Since StartupNation was launched in 2002, StartupNation has provided millions with the information, inspiration, and connections they need to start, grow and manage a successful startup business. StartupNation’s content is crafted by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, offering the necessary insights for personal growth in a variety of business disciplines and supports sole proprietorships, home-based businesses and part-time businesses, all the way to the most esoteric and sophisticated ventures.
I’m extremely honored to be a contributing writer for StartupNation and will continue to inspire and educate other entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to be their own boss and live the American Dream. I hope you enjoy my first article!
Starting a new company is rewarding, exciting, and completely overwhelming. Every new business endeavor comes with a host of issues and responsibilities that generally fall on the entrepreneur. So, if you’re an overwhelmed entrepreneur, where should you begin?
You take advantage of these essential resources for helping you launch a successful business.
Startup communities can be very powerful tools in your toolkit. For starters, you can find one in any city; and as an entrepreneur, this is essential.
Startup Grind is the largest independent startup community in the world, connecting more than 1,500,000 entrepreneurs in over 500 chapters. They nurture startup ecosystems in 125 countries through events, media, and partnerships with organizations like Google for Startups. Or, you can always start your own entrepreneurial community.
Then there are the application-only communities that also offer a considerable amount of support and resources. The Young Entrepreneur Council, for example, offers marketing resources that include a free website, plenty of media opportunities for exposure, help with branding, and invitations to special events and conferences. Some of the cool extra perks include affordable healthcare options, travel agency and co-working space discounts.
Often these communities provide spaces where you can glean information, learn from each other, exchange tips and tricks, share knowledge, acquire new business skills, make connections (and friends), and most importantly, support each other.
Incubators and Accelerators
Startup incubators and accelerators are everywhere and play a significant role in the startup community. Often these terms are used interchangeably, but each has a specific purpose and there are clear differences between the two.
Incubators are geared towards startups and entrepreneurs who are just getting their feet wet. More often than not, a startup has little more than an idea; so the incubator comes alongside the startup to help them develop a business model, provide training, assist with legal compliance, and help implement business protocol and practices that all businesses need. Due to the nature of this work, entry is easy and contact durations are often open-ended. Incubators provide more collaborative environments and more networking opportunities; and some incubators even offer pre-seed investments.
Accelerators, on the other hand, help support early-stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship, and capital. Because the primary focus is rapid growth and because there is more risk involved, entry is more limited and contract durations are generally much shorter. A great example is GAN, a worldwide accelerator and the largest group of accelerators, partners, and investors in over 120 cities on six continents. If you’re looking to stay within your area, there are also plenty of local accelerators – many of which are affiliated with colleges and universities.
Pitching your startup to a group of investors can earn you the kind of funding and exposure you need to keep things moving forward.
At the same time, a pitch competition can be a shot in the dark. How exactly does your business measure up? It’s hard to know until you show up and see what your competition is doing.
But one thing is for certain – you’ll be better for the experience. Even if you don’t bring home the big prize, you’re likely going to leave with constructive feedback, better ideas, new connections, and more opportunities.
Many non-profit organizations facilitate great workshops for entrepreneurs who are at the beginning stages of developing their startups; and these often cover a wide range of topics. From defining your business model to legal considerations, insurance, and accounting, there’s a plethora of them to choose from. What could be better than learning directly from people who have walked in your shoes?
Some of the workshops even go as far as to offer free templates that help with building a cash flow model, or business and marketing plans. Most of these organizations also offer free consultations that are designed to help entrepreneurs understand the various programs and services available to help them start or expand a business.
Of course, you can search for a workshop within your area; but there are also plenty of helpful videos and webinars for entrepreneurs online. BizLaunch and Incorporate are just two examples of networks that provide entrepreneurship-specific sessions that can be viewed in the comfort of your own home or workspace
Want to form business relationships without the added pressure of pitching your startup to investors? Monthly networking events usually feature successful business owners, innovators, educators and investors who share stories about their challenges and successes.
When choosing your next event, you have a number of options. If you want something industry-specific, attend a relevant networking event in your area. If you just want to meet and discuss with other up-and-coming entrepreneurs in general, you should look into attending a breakfast networking event or roundtable event.
Freelancers and Consultants
As an entrepreneur, you want to do it all but you might need some help. One person can’t possibly cover every position; and then there’s the issue of hiring, as your business is a startup. So, how do you minimize these expenses?
By hiring freelancers and consultants, you can avoid paying hefty salaries and wages until your business is able to take on full-time employees. Simply hire on an as-needed basis, using popular freelancing platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer, and Guru to find the right fit(s) for your startup’s needs.
Co-working or shared spaces like WeWork can be ideal working arrangements for a few reasons. WeWork offers workspaces and services in 19 U.S. cities with a heavy focus on community and events. From regularly scheduled office hours with venture capitalists or other industry professionals to happy hours with the whole community¾they do it all.
First, co-working spaces are extremely cost-effective. Cash flow can be an issue early on for many entrepreneurs, so sharing space with other small businesses and startups is a good way to reduce overhead costs. Plus, you get access to premium amenities, services, and perks along with your guaranteed space at no extra cost.
Second, they provide a great alternative to working from home. For many, there is a direct correlation between environment and productivity. If you’re someone who struggles to work from home due to constant distractions and the familiarity of it, a professional environment might be what you need to maximize your productivity. Whether you choose a flexible hot desk in an open space or a permanent dedicated desk in a shared office, you will always have a guaranteed spot to plug in and get to work.
Finally, they foster a creative, collaborative environment. Most of the time, you’re sharing space with other aspiring entrepreneurs, making it easier to form connections and stay inspired.
Launching your startup can be an intimidating venture, particularly if entrepreneurship is unknown territory for you. Just know that you don’t have to do things alone. Leveraging a few of the resources above to keep in your Startup Toolkit will help you develop a strong support system!