrication and delivery can take longer than the agreed timetable. Regulatory or permit approvals can drag on for months. Construction can hit unexpected snags. Make sure your financial reserves can handle delays and extra costs.

“Seasonality matters too,” explains Patrick. “You want to have the doors open when the beer-drinking season gets started. Winter months are usually the slowest for a brewery. You want to be open by April or May. Ideally, that’s not always in your control due to startup delays, but starting with April to May you want to operate during those busier months.”

5. Treat your accounting with as much respect as your brewing

“I’ve passed on a brewer that didn’t respect the accounting process,” says Patrick. “The brewers are focused on their first love, which is making delicious beer. Accounting isn’t necessarily the top and foremost in everyone’s mind, but in this situation, it was irresponsibly ignored. You can’t let the accounting take a distant back seat.”

Just as quality control is essential for good beer, you have to make sure the books are balanced and the financials are being tracked well. “Accounting keeps you out of trouble,” says Patrick. “It helps you plan, helps you get a return, and ultimately helps you generate revenue.”

Metrics: Know your numbers

Okay, so understanding your financials is important, but what do you need to track in order to understand the financial health of your brewery?

Here are the numbers, metrics, and other indicators Patrick says brewers should monitor:

  • Breweries should typically break even or generate a small profit by the first six to 12 months of operation. “They’re at least breaking even, but they’re not paying themselves much yet.”
  • Between 12 to 18 months, there should be a 10 to 15 percent bottom-line profitability. “If I’m used to seeing all models being profitable two years out by at least 10 to 15 percent,” says Patrick, “then if you’re not, I need to understand why or how you’re going to get there.”
  • Beyond that, examine year-round profitability on a quarterly basis, with a focus on being profitable annually, and at least breaking even quarterly.
  • If food is part of the business, are food costs (food-cost-percent and food labor) being contained at 20 to 25 percent of food revenues?
  • Are you at capacity or will you be at capacity soon? What do you need for equipment for the next six months to keep up with demand?
  • Cash flow. What is your financial liquidity, especially at the end of each quarter and at the beginning of the fourth quarter, given that winter is often a slower season?
  • What is your leverage, the ratio between total liabilities and net worth? “There’s no magic number,” says Patrick, “but the greater the leverage the greater the risk in the business model. If someone is exceeding three-to-one, two-to-one, I have to take a harder look at it. Sometimes that can be a fleeting ratio and adjusts. If the leverage is pushed out, I need to understand why. Is it losses? Is it mismanagement?”
  • Is it time to scale? If the balance sheet is showing that you have $7 to 8 sales for every $1 assets (and $6 sales for every $1 assets is typical), Patrick says it’s time to examine scaling.

As you find your stride in a profitable bottom line, you’ll also examine increasing efficiency. For example, as production volume increases, breweries typically purchase a grain silo. “They can buy in bulk, easily cut grain expense by two-thirds,” says Patrick. “Grain silos tend to pencil out quickly. It’s an exciting step up.”

The same thinking applies across the brewery. “At some point when you get larger, you’ve got more money to squeeze that remaining five percent profit out of your beer.”

Putting together a sales forecast and a cash flow forecast that you monitor at least monthly can be really helpful. Running a business or Lean Plan review meeting that also covers your financials is a great way to hold yourself accountable.

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Step 6: Obtaining insurance before opening a brewery

Breweries need various insurance, just like any other business. A brewery with a large employee roster and a fleet of self-distribution vehicles will have different needs from a three-person production-only startup. Find an insurance agent you can trust who preferably has experience working with breweries or wineries.

No, insurance is not as sexy as deciding which new “it” hop is going to be the feature of your new IPA, but if a brewery doesn’t keep current on their insurance needs, says Jason Jordan at Propel Insurance, then they are asking for trouble.

Note: Insurance and bond requirements vary by state, locality, and type of brewery, so make sure you’re talking with your insurance agent and even your lawyer for what’s right for your operation and where you’re planning on starting a brewery.

The biggest concern is the lease contract with the landlord, says Jordan. “That can be boilerplate or have a myriad of different insurance coverage and limit requirements to comply with.”

