It doesn’t take much to start a small business, you can literally start one from your garage or a spare bedroom and it can be done for less than $100. Also, and this is a main sticking point that most folks get held up on when they are trying to start their own small businesses, you don’t need business cards or a fancy website. I will repeat, you do not need business cards or a website to start a small business.
What you need is a problem.
Solve a problem and then you get customers. With customers, you get business cards and a pretty logo on them. But if you ain’t got a problem to solve then you don’t need the business cards.
In the next couple sentences you will learn the 5 step framework you can use to start your own Small Business, on or offline, even if you just want to earn a little extra side income.
Step 1: Brain Storm Problems
The first step is to look for problems to solve. Is there a problem you are having or someone else you know is having which you know of or have a solution for?
There are literally endless problems needing to be solved and you can be the one to provide a solution for this.
I’ll give you an example, your mother is elderly and she is in a wheel chair thus she is not able to take stairs nor get in and out of cars easily.
Her issue is mobility, so cooking and taking care of chores would be a bit of a challenge for her. You, and the rest of her family, live in other states and are unable to move back because of your job.
So the problem, as we have defined it, is that your mother’s health is limiting her ability to move and thus do simple tasks like shop for groceries, go to the bingo parlor, go to the bank, or even just move around outdoors.
Just with this alone I can think of at least 3-4 possible solutions, and thus small business ideas that you could start, to help her and women like her.
- Personal Shopper
- Personal Assistant
- Task rabbit, ride share, Instacart
- Assisted living – some people are open to this and others are not
- Products like an electric wheel chair, a health button, or a set of supportive apparatuses that assist her with moving.
There’s always “more than one way to skin a cat” and no one solution is best for this problem, it’s very much so dependent on the individual and their situation. Some costing more than others monetarily, while others cost more in time spent, but as you can see there are options.
I’ll give you another example, in the health and Fitness Market.
What are people’s problems? Here are just a few:
- Need to lose weight (physical need)
- Want to lose weight (emotional need)
- Limited mobility and range of motion (physical need)
- Not strong enough to move body (physical need)
- Want to “look skinny” (emotional need)
- Want to look not “skinny” (emotional need)
- Spouse doesn’t find me sexy any more (emotional need)
- Have a physical limitation such as injured limb or limited mobility (physical need)
None of these is “right” or “wrong” in the market, they are just different needs and wants. Thus there are many ways of solving some of these problems.
If you now look at “how does my solution address this need and solve this problem they are having?”
Once you Identify a problem that you can solve, you can begin formulating a benefits statement. Some Examples:
Need: I need to lose weight
Solution: Get this fat blasting workout program so that you can LEARN how to eliminate pesky body fat, get strong lean muscles, and develop habits which will lead to lifetime fitness, in a matter of just a few sessions.
Notice the selling proposition is in terms of the benefit for the person trying to solve a problem.
Need: Elderly person needing to have a part time helper to assist them with lifting heavy things like groceries, and maybe moving furniture.
Solution: Are you sick and tired of your kids begging you to move into a home only for you to remind them that you aren’t broke, you just need help with the heavy stuff? Get help only when you need it with on demand help from (Insert service name). We send out a service helper to assist you with not only lifting your groceries, but shopping for them and delivering them right to your door. Save time and energy with this convenient service. Get your service helper today!
Now you don’t have to sound like an infomercial, but you get the idea. The benefit is in the service and the “what” it does for them. If you are helping little old ladies with their shopping, or busy executives with their shopping, somehow you need to answer the question “what’s in it for me?”.
Step 2: Research Your Market
Now that You’ve identified a problem, find out what other people are saying about that problem.
You can go to sites like Quora, Pinterest, Reddit, and start to see what questions people asking, what subjects people are talking about, and what problems people are trying to solve. Avoid social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, twitter and Linkedin for the first couple weeks of your business. They will distract in the beginning, though they are a great way to develop an ongoing conversation with your customers once you’ve identified a problem.
