Ten Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs Without a Business Background

by Cathy DeBerry and Jennifer Sulligan

Do you think you have a good business idea? You aren’t the only one. According to the Small Business Administration, in the U.S. 627,000 businesses are started annually. And there are 28.8 million small businesses in the U.S., which make up 99.7 percent of all American businesses.

Before starting a business, you should know the following:

  • A bit more than half of all startups actually survive to their fourth year, and the startup failure rate at four years is about 44 percent.
  • 82 percent of businesses that fail do so because of cash flow problems.
  • 20 percent of small businesses fail within their first year.
  • According to CB Insights, 42 percent of the small businesses fail because there was no market need for their product.

If these statistics haven’t scared you away, consider the following tips compiled by SCLSNJ business librarians Cathy DeBerry and Jennifer Sulligan. DeBerry and Sulligan have been supporting Somerset County small business owners between the two of them for 14 years. Lacking business degrees, they both have spent a great deal of time educating themselves about everything an aspiring entrepreneur needs to know to start a small business.

Consider starting your business while you are still working
It may be awhile before your new business actually makes any profits and it would be beneficial to have a reliable income until your business is profitable.

Seek professional help
If you’re not an accountant, lawyer, or IT professional, hire them. No business owner can know everything, but they sure must know what skills they have and what they don’t. It is absolutely okay to not know everything because ultimately you can’t perform every single task by yourself to grow your business successfully. Thus, focus on your strengths and what you can do best and then outsource the work.

Decide how you are going to fund your business 
It costs money to start a business. Funding your business is one of the first — and most important — financial choices most business owners should make. Most businesses that fail, fail because of a lack of cash flow. Determine if you are going to self-fund your business, use venture capital, crowdfunding, or take out a small business loan.

Market your business on a shoestring budget
Marketing your new business is extremely important but doesn’t have to cost large sums of money. Social media is your friend – creating your business page on Facebook and other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram is free and can help your online search ranking. Make sure you register your business with Google, another free resource to market your business.

Understand your target customers and existing market
Assess the market for your products or services and seek out the presence of potential competitors. Make an appointment with an SCLSNJ business librarian at business@sclibnj.org to learn how to use the free library resources such as Reference USA and Gale Business: DemographicsNow designed to help a business owner do market research.

Do your homework
You have a great business idea. But how much do you know about starting a business? Before taking that first step in your journey, be sure to learn as much as you can. Try downloading Primer, Google’s free app for quick, easy lessons on topics like creating a business plan. Then go online or stop by a library branch to reserve some business kits. Like classrooms in a box, SCLSNJ’s kits are curated by business librarians to highlight topics relevant to the small business owner such as: Creating Your Own Marketing Plan, and Budgeting and Financial Management. Another good resource is UCEDC, an economic development corporation dedicated to boosting local economies and strengthening communities through business development and job creation. They can guide you to loans, training, business tools, and government contracts.

Arm yourself 
There is a vast array of apps created to help business owners perform necessary tasks. Familiarize yourself with them and download the ones that would benefit you most. A few to try: DocuSign, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Pay, Invoice2go, Square, and GoToMeeting.

Put on your listening ears
Podcasts are an excellent way to immerse yourself in business knowledge. Check these out: “Duct Tape Marketing,” “Entrepreneur On Fire,” “The Entrepreneur’s Radio Show,” “Ted Talks Business,” and “The Tim Ferriss Show.”

Rub some elbows
Business associations and chambers of commerce are excellent ways to meet other entrepreneurs. It’s all about networking. If your municipality has a chamber or association, pop into a meeting or join. Did you know that Somerset County has its very own business partnership? Learn more: www.scbp.org.

Get official
Somerset County businesses have the opportunity to register their companies with the County Clerk’s office. Filing your business name with the Clerk helps to ensure that no other organization is doing business under your name in the County. A Trade Name Certificate is also required by some financial institutions dealing in business loans. For more information on Trade Name Services, visit co.somerset.nj.us/government/elected-officials/county-clerk, call County Clerk Steve Peter at 908.231.7006, or visit his office at the County Administration Building, 20 Grove St., Somerville, NJ 08876.

Informed business owners become successful entrepreneurs; become one of them with the help of the business librarians of SCLSNJ. You’ve already taken the first step by signing up to receive this newsletter, so continue to walk your path and keep in mind the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”