Here are other areas of coverage Jordan says a brewery might need, which will vary depending on the operation:

  • Business income and extra expense coverage
  • Backup of sewer and drains
  • Equipment breakdown coverage (depending on the age of their brew system)
  • Property insurance on all equipment and business property
  • Key man insurance via a buy-sell agreement (if the brewery has multiple partners)
  • Market valuation coverage (for offerings such as a barrel aging program)
  • Product recall coverage “is sometimes a concern”
  • Crime coverage for theft of money and securities
  • Commercial auto insurance is key if expanding into or starting to self-distribute product
  • Workers comp is mandatory if employees are on the payroll, which also necessitates employment practices liability insurance (known as EPL insurance or EPLI) to cover hiring and firing practices

A brewery’s most common claims tend to relate to workers comp injuries, such as employees straining a muscle or hurting their back lifting heavy items, says Jordan. Lost product from a power outage or mechanical breakdown of a glycol chiller is another common problem, as are backups of sewers and drains (causing damage to the space and interruption of business, equating to lost revenue.

Luckily, once you are up and running with your insurance, “the needs don’t change a lot from a brewery or brewpub that produces 500 barrels a year to 25,000 barrels a year,” says Jordan. “The biggest concern is keeping up with values on equipment for new purchases and expansions to make sure the brewery is adequately insured at the time of a loss. Brewery owners are notorious for brewing good beer and not for keeping up to speed on calling their agent to make changes.” Stay on top of it to help keep your costs lower in the long run.

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Step 7: Keeping regulations in mind when starting a brewery

Of course, there are laws and regulations—and brewing is a highly regulated industry. Your brewery will need approvals and compliance with relevant local, state, and federal authorities, such as your state’s alcohol oversight organization and the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB.

In Oregon, for example, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) mandates a producer carry a $300,000 limit for liquor liability. At the federal level, the TTB requires all new breweries that want to offer beer for sale to submit a Brewer’s Notice. The TTB has a Brewers Qualification webpage outlining what you’ll need to do when starting a brewery to have the proper federal approvals.

“No matter how much you think you know […] you will have more to learn,” says Jamie Floyd, co-founder of Ninkasi Brewing. “It changes and evolves and you have to know the people who are making the changes and you have to be ready to change as a company. If the FDA decides we need to put nutritional info on our bottles you have to do it. It’s the law. You will have to figure it out and pay for it.”

Get to know your legislators

Jamie also recommends getting to know your legislators at all levels of government and working with trade groups that try to update and influence state and federal policies related to the regulation and taxation of beer.

The growth of the industry is also leading to regulations being modified state to state, says Patrick, “if not to encourage craft beverages then to make it a more viable business model.”

Be ready for compliance and paperwork-based delays

In the meantime, compliance is not necessarily easy or fast. “Some of it is more the tediousness of the paperwork. Make one small change, file everything over again,” says Jason Carriere, co-founder of Falling Sky Brewing.

“TTB is known for a lack of timely responses. We submitted our application for the third expansion nearly two months ago, and we’re not even supposed to call and check the status for ninety days. Then when you do call, you sit on hold for two hours to find out where your application is in someone’s stack.”

Don’t forget federal obligations

Breweries also need the Brewer’s Notice. “That’s a brewery’s permission from the federal government to brew commercially,” says Jason. “It involves taxes, a bond you have to pay that serves as insurance for paying beer taxes. You complete an environmental impact statement for water and environment. It’s permission to make an alcoholic beverage and pay the taxes on it in the U.S.”

While starting a brewery requires lots of dedication, capital, vision, and red-tape navigation, it is also a booming industry and brewers who have a solid plan and stay their course have a solid chance of success. “The numbers are proving themselves: Craft beverages are here to say,” says Patrick. “There’s bound to be a slowdown eventually, but there’s one to two breweries a day opening across the country. People want it, and if people want it, people will supply it.”

And that someone could be you.

Editor’s note: This article originally published in 2016. It was updated in 2019.

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Anthony St. Clair

Anthony St. Clair is a business copywriter, author of the Rucksack Universe travel fantasy series, and a craft beer writer specializing in Oregon. Learn more at anthonystclair.com.



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Looking for a Business Idea? Think About Common Complaints You Hear in Your Life.

This entrepreneur solved a common problem for women and has since used that solution to build her business.


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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The Bra Lab co-founder Gina Crevi noticed how many women complained about the comfort and designs of current bras. As a natural problem solver, she created a new design that makes all pieces of the bra interchangeable, allowing for a more ideal and comfortable fit. She has also used unique material to assure that feel and touch is appropriate for the skin.

Crevi has used social media to reach a wider range of women who are unhappy with their current bras. In doing so, she has quickly increased her target market. With a focus on customer service, Crevi and her co-founder have analyzed data and other forms of client feedback to revamp Bra Lab inventory. Doing so has guaranteed that the company remains strong and innovative without stagnating.

