It doesn’t take much to start a small business. You can literally start it from your garage or a spare bedroom. It can be had for under $100. You don’t need business cards, nor do you need a fancy website. You can get started today for free.
In the next couple sentences you will learn the 5 step framework you can use to start your own small business or even just to earn an 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 for her.
- Assisted living – some people are open to this and others are not
- Paying a personal assistant
- Family moving back home to take care of her
- Moving in with family
- Task rabbit, ride share, Instacart
Now you can see there are more than one “ways to skin a cat” so to speak. There isn’t just one solution for this problem, there’s many. Some costing more than others will, but still there are many different ways of solving this challenge for mom.
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)
- Look too skinny (emotional need)
- Look to fat (emotional need)
- Spouse doesn’t find me sexy any more (emotional need)
None of these is “right” or “wrong” but simply they are different problems that people are trying to solve.
If you now look at “how does my problem address this need and solve this problem that is what we call a benefits statement.
The benefit for your market is “what is in it for them?”
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, instagram, facebook, linkedin and start to see what questions are other people asking.
You have to infer what they are trying to solve, in terms of problems.
Are they asking about the right food to eat? Are they asking about meal prep? Are they asking about exercises? Are they asking about how to burn fat? These are all surface questions, but surface level questions will point you in the right direction.
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 lean and be less fat.
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: I’ll pm you with some resources.
P1: Really? Thank you.
Then you send them a actual resource not some stupid affiliate link. 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.
(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: Well it definitely begins with diet, what are you doing to improve that? And where are you starting out?
P1: I’ve eaten pretty healthy thus far but I’m always so hungry at work.
P2: Do you bring food to work?
P1: No I don’t, I usually just eat at the cafeteria and I snack at the vending machine.
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.
That person could go off and do nothing with that information. They could just sit around waiting for a better solution or they could go change their lives with that info.
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.
If not you risk being a pariah and being outcast because you are “salesy”
When you make an offer, make sure that it addresses a perceived need, not just fulfills your want to make money. Of course you can’t do it for free or you are just running a charity (nothing wrong with that but make sure you are getting the tax benefits of being a 501c(3) not a for profit business).
Here’s an example of a business I’m starting with my girlfriend and we’ve actually been following this process for our business launch.
She posted this in the 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.
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).
Once we figured out our costs and all the other costs involved we then had a minimum viable product. The next step was 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 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.