The reason I like Quora, Pinterest, and Reddit is that these sites it’s not about social approval. These are more search focused, where as your “Social media sites” are focused on funny, fun, and entertaining stuff. It’s there to make you want to click deeper into the rabbit hole and not focus on problem identification. Facebook has a “feed” for a reason, they want to feed you so that you are constantly gobbling up their information and thus staying on their site not others… thus wasting time.
So go elsewhere for problem identification.
Other good ideas are Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Craigslist (check out the help wanted section and community), and sites like stumble upon and ask the public.
Find out what these people want.
Are they asking about the right food to eat?
Are they asking about healthiest recipes to make for a family of 4?
Are they asking about how to double their income or get out of debt?
Are they asking about how to invest $50,000 for a $12,000 a year payout (difficult but possible)
These are all surface questions, but surface level questions will point you in the right direction. The other question you need to ask is, what are they really trying to say? What problem are they trying to solve?
Here’s an example conversation:
P1: What is the best way to lose weight? (public forum)
P2: Great question, are you trying to lose weight or build muscle?
P1: Lose weight, I want to get a six pack.
P2: Ok, in order to lose fat you need to build muscle. It helps to burn fat.
P1: Really? How do I do that?
P2: Well about 70% of it is your diet and lifestyle choices. I would start out with a couple questions first to help determine your best path. Would that be ok?
P2: Ok. First off, are you consuming, if any, junk food (ie. packaged food, chips, frozen dinners, candy?) and if so, how often? How often are you eating per day? Are you exercising much right now or not at all? How much water are you drinking per day? Are you consuming any caffine?
P1: I do eat a little junk food, sometimes I eat out. I buy frozen Amy’s dinners and some candy every now and then. I eat at my work, they have a cafeteria. I usually eat 1-2 times per day. I don’t exercise. I drink water a couple times per day, maybe 3 cups. I drink coffee in the mornings but not after 12 pm.
P2: Ok so it sounds like you are not doing too bad.
Now at this point you have an opportunity to provide a solution, this can be in the form of a service, a book, a youtube video on the subject, a link to your website for an article you wrote about this matter, or just straight advice.
You have to consider online relationships like in person relationships, only slower to form. Don’t spam them with offers before providing value.
You send them an article answering their question, or a blog post you wrote, or a video which talks about building muscle through diet and exercise. Proper nutrition and rest are the quickest ways of building lean muscle. If you curate great content then they will be interested.
Now that you’ve answered some of their questions you can ask them follow up questions like:
P2: Just out of curiosity why are you trying to lose weight?
P1: “I’ve been told by my doctor that I have to or I risk having a (heart attack, diabetes, lung failure, further pain in my joints) etc.” or “I just want to get in shape and not look fat”
(not all strangers are this open, this is an example, but I’ve had people tell me some personal stuff only having met them a few minutes prior).
P2: Ok, so start making your meals at home the night before. You will save more money, start to lose weight and feel more energize throughout the day. Just pack yourself more food than you can actually stomach to eat, and make sure there are lots of fruits, apples, bananas, pears, and veggies, carrots, broccoli, with hummus. And make some healthy meals (include Link to blog article on healthy meal prep).
P1: Wow thank you, I’m going to try it.
P2: Great, commit to doing it for 2 weeks and then re-assess how you feel.
P1: Ok thank you so much!
Now you have validated that there is a need and you’ve provided value. write down or document somewhere the questions that you asked and the answers that you got because this is what we in the business and marketing world call “market research”.
Step 3: Make An Offer To Solve Their Problem
Facebook Market place is a great place to begin making an offer.
You can also start out with a small following on instagram, or Pinterest, or your own website, or going over to the reddit community. But a word of caution, make sure you have engaged with this group for at least a week and provided ACTUAL VALUE through human interaction and asking / answering questions before offering anything.