Learn more about Crevi and The Bra Lab in the full video interview below.

Related: How This Entrepreneur Is Improving Women’s Health

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How to Come up with Hundreds of Business Ideas

come up with business ideas

This article is part of our Business Startup Guide—a curated list of our articles that will get you up and running in no time! It’s also part of our Bplans guide to coming up with a great idea.

For some people, coming up with ideas is as easy as spotting chewing gum on the sidewalk. For others, it’s nearly impossible.

For me, new idea generation isn’t just easy, it’s something I’m doing all the time and often without trying. I do not believe this is an innate ability, but rather a “skill” that I’ve learned and practiced over the entire course of my life.

While this “learning” has primarily been subconscious, as I’ve run into more and more people who struggle to come up with new ideas, I’ve made an effort to become conscious of how I do it and where I do it best. The fact that research on the subjects of creativity and innovation has become so popular certainly helps too.

I fully believe that anyone who puts in enough practice and who makes a conscious effort to notice problems and identify needs can improve their ability to come up with new ideas.

A brief bit of science before we dive into how to come up with ideas:

Good ideas are networks

The brain is largely composed of neurons—about 100 billion of them. Connected together, they form a nervous system that is capable of making decisions, sensing surroundings, and issuing commands to our body.

How we think, what we think, and what we’re capable of, are largely a consequence of the connections these neurons have made with one another.

plasticity and business ideas

Every feeling, every thought, every memory, and every sensation you have is a direct result of the signals that pass between the neurons in your brain.

In fact, something particularly interesting about the human brain is its ability to rewire these connections and to make new connections, regardless of age. Neuroscientists refer to this property as “plasticity.” And, the more experiences we have and the more changes in behavior or environment that we experience, the more plastic the brain becomes, or, the more capable of making new connections and rewiring old connections.

This is why, in our older years when most of us do less and use our brains less, we have a harder time remembering information and controlling bodily actions. Our brain has not stopped being plastic, but has simply fallen out of the habit of making new connections.

A similar difference exists for those in the habit of generating new ideas and those who aren’t. The more practice you get doing it, the better your brain will become at creating new connections. Simply put, the more active you keep your brain, the easier you will find it to come up with new, good ideas!

The perfect state of mind for idea creation

Steve Johnson, the author of “Where Good Ideas Come From,” has spent years researching and writing about this subject.

He believes that you are more likely to develop great ideas when:

  • You explore and experiment in different areas
  • You allow your idea to develop slowly, over time
  • You are exploring and open to the idea of serendipitous connections
  • You make mistakes
  • You look for new uses for old inventions
  • You build on platforms that have come before

If you read his book, it will become obvious fairly quickly that the environments you spend time in contribute to or detract from your ability to ideate.

“In order to create new connections, you need to place yourself in environments that actually mimic the neural networks of a mind exploring the boundaries of the adjacent possible.”

– Steve Johnson

When humans first organized themselves into dense settlements, innovation soared.

With the invention of agriculture, for the first time, humans began forming settled groups that numbered in the thousands. This meant that more connections with more people were possible and that a good idea could quickly spill over and take root in others’ minds.

If you keep this in mind as you work, live, and experiment, you’ll quickly realize that it’s a lot easier to come up with new ideas when you’ve got an influx of ideas coming your way in the first place. This doesn’t have to happen in a city, a university, or an environment full of people; it can just as easily happen if you’re interacting with ideas from many people online, in books, and across other modes of communication. The key is “connectedness.”

With this in mind, let’s move on to how you can actually go about coming up with business ideas.

1. Business ideas that solve problems

The easiest way to come up with business ideas is to solve the problems you have. The second easiest is to solve problems others have. These don’t have to be big solutions like Google search or Amazon—they could be much smaller.

One company that solves a big problem I have, thanks to owning cats that use the litter box a lot, is Fresh Step. Fresh Step has created a line of “scoopable” cat litter, which means that when the cat does its business, the litter clumps together and I can scoop it out no problem. Ultimately, it means I have to change the sand less often and that cleaning up is a lot easier.

Another of my favorite products that solves a problem for me are my Bose headphones (mind you, I don’t have this fancy version). That’s because they’re fitted with noise-canceling technology. This means a lot when you’re working in a busy office, or when you’re taking public transport. Hello world, goodbye world. You literally have to be tapped on the shoulder to hear people coming. When I first tried these headphones on, I felt like I was underwater. Today, they’re a necessity.

