My mom started her business when I was only six months old. She was a single mother with only $64 to her name, but with a determination to survive. To make ends meet, she went back to the one thing she knew she was really good at: baking and decorating cakes.
We’re celebrating National Small Business Week this month, which always takes me back to my roots. It reminds me of my childhood that is filled with sweet memories from the cake shop my mom started more than 35 years ago. I grew up watching her struggle and work hard as she built a business and a life doing what she loved. But the best part is that it lit a fire in me to help equip other women to do the same.
Because of my mom, I started some side businesses of my own. And later, I became a certified business coach and created the Business Boutique. I wanted to build a place for women to overcome fear and learn everything they needed to know about starting and growing a business.
For many of us, the journey begins (and sometimes ends) with one question: Do I have what it takes to start a small business?
As much as I love small-business owners, the answer isn’t always yes. It takes a certain kind of person with the willingness to put themselves out there and the determination to persevere. You’ve got to be okay with unknown risks, a lot of responsibility and really hard work at times. So, to help women figure out if this might be worth their while, I usually ask them three questions:
1. Do you want to help people?
If you don’t really like people or helping them, then starting a business is probably not right for you. But if you get excited about serving others in some way—improving their lives, meeting their needs, solving their problems or listening to their complaints (because, let’s be honest, there will be some!)—then this might be right for you. And if you already have in mind how you want to help people, that’s even better!
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2. Do you want to make money?
There’s a difference between a hobby and a business: A business makes you money, while a hobby costs you money. Many people pursue their hobby as a business and then end up broke, because they just don’t care about making money or they “feel bad” for charging someone for what they do.
Now, if you do want to make profit but you have some weird, squirmy feelings about money, that’s normal. I coach women every day to help them face their fears around pricing their product, charging customers and paying themselves. Just because you have a love-hate relationship with money doesn’t mean you can’t make it! You just need a little help. But you need to have a drive to make money if you’re ever going to make any (translation: stay in business!).
3. Do you want to work hard?
I’m not going to sugarcoat this: Business is hard work at times. It just is. But if you want it bad enough and are willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears, then you can make it. You don’t need a business degree, a pile of money or all the bells and whistles to build a successful business. But you do need a whole lot of grit.
The most successful business owners aren’t people who had a smooth path to the top. They were just willing to get knocked down over and over again, get back up, dust themselves off, and keep going.
I hope you take time to reflect over these three questions. They’re great indicators of whether starting a business might be a good fit for you. I sure hope it is, because I love small businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They create jobs, pour back into their communities and lead the charge in new tech and product innovation.