Starting a business is far from easy. To do it you need to learn about every aspect of business – from prototyping to financing and manufacturing to branding. What better, safer way to learn than from experienced business owners? It was this thought that launched our “What I Wish I Had Known" series, which shares expert advice from real entrepreneurs who not only followed their passions, but also overcame the challenges of getting their business off the ground. Below is a round up of the articles that make up this series.
Prototyping allows you to test various materials and price points, refine your product and determine your manufacturing scalability. In other words, it's important. We got insight from Ely Rodriguez, founder of Ruthworks SF, a company that custom-designs luggage for bicycles. He learned how essential prototyping is from firsthand experience and now offers those hard-won lessons. His top tip? Price your products with research and development costs in mind. “When pricing a final product-build I plan for it to cover the prototyping cost and I price it so that a year or two later, I can continue to develop the product."
Nearly every entrepreneur will need to determine how to finance their business, so we spoke with three business owners about how they first financed their operations and how their financing strategies have evolved since. Our favorite tip: plan for your first watershed order. One entrepreneur did this by building up inventory before she needed it. Another researched low interest loans and lines of credit so he'd be ready when big orders came in.
Be prepared! This is a long one and for good reason. We spoke both with business owners who manufacture their product themselves as well as someone who works with outside, international manufacturers to make her product. A top tip for you DIYers: implement efficient manufacturing and shipping processes even before your product is in high demand so you won't scramble once larger orders start coming in. For those of you who plan to outsource your manufacturing — always order a sample. You don't want a huge order of defective products or a surplus of inventory you can't sell.
Too often small business owners underestimate branding and its importance. Your brand isn't just in the visuals, it should also show personality and encompass your promise to customers. To create this brand building guide, we spoke with three entrepreneurs, each with a strong brand, who learned lessons the hard way. The tip you need to know before you do anything else? Before you design a logo, choose colors or approve a tagline, understand your company's mission and its core brand promise. These will serve as the cornerstones of your entire brand.
Something every entrepreneur will do these days is build a website for their business. While nearly everyone has experience using websites, most people haven't built one. That's why we spoke with three experienced business owners and got special insight into how they organized and built their websites, and lessons they learned along the way. Perhaps the most important website tip for your business's success is to plan not only for driving traffic to your website, but also creating user paths that will lead to website conversions. That means being purposeful about how your website inspires its visitors to become actual customers.
You've gotten five actionable tips for starting and operating your business, but you're still missing out on the other 31. We recommend you read the entire series to soak up every valuable lesson these 13 entrepreneurs learned from experience so you, too, can make your business a success. Or, read the posts that relate to the stage you're in now, and bookmark the others. Happy business-ing!