Many of the products you have become used to using were actually invented to solve a problem, including Thermoflasks to keep drinks and food warm, sunglasses to protect from the glare, security alarms to alert you that someone has broken in, fire hydrants to put out a fire before the whole place goes up, toothbrushes to keep your teeth clean, and dental floss to fish out unwanted food. The list is literally endless.

All you have to do is get good at identifying problems

Once you’ve realized that each of your own frustrations is actually an idea in the making, you’re actually going to start having fun!

One of the frustrations that I wish there was a product for is something you probably think is too obvious—a jewelry stand. Because I have so much jewelry, I have to stick thumbtacks in the wall to hold it all up. There is no stand that I have seen on the market to solve my problem—only small stands for a time long past when people bought fewer but more expensive items.

Today, I’d almost describe fashion as “disposable.” You buy something, you wear it a few times and set it aside, partly because things like costume jewelry have become so cheap. Because this is true, people that enjoy jewelry accrue a lot of it and, as you can see in the picture below, don’t have a place to put it.

business ideas solve problems

My problem? Too much jewelry and no stand to fit it all.

Another good example of a company that has come with a business idea by solving a problem is U.K. car insurance company ingenie.

For many young drivers, the cost of insurance just isn’t affordable. Ingenie has taken a rather clever approach to solve this problem. They’ve created a small black box that you fit into your car. As you drive, the box monitors your driving style, including things like braking, speed, acceleration, turns, and so on. Every 10 days, the box assigns you a score out of 100. The higher your score, the bigger the discount you’ll receive on your insurance policy come the three month review period.

Ingenie claims to help customers (often students) save up to 50 percent of what they would otherwise be paying. And, there’s the added bonus of encouraging people to drive better. Very clever.

I’ll leave you with one last example: consider GoPro, the camera company that got started in 2002. Founder Nick Woodman had recently been on a surfing trip to Indonesia, and was unable to find amateur photographers who could get close enough to get good action-shot pictures of him surfing, or who could obtain quality equipment at an affordable price.

The solution to the problem? The GoPro camera—a wide-angle lens HD camera capable of taking excellent video and good action shots, and which could go where other affordable cameras couldn’t. Snap one into a case and you can literally do anything with it, from scuba diving and extreme mountain biking to flying (and crashing) a model airplane.

GoPro and business idea problem solving

Footage shot by a GoPro camera attached to a model airplane in Derbyshire, England.

As you go about your daily tasks, be they at home or work, try to get in the mindset of noticing the things that frustrate you.

If you’ve been in a particular industry for a while, you may have good insight into this, as there may be things that have been a problem for a long time. This is why venture capitalists like Boris Wertz see value in investing in those that have a lot of experience in the market they’re pitching their idea for. He calls it “the secret of the market.” It’s this secret, or those problems, that you have to identify.

For me, sitting at work, it’s having to stay at my desk—because that’s the only place I have two monitors—that irks me. A lot of the time, I need to leave my desk to do writing in a quieter area. But, without a second screen, writing and research don’t go hand in hand. I like to have my research up on the one screen and do my writing on the other. Moving away from my desk is always a sacrifice. The solution to this problem would, of course, be a laptop with two screens—now, who is willing to help me start the company?

Even if you work for someone else, try to get into the habit of finding the pain points. It baffles me when companies have products that their own employees don’t use. Palo Alto Software, for example, uses their own product, LivePlanto manage and keep track of key business metrics. If they didn’t do this, they wouldn’t fully understand a user’s pain points, or know if problems needed fixing. 

Once you get into the habit of finding problems, you’ll probably start to enjoy it. Remember, every problem is an opportunity for a new product, service, or company, especially if it’s a problem many others have too.

2. Solve things that may become problems

Solving problems that you currently have is not the only way to come up with new ideas. Why not think of solving problems that will exist, but don’t yet?

In this very futuristic sense, no one stands out quite so well here as Elon Musk. The ventures he undertakes, including Solar City and Tesla Motors, may make some scoff, but lack of fossil fuels will become a problem in the near future, and Elon is taking steps to fix that before it happens. This gives him the time to innovate, as he’s first in and it gives him market share. Good luck to others catching up!

If you think there’s not yet a market for your idea, you may just be able to create one by appealing to those that, like you, believe it will be a problem in the future.

