Start a business, whether
you’re interested in social enterprise, green entrepreneurship, or
sustainable self-employment. If you do it right, you have a chance to
create change and earn an income.
Do you want to start a business? Do you have an idea for a business
that you think could change the world? Join the club! Self-employment,
entrepreneurship, and social enterprise are hugely popular these days –
among recent college grads wanting to make their mark, retired people
looking for a more satisfying career change, moms and dads who want to
stay at home with their children, and all sorts of people who want to
deliver goods or services for a social purpose.
And many of these folks who plan to start a business have an eye on
doing something that’s green: sustainability consulting, carbon offsets,
home energy audits, bio-fuels, wind power, organic food, natural baby
products, or a vegetarian/vegan restaurant. No matter what sort of product or
service you want to share with the world, and how big or small your ambition is for your
enterprise, some common principles apply.
Your unique business idea
What is your unique idea or unique twist on an existing idea? And
what makes it different from all the others? Is it better, cheaper, not
available in your area, more fun, more reliable?
The benefit to your customers
Forget about the benefit to you (which will, we hope, be fame and
fortune, or at least independence and satisfaction). Your eye should be
on how other people or businesses will benefit from your new
enterprise…and if those prospective customers will value what you are
offering enough to pay what you have to charge. That information will
provide you with your marketing focus and a way to measure your success.
You will need some basic business skills (or the ability to pay
others who have them), money (at least enough to pay both your living
and business expenses for at least a year if you’re jumping in
full-time), knowledge of and passion for your business idea, some risk
tolerance, the ability to sell (either yourself or your
product/service), good health and physical stamina, the ability to learn
quickly and on the fly, ability to deal with stress, determination,
decision-making ability, and good time management and organizational
skills. And it doesn’t hurt to have some contacts in your field. If
you’re planning to work at home, you’ll need to be able to deal with
issues like procrastination, isolation and the crossover between your
business and personal lives. If this makes it sound like starting and
running a business isn’t for the timid, you’re right!
Your business plan
Once you’ve thought about these things, do some hard-nosed research
to be sure you’re operating from reality, as well as from your dream. Create
a business plan that confirms there is a need for your business,
outlines its mission and goals, states how you will market the business,
describes the advantages you’ll have over a few specific competitors,
details expected costs and revenues on a quarterly or monthly basis,
shows where money is going to come from to cover cash-flow gaps, and
provides information about you and any business partners.
Just do it
Many people dream about being their own boss but most never get past
the dreaming and planning stages to actually start a business. So once
you have put together a business plan that’s solid enough to convince an
investor (even if you don’t plan to seek a business loan), believe in your
research and in your idea, and go for it.
We all make mistakes; in fact, that’s how most of us learn. And that
is true when you start a business. Pretending that you are invincible is
a sure path to failure. Instead, seek help and support from others. Your
banker or accountant, other entrepreneurs, seminars, and books can all
The green bottom line
Whether or not you define your business as a social enterprise, you
should consider delivering on environmental quality, social justice and
economic security performance targets, something that is often referred
to as the triple bottom line.
Good luck as you start a business…and possibly change the world!
Priesnitz is the editor of
Natural Life Magazine. She helped pioneer the home business movement in the
1980s, taught and coached micro business owners for over 20 years, wrote
a weekly small business column for 10 years and is the author of
Bringing It Home: A Home Business Start-Up Guide for You and Your
Family. Read more of her
articles about home-based, small, and green business.