Again, If you don’t follow the…
Provide value > Provide Value > Ask Questions > Provide Value > Make an offer
…format then you risk being a pariah and being outcast because you are “salesy”.
You don’t want to get kicked out of your own Cool Kids Club…
Now, when you make an offer, make sure that it addresses a perceived need, not just fulfill your wants to make money.
Of course you can’t do it for free but you want to be offering something that provides value to your potential customers.
Here’s an example of a business I’m starting with my girlfriend and we’ve actually been following this process for our small business launch.
She Posted this in the Facebook Market Place:
“I was noticing that a lot of folks are having problems with eating right and meal prep. I was thinking, what if I came to your house and helped you with meal prep? Would anyone be interested in that? Cost would be around $100 – 240 per week”
The obvious answer from health seekers who are just starting is…? YES!
So with that, anyone that was interested and asking questions we told them that we needed to put together a recipe list first, and get feedback to make sure that we provide the best possible experience, and that we would notify them once we had the meals ready.
Some questions to ask your clients who may be interested:
“Great question, Just out of curiosity why were you interest in X?”
“Great question, if you are interested in learning more about ____ and would like information sent to you on the program please send me your email. I promise to never spam you.”
Customers that were interested we asked them politely for their email address to notify them when we had a recipe outline.
Next, we sent out a simple survey using google forms which explained a little bit about the service and the though process behind it:
Then it asked a few basic questions:
Name, zip code, would you be interested in healthy made meals?
Would you be interested in delivery?
Which of the following 3 is most important to you: saving time, getting healthier, saving money?
Which meals of the day are you most interested in?
Which meals would you pick for breakfast? (3 options for each)
Which meals would you pick for Lunch? (3 options for each)
Which meals would you pick for dinner? (3 options for each)
What is your biggest challenge during the day?
How many meals a week would you be interested in?
How much would you expect to pay?
Any other thoughts or questions?
Step 4: Build a Prototype
This is where you create a working model or mockup of your solution.
For us, it was prepping meals for ourselves for the whole week, then our room mate, then doing it for friends and so on.
What this does is it shows you estimated costs for costs of goods sold, labor hours involved and any other expenses like containers and such.
Without knowing your costs you don’t know if you stand to make a profit or not (which you need if you want to be able to do this for the long term).
Starting out small and growing over time allows you to risk less and scale over time so that you don’t have to deal with sudden growing pains or sudden loss of everything.
Imagine a child growing 16 inches in a month… Owch!
When you are starting a business, it is your child, don’t try to make it grow too fast or you could hurt it or worse…
So once we figured out our costs, and all the other costs involved, we had a minimum viable product and the next step was to begin offering it to our customers.
Step 5: Offer your Prototype to clients and see if it sells
You can now take that group of interested prospects or potential clients and offer them the good or service and offer them a sample rate.
Basically start taking orders.
First thing we needed to do was take some photos of the product, and then share it with our potential customers, making them an offer of what we could do, where we could deliver to, and how much it would be. Cap the initial orders at a limit we thought we could produce, then wait for response.
Oh, and collect payment before you start doing all the work. It just makes it easier for everyone.
Once you sell out, repeat the process:
Ask for feedback > Make it better > sell out > repeat
There you have it, my 5 step framework to starting a small business, online or offline, and a case study (me and my girlfriend), to share with you how it’s working.
If you have a problem chances are someone else does too and if you take the time to create a solution, then chances are you can sell that too.
So go out and find out where these people are hanging out and ask them what they think, feel and need.
Build a minim viable product, something with not a lot of bells and whistles but delivers on your promise, and ask your customers to try it or use it.
Once you collect feedback, improve the product, order or build a small batch, and then try selling it.
Once you’ve sold out of the product ask your clients for feedback on the product and make changes based on the feedback.
Reinvest the products and repeat the first 4 steps.
Would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to comment below and share this article with your network if you found this article useful.