At present, there are numerous potential problems with obvious solutions, including desalination plants for California, a state that is quickly drying up and running out of water, preventative medication for diseases that could become problems (like ebola), makeup and accessories to protect privacy when face recognition software really takes off, and breeding programs or nature reserves for animals that will become extinct without help.

3. Adapt to evolving needs

Physiological needs stay the same—the need for food, shelter, and water. Emotional needs tend to stand the same—often based on envy, greed, pride, and so on. What doesn’t stay the same are the products and services it takes to fulfill these needs.

The easiest products to market are also products that fulfill a real or contemporary need.

An example of a service that is everywhere now is cloud storage. You don’t hear as much these days about the growing CD or SD card market. You can still get them, but it’s increasingly easy to store everything online.

It’s a result of our very contemporary need to have access to our data, information, photos, music, and so on, no matter what device we’re on. Google sells cloud storage, as does Dropbox, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and a host of private companies that do as well.

4. Save people money

Yet another great way to come up with ideas is to think about saving people money. I buy 23-watt, energy-saving light bulbs because they’re affordable, not because they last for years and are actually the equivalent of a 100-watt lightbulb, though that’s an obvious bonus too.

I also continue filling my car with ARCO gas because it’s cheaper than Chevron and Shell, even though they’re owned by BP who was responsible for the horrible Gulf spill.

And, even though I am desperate for real-life bookstores not to vanish as a consequence of sites like Amazon, I still prefer to buy my books on Amazon because it saves me a lot of money. Were it up to me, I’d own a Tesla, I’d only buy books from independent bookstores, and I’d buy all my food at local farmers markets.

The truth is, unless you’re earning hundreds of thousands of dollars, pounds, or euros, it’s still a luxury to be able to make more “moral decisions” to buy from and support better companies and people. 

This is why, if you can figure out how to save people money, you’ll have a good business idea, new or not. Have a look at some of our money saving tips for further information on this topic.

5. Make people’s lives easier

A coffee machine with a timer that ensures there’s hot coffee when you wake; a central vacuum cleaning system that means only carrying a hose and brush around the house rather than the full unit; a smart thermostat like Nest that can figure out how to save you energy; shopping baskets placed at convenient intervals in the store in case you decide you want to purchase more than what your arms can hold—the list goes on and on.

Remember, coming up with business ideas doesn’t mean you have to focus on inventing new products or services. In fact, you could just as easily adapt an existing service or introduce a new benefit that makes peoples’ lives easier.

Kohls is one company that I return to time and time again because they’ve got a lifetime return policy. Even if you’ve lost your box and your receipt, they will take back a product and replace or refund it—your choice. Not only does this make me feel good about the company, but it keeps me coming back, despite the fact that their prices have obviously been marked up to account for this benefit. In short, it makes my life easy.

When I moved to Eugene, Oregon, I bought my microwave, kettle, toaster, and vacuum cleaner from Kohls, knowing that when they packed in, as electronics always do, I can take them back even if that’s in four years time when I’m guaranteed to have lost or thrown out my receipt.

There are always small ways you could be making things easier for yourself or for others. In fact, if you think about doing this on an ongoing basis, you may find you’re also able to release new products that are simply a version of the old product that makes someone’s life easier in some small way. The Garmin Nuvi is a step up on GPS predecessors that did not include live traffic updates. This small addition makes the product so much more useful and helpful. The Waze app takes it a step further—you only need your phone to get those real, drive-time traffic updates and reroutes. No separate GPS required.

Can you think of something—an action, product, service, or chore that could be adapted to make your life easier?

My Salomon trail running shoes do exactly this. Instead of normal laces, they have pull laces, which means they don’t come undone when I’m running. They don’t fit as well as my Asics, do but they mean I stop a lot less because for some reason tying laces has never been my strong point.

Start looking at the things around you and asking, how could this be easier? How could it be more intuitive, less stressful, and in general more pleasant to use? You may find that even the tiniest change will create something incredibly popular. The book, “The Design of Everyday Things,” can be a great starting point—check it out.

View our Guide to Starting a Business today!

6. Make chores or things that feel like tasks less unpleasant

In the online world, marketers and developers often look to “gamifying” software in order to make using it feel less onerous. That is, they come up with small ways to reward you for taking an action.

When I go running, I use the Strava app on my phone to track my distance and my average speed. Each time I beat a previous record, Strava gives me a trophy or some other small acknowledgment that makes me feel I’ve achieved something. Occasionally, this will push me to go a little bit farther, as once I’ve got into the habit of receiving trophy icons, it’s very difficult to do a run and not get one! The point is, it makes my run a little more fun.

