Our foray into owning our own business came about somewhat backward.
We were not actively seeking to open a new business. Rather we knew someone who owned a similar business who was considering expanding into our neighborhood. My husband and I both expressed how excited we were about his expansion into our neck of the woods because we felt it would be well supported by the community where we have lived for more than 15 years.
When our friend decided not to pursue the area, he encouraged us to consider it. We laughed at the prospect of our owning a frozen yogurt shop in Sandfly but still thought the idea was a great one. But our thoughts kept coming back to “someone should really do this here!”
Finally, after doing extensive research on how the business operates, talking with suppliers and getting a commercial Realtor involved, we decided the business opportunity was just too good to pass up. So we took the plunge.
Rob has been in banking for more than 20 years and in that time has seen his banks bought and sold numerous times. The thought of diving into owning our own business didn’t seem much riskier than the current economic times. And we actually felt like we might have a little more control over our future.
The business plays to both of our strengths — his financial background and my marketing and retail experience. So far it has been a great adventure!
The business is fun to operate, and it has been so well received by the local community, just as we knew it would be. So after our first year, I think we would agree that while it has been hard work, it has been worth it. We get a lot of satisfaction out of our new venture.
Exactly how we wanted to feel going into it!
Things we’ve learned
As we celebrate our first anniversary in business, I reflect upon the past year with feelings of success, pride and surprise. While my husband and I felt well-prepared going into our new business venture, we did find ourselves learning quite a bit along the way.
While our pre-planning helped us to anticipate a lot of things, a number of unexpected experiences took us by surprise.
If there is anything we may have learned along the way that would help someone who may be contemplating opening a new business or has been recently bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, let us share some of what we discovered with you.
1. Start with a good, well researched business plan. Don’t go into business just following your passion. I.e. Don’t open a restaurant just because you like to cook or a florist shop because you love flowers. This spells doom for many new businesses.
You will need to have a passion for your product or service, but make sure you have done your research and have a good plan, and make sure there is adequate demand.
2. Have a back-up plan. Poke holes in your plan should something not work exactly as expected. You may be convinced you have a great idea but have a few contingency ideas you can use to adapt your business plan should you need to.
Research the competition locally and nationally if necessary and find out what is working or where opportunities may exist for your business to develop a differentiation or niche.
3. Be willing to invest the time and make sure you have the time to give. Owners need to be willing to roll up their sleeves and get really dirty.
Having a hands-on approach in the day-to-day operations will help you to stay on course financially and also will allow you to tune in to your customers’ demands. Face it. No one is going to run your business the way you will.
4. Hire employees who share your vision and are part of your mission. They are the face of your business when you’re not there, and they need to convey the same principles as the owners.
5. Be patient and know that success does not come overnight. Allow time for your business to grow “organically.” Some of the best ideas can come from your employees and customers, so make sure to listen. Don’t be so rigid in your own concept that you aren’t willing to adapt.
6. Tap into all available resources when putting your plan together. Before putting any money into your idea, do your research. Talk to the professionals who will have an impact on your business — bankers, accountants, realtors, architects, engineers, contractors, suppliers, potential customers and your competitors.
They will help you determine whether your idea is worth your investment.
Fortunately, there are a number of local resources available in Savannah to help get you started. I would recommend contacting several, if not all, of these organizations. Each can offer significant insight and direction in most areas of business.
Best of all, the advice is free. Don’t be surprised if you find this advice the most valuable you will receive.
And, finally, Good luck!