Starting your own business can be daunting. And with good reason: it is. There are lots of things to consider – and no, “biological differences” isn’t one of them. Here are the essentials that you need to take your business idea, and secure investment to turn it into a successful reality:
You can’t just start any old business and hope it will explode into success. It’s important that you find something that you love and are passionate about. It might sound trite, but customers – and potential investors – can tell if you really care about the product or service that you’re pushing.
What makes you different? What do you do, or how do you act, that will make people care?
Scout the Terrain
Two of the most important words you’re going to hear about starting a business venture are ‘market research’. It might not be the most exciting part of any plan, but without knowing the environment you’re walking into, you could be in for some rough terrain. Who else has entered the arena you want to cover? What are the trends looking like in that area?
Pay attention to the details, because a market that’s on a strong incline is guaranteed to have an influx of competitors. This would lead to a plateau and then, likely, a decline. If you still want to jump into the same waters after doing the research, that’s great, as long as you are aware of the risks of any market.
On top of that, you need a rock solid business plan if you want to attract investors. Show your investors-to-be that you have thought through everything with meticulous care. Have back-up plans on top of back-up plans. You’ll need different paths for different scenarios.
Everything can be going fine until, say, a new competitor enters the market. What will you do if someone comes along and starts doing what you do, but better? Investors need to be able to see a clear exit path, just in case things don’t go as planned. They need to see that they can get a return on their investment, or their money back if need be. Having these sorts of plans make your investment look less risky.
Stand Out, Stand Strong
Once you dive into the market, you’re going to have to make sure you stand out. If you want to start a bakery, you can’t just start one that’s exactly the same as the one that inspired you in the first place. What can you do that no one else can do? Do you have a special cake recipe you can use? Do you have a niche?
And remember that business plan from before? You need to know it’s as scalable as it is rock solid. It’s all well and good to start a mail-order cake business form your garage, but what if things expand quickly?
Investors are not only looking at what you offer, and the logistics behind it, they’re also looking at your mindset. If you can only visualise yourself having one location or even five locations, you’re not thinking big enough. We live in the era where anything can be purchased online, from anywhere in the world. Thinking about how you will scale your business model, and take on the global market, will give investors a taste of your mindset and your attitude. For them to back you, you need to be willing to back yourself.
This might sound trite as well, but you need to be ready to go to market right away if an investor jumps in with you. How far are you off from launching? If they invested in you tomorrow, how long would it take you to launch your product? Investors need to be able to see that you are ready to hit the market, or are already off to the races. You need to be able to strike when the iron’s hot. If an investor has to wait too long, they’ll just take their funds to someone who’s ready.
That means you need to have something to show them. Have a prototype ready. Have something that’s tested, because it’s much easier to care about something that’s right in front of you. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be possible: it shows that you’ve done your homework, and that you know what you’re doing.
Know Your Finances, and Your Limits
How much are you spending? How much are you making? How much do you estimate you can bring in? These may seem like obvious questions, but investors need to be able to see the value of their investment, and where and how they can receive a return.
You also need to be resilient. Fun fact: not every investor you go to is going to want a piece of your pie. And that’s okay. You need to be ready to learn, to study, and to grow.
I always look for ‘smart money’. This means that any investor I bring on board is not only an investor, they have a skill, or can provide value, in an area where I need it. Being an entrepreneur means that you don’t have time for everything all the time. Figure out your strengths, and the things you love to do, and then hire or outsource the rest.
Nail. Your. Pitch.
Investors have heard a million pitches. They’ve heard all the lines. Just like your business idea, you need to make you pitch stand out. How? What can you do to take them on the journey with you? How can you make them feel invested in your idea? You need to not only tell them your vision, but show them, make them feel it and make them visualise what would happen if you actualised this vision.
Now get out there and do it.
About the author:
Christie Whitehill is an entrepreneur and mentor in the Australian tech space. She is the founder and CEO of Tech Ready Women and Tech Ready Program – an eight-week accelerator specifically designed for non-tech female founders who want to step confidently into the tech space. Christie is also CEO of Hatching Lab – an innovation and tech partner to startups and corporates and co-founder of Poppy Renegade—a movement to empower women to stand tall in all facets of life. Christie is dedicated to empowering and educating women in startups, tech and innovation. In 2016 she was recognised as one of the Top 50 Women in Tech.
By Christie Whitehill