What do you hate doing? How could you make it more enjoyable? Personally, I need someone to make hanging my clothes less of a pain, to make drinking water feel less like a “to do,” and to take all my bills and pay them for me. Know of any solutions?

7. Turn a hobby or something you’re passionate about into a business

For those of you already actively making or doing something, this may be an obvious next step. Or, if you’ve been doing something on a regular basis and find yourself good at it but don’t think of it as a hobby, perhaps you should think about how it could be a business.

Things that I do on a regular basis that could potentially be turned into business ideas include glass painting, writing, researching, jewelry making, fixing jewelry, illuminated lettering, social media training, and so on. Everyone has things they do on a regular or semi-regular basis. If you’re good at any of these things and are looking for business ideas, you just might want to think about turning your hobby into a business.

My sister’s boyfriend, Alex Alotte, is doing just this. When he worked as a bartender in the San Francisco bay area, he wanted to be able to use the best tools possible, not just because a craftsman’s tools are his pride, but also because they’re an important part of your image.

Alex catered for a number of reputable clients and companies, so this last part was especially important. Unfortunately, there weren’t a whole lot of quality muddlers on the market that he could choose from. Most were plastic, or they were made using boring wood, or they were poorly shaped, poorly finished—you name it. So, when a relative who was enrolled in a high school wood­ shop course heard about Alex’s hunt for the “perfect muddler,” he suggested Alex make one himself.

Given that he enjoyed using his hands and already felt he needed a hobby, Alex decided to make his own muddlers or to make, in his words, “high quality, beautiful, wooden muddlers that verge on art!”

He purchased a lathe and all manner of other tools and set to work. The result is a product that resembles a small bat or large pestle, which, when used by a bartender, serves a similar purpose to a pestle, grinding, mashing, or crushing herbs, sugars, fruits, and ice. Mojitos are made using muddlers, but hardly ever using ones like Alex has created, out of beautifully-figured wood.

While Alex is still refining his product, he’s already sold one of his “art” muddlers for 50 dollars. The next step will be setting up an online store and figuring out how to make this a full-time business.

Alex Alotte's handmade muddlers solved a business problem

Alex Alotte’s handmade muddlers.

If you find the idea of starting a business intimidating, start with something you know. This way, it might not feel like a business and you’ll enjoy the process as you go.

Be sure to think carefully about how you’ll feel if things do work out, however. You may find things suddenly become less enjoyable as you’ve got to start doing your hobby to meet customer demands or to pay the bills. Or, you might just need a new hobby!

8. Fulfill a need

Take any of the human needs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and think of the products and services created to meet these needs. Then, build on those.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Consider: As humans, we have a constant need to hydrate ourselves. If we did not drink water, we’d die. As such, we’ve had plumbing built into our houses and into all of the buildings we work in and visit.

But, despite being able to pop in almost anywhere to drink water for free, companies have come up with additional ways to meet this need. They’ve provided solutions for water on the go. They’ve provided solutions for flavored water on the go, for “vitamin” water, even CBD-infused water in some areas.

Move up to the love/belonging level on Maslow’s pyramid, and you get companies like Facebook that allow a user to feel a sense of connection with friends and family.

Move up another level to esteem and you get the likes of Tony Robbins with books and tapes on how to achieve your dreams, improve your self-confidence, and become the best.

It might feel a little manipulative looking at things this way, but many of the products you use already bear reference to these needs, including the toilet paper you buy (physiological), the locks you have on your door and the pepper spray you carry (safety), the birthday card you buy for your friend (love/belonging), the feedback you seek via recommendations on LinkedIn (esteem) and the tools and situations (like the Peace Corps) that allow you to practice your creativity, morality, or problem-solving skills (self-actualization).

9. Appeal to a base emotion

What makes you angry? What makes you happy? What makes you jealous?

Author and renowned copywriter Andy Maslen phrases appealing to base emotions a little differently; he says, exploit a base emotion. 

Think of it as you will (positive or negative), but fundamentally, Andy is right. According to him, humans often make decisions based on one of seven emotions.

These emotions are more popularly known as the seven deadly sins:

  • Pride
  • Envy
  • Lust
  • Greed
  • Gluttony
  • Sloth
  • Anger (wrath)

When you consider some of the services and products available to us today, you’ll quickly realize how many of them were invented to appeal to or take advantage of these emotions. Take beauty salons as an obvious example; how many people really need their nails buffed or their legs waxed to survive?

The fact is, that as a society, we have taken evolutionary reactions a step further. Where cleaning hair may previously have been an action we took in order to attract a mate and look better than the competition, today we’ve taken it to the extreme.

Now, rather than simply having products that get the job done, we have products that build on and create new needs, like salt spray to add volume to hair, hairspray to hold a style, dry shampoo for when you don’t have time to shower. Companies are able to sell these products because they’re still able to exploit our base needs.

I have very fine hair, so salt spray and volumizing shampoo is an easy sell. Oil, not so much—however, for my friends with really thick, bushy hair, oils are the easy sell. All of this is exploiting our pride. After all, none of these products are really necessary.

Take a look at those seven deadly sins and see if you can think of how products and services you use on a regular basis are exploiting those needs. Perhaps you’ll even start picking up on how advertisers do the same!

10. Experience more

It’s true that the more you do and the more you experience, the more material you will have at your disposal to be able to create new ideas or stitch together seemingly disparate ideas.

In fact, Bill Gates believes so strongly in the power of serendipity in order to come up with new ideas, that he frequently allots time to read books on a number of different subjects in a short amount of time.

Nirmalya Kumar, professor of marketing at the London Business School, knows how important it is to be curious and to look outside of your own business or industry in order to come up with new ideas.

In this video interview below, he says that if he did not read broadly and try to find connections, he would always feel he was going to write or say the same thing as everyone else. Primarily reading outside of business helps him come up with new ideas and draw new correlations between topics.

According to Nirmalya, “Intelligence and raw knowledge are overrated. It’s more important to have diverse interests.”

His discussion with interviewer Matt Symonds is so interesting; I encourage you to watch it if you have the time.

The other simple things you can do to make coming up with ideas easier is to simply do more. This is how I come up with new topics to write about, new case studies or people to mention, and new things to say. If I didn’t do this, I’d be limited to those things I know. Doing things and reading things that differ from my “usual” activities hopefully gives me more interesting stories to share!

11. Steal others’ ideas

There is no shame in this. In fact, most good ideas are built upon someone else’s idea.

The dissertation that I ended up submitting for my MA program actually grew out of the seed of a story that my sister had written while in high school. I liked her idea so much that during my undergraduate degree I built on the idea.

Take J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter. Don’t tell me the Death Eaters weren’t modeled off the Ku Klux Klan, and that the spiders in the Forbidden Forest didn’t bear reference to Lord of the Rings, or that J. K. Rowling didn’t use myths as a basis from which to create the strange and fascinating creatures in her books. In fact, even the entirely fictional game of Quidditch has origins in the idea that witches ride broomsticks. She simply built on this idea.

I’ll leave you with this final thought from Albert Einstein: “Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”

How do you come up with ideas?

There are so many different ways to do this; I’ve only mentioned a few. However, I hope that through these examples, you’ll be able to come up with your own ideas or to improve on others’ ideas.

Still looking for more business ideas? Check out the Bplans guide to coming up a great idea. Once you think you’ve found a solid idea to start with, check out this article on how to know if you have a good idea. And, this free downloadable idea checklist will help you think through every aspect of your potential business idea, including how to test it out.

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Head, Heart, and Hands: 3 Essentials for Startup Success

startup success

This article is part of our Business Startup Guide—a curated list of our articles that will get you up and running in no time!

Starting up a business requires a lot of different steps.

First-time entrepreneurs and small business founders often feel anxious when they think about all the factors that play into getting their idea off the ground.

Plus, it can seem like success or failure hinges on finding deep-pockets funders, expert mentors, ample press coverage, and other “champions.”

But the truth is, you already possess some of the most important assets you’ll need to achieve success. These are nothing less than your personal faculties—the awesome power of your own head, your own heart, and your own hands.

In other words, much of your potential for success will be determined by:

  1. The quality of your idea
  2. The strength and sincerity of your belief in it
  3. Your effort to make it a reality

Succeed with your head: The impact of innovative ideas

Big or small, every successful business starts with an innovative idea.

Nike was born when Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman recognized the hidden potential of a waffle iron to improve soles for running shoes. Howard Schultz brought the espresso bar concept from Italy to the United States and grew Starbucks into a global phenomenon. And when Jeff Bezos started Amazon in 1994, many people had never even heard of something called the internet.

True, your business aspirations may be on a more modest scale than these world-famous brands. Nevertheless, your first step is to come up with an innovative idea.

But where to begin? Tim Berry, the founder of Palo Alto Software and Bplans, says there is no better starting point than looking in the mirror. Each of us is a unique individual. Within ourselves, we each carry the seeds of entrepreneurial success—concepts that interest us, questions that intrigue us, skills that set us apart, and an internal sense that some things could be done differently and better.

It’s good to have role models in business, but you should not try to mimic someone else’s success. Successful businesses are always built from the special aptitudes and unique insights of the people who founded them. Your truly innovative idea will be as one-of-a-kind as you are.

The Lean Business Plan Template

Succeed with your heart: The power of positive belief

To bring your idea to fruition, you must genuinely believe in it.

Good luck persuading others to invest if you can’t convey your own enthusiasm and confidence in your idea. An idea for a business might seem “great,” but if it fails to ignite your sense of passion, it probably isn’t the right one for you. Go back to the drawing board and come up with an idea you can truly commit to.

A secure and persevering spirit will be an essential factor in your success. Trust that you will adapt to changes; learn to conquer fear and approach uncertainty with confidence. Become fiercely committed to seeing your goals through.

For example, if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur who feels “mathematically challenged” (and many of us do), then you may feel intimidated by financial forecasting and fall into a pattern of prioritizing other tasks. You may tell yourself you’re “too busy” tending to outside obligations or allow yourself to get bogged down in other details of ongoing business planning.

Sometimes we engage in such behaviors just to procrastinate. At other times we are actually creating preemptive excuses for the failure we fear is inevitable. If left unchecked, negative belief can grow into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Freeing yourself of negativity will require a conscious effort. Take note of the goals you tend to put off and the productive tasks you habitually avoid. Ask yourself why. As you learn to identify the negative beliefs that are impeding your progress, you will feel empowered to begin changing them.

Use tools that can help you manage the challenging aspects of your business. For example, if finances are challenging and you notice that you avoid reviewing them, use a business planning and ongoing financial management tool with a dashboard so you can see where you are without getting bogged down in spreadsheets.

If you need to learn more about digital marketing, take an online class—just take small steps toward the things that seem overwhelming. You don’t have to solve everything all in one day. Small accomplishments can mean a lot when you’re trying to get out of a procrastination rut.

Succeed with your hands: The effectiveness of effort

The best ideas and most heartfelt belief are of little value without the resolve to take action and work hard.

You will sometimes hear people explain a business leader’s success by giving credit to “good luck.” People who talk like this have little knowledge or practical experience starting a  business.

If you believe in succeeding through perseverance, you have the right frame of mind to do what it takes to make your business grow. Those who believe in success through luck might be better served to buy lottery tickets. In business, there is no such thing as luck; you achieve success because you are willing to work hard for it.

People who are accustomed to working hard are less inclined to feel overwhelmed by challenges. They are eager to acquire new skills because they can quickly put them to good use. And contrary to the image of the “head in the clouds” visionary, you will probably find that your most inspired thinking actually occurs when you are engaged in productive work. Research even indicates that hard-working people tend to live longer than take-it-easy types.

Thomas Edison famously said, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Much has changed since Edison’s day, but sweat equity is still the most effective kind of startup capital.

Practical ways to get started

If you’ve been thinking about starting a business but you haven’t yet taken the leap, there are a few ways you can position yourself for success.

1. If you have a business idea, write a quick business plan—a Lean Plan

If you’ve heard of the business model canvas idea, Lean Planning is similar but ultimately more useful. You can download the Bplans Lean Plan Template to help you get started.

2. Validate your idea and make sure that it’s one worth pursuing

Passion is important, but so are the details.

Use your Lean Plan to help you think through your ideal target market, the specifics on your product or service, and whether you’ll need to seek a loan or private investment. This idea validation checklist can help you think through every aspect.

3. Make sure you take care of the details

When you’re ready to start a business, you’ll need to think about registering your business’s legal structure, doing market research, finding office space if you need it, developing a website for an online business—and more!

Use this startup checklist—it will guide you through every aspect you’ll need to consider. And if you have trouble staying on track, read and then follow along with this guide to starting a business in 30 days.

As you get your startup or small business up and running, don’t be afraid to reach out to your network for support. It can also be helpful to find a mentor. SCORE provides free business mentorship from experts who have been where you are and want to see you succeed. Good luck!

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