Five great tips for starting a business with an interview with Karen Gunton from Build a Little Biz
This week I’ve got a fantastic interview with Karen Gunton from Build a Little Biz. Karen gives us her 5 top tips for starting a business, particularly useful for someone starting a home based business but there’s some really useful information in here for anyone starting a business.
Covered in this episode;
- Finding the right idea – something that combines your interests/skills/expertise with what people actually need/want
- Doing your research – into biz models, profitability, a point of difference in the marketplace etc.
- Building the framework of your biz – your products, your customers, your brand etc.
- Giving yourself a timeframe – ‘portfolio building’ stage
- Starting right now with a simple marketing strategy
- Karen’s website www.buildalittlebiz.com
- Tattoo thinking on Seth Godin’s Blog
- Mailchimp – free email marketing service
This week’s featured photo is the last in the series from The Wandering Videographer. This is just a small piece of a great panorama, click on the photo for the full photo.
[spoiler title=”Transcription” open=”0″ style=”1″]
You’re listening to the Web Marketing Adelaide Podcast. We give you the tips and strategies to help you utilize the web to get more traffic, leads and sales for your business. Now here’s your host, Nick Morris.
Nick: Welcome to Episode 8 of the Web Marketing Adelaide Podcast. This week, we’re speaking with Karen Gunton from Build a Little Biz about Tips for Getting a Business Started. Are you there Karen?
Karen: Yes, I’m here. It’s great to be here talking with you.
Nick: Great. Let’s just get started by you telling us a little bit about yourself, your business, and what you do.
Karen: Sure. I guess it’s a bit of a long story. You can probably tell from my accent that I’m Canadian and I’m living here in Australia in Adelaide. We moved here about just over six years ago. Before I moved here from Canada, I was a science teacher. Once we moved here, I didn’t really want to go back to teaching. I liked being a mom at home, but I found that I missed having my own thing. I missed talking with people and planning out things to teach the students and learning – I missed both teaching and learning. But I didn’t really want to go back to work. I sort of just fell into this idea of turning my hobby of photography into a business. It was not planned. I didn’t have a clue to what I was doing. People just started asking me how much do you charge. I quickly had to decide if I was going to start charging money for doing family photographs and children’s photographs, or if I was going to keep it a hobby. I decided to give it a go, and quickly realised that if I was going to make a real go of it and actually run a profitable business, I needed to learn a lot more about business than I knew already.
That was around the time that Build a Little Biz started, because I found that as I was learning about how to run a business, I was getting asked a lot of questions by other mums who were at home and wanting to start their own business. It was the same idea, they had a hobby that they were trying to turn into a business. So I started blogging about what I was learning as I went and I rebranded and re-launched my photography business. It was really successful. It went really well. I was attracting the right people and making a great profit, and working the hours that I wanted. I had the freedom to run my own business from home the way I wanted. It was fabulous, but I quickly found that Build a Little Biz was taking up almost as much as time as my photography business was, so recently I have made the decision to focus just on Build a Little Biz and working with other business builders and helping them. I’m teaching them and doing some creative design stuff for them. That’s where my focus is right now, but it’s been a long journey of six years of running my own business that got me in here. It’s kind of exciting.
Nick: Great. I can certainly say to the listeners to go and check out your website. There are lots of great articles on there. You’re blogging regularly, and you also have other contributors to the blog as well?
Karen: That’s correct. Yes, I quickly discovered that while I was great at teaching some concepts because I can really put things into a way that resonate with people and made it click for people, there’s still a lot that I do not have the expertise to answer questions on. What I’ve done is I’ve got about ten regular contributors who write for Build a Little Biz. They answer questions that come in from readers and fans, as well as, my own questions. Sometimes, I’ll email them and say, “Oh my Gosh! I have a question about PR and I really need you to help with this.” So I’m really lucky because I’ve got a great team of people from all around the world that are writing for Build a Little Biz, answering questions, and helping us all with all those different aspects. There’s so much that you can do and that you can learn about in order to grow and build a successful business. There’s a lot out there. I like the fact that I’m creating a place where everything’s kind of in one handy spot. People know that when they email me a question, somebody will answer it, or if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find somebody who will. I’ve kind of built myself a reputation as being extremely helpful. I’m a pretty good librarian to help people find the resources that they need.
Nick: Great. If people want to go check out your website, its buildalittlebiz.com right?
Karen: Yes, that’s right.
Nick: And it’s biz, B-I-Z.
Karen: It is. Yes.
Nick: Let’s launch into the topic for this week. We’re going to talk about tips on getting your business started. You’ve got five tips so I’ll let you get started.
Karen: Alright. Well, I think that number one tip I have is about finding the right idea. The thing that I find most of the people I talk to fall into one of two categories. One is that they have some hobby, interests, skills, expertise, or talent; something that they do and think they can turn it into a business. Or sometimes, they have friends or family who say, “Oh my Gosh! You should totally sell that. You can make money.” So they have this product idea or service idea and now they’re trying to figure out how to make their business a go.
The other category is people who like the idea of having their own business and perhaps they’re working in a full time job that they don’t really want to continue on for too long. Or perhaps there are mums – a lot of them are mums – at home who are in a maternity leave or that sort of thing and they’d like to find a way to have a business from home without getting back to work. But they need an idea. Either or, I think the thing that we tend to do is think, “Okay, what can I do? What can I sell?” We look at our interest, talent, expertise, and all those things. That’s really great but the other side of the coin is that you need to find something not only that you think is a great idea or that your mum thinks is a good idea or your best friend, but something that other people actually want.
A lot of people start with their product and then they think, “Okay. Well, now I’ve got to find people to buy it.” That makes it a bit harder. Whereas you have an idea that you already know people want, need, long for, and crave, that makes it a lot easier to sell because it’s easier to sell something to someone who already wants it. You know exactly who you need to go talk to about what you do. It makes it feel a lot easier. It makes it a little bit more fun. I always tell people, whether they’ve already got their product or service idea or whether they’re trying to think of one, to find that sweet spot that combines something that you can do and are willing to do with something that people actually want. It’s important to go outside of your circle of close friends who are telling you to go for it and actually see what that sweet spot is. I always get people to brainstorm and really just put down everything they can think of that combines their own expertise, talent and skills with what other people might need or want. Look for some audience for your product or service.
Nick: I think that’s great advice because that’s certainly selling to people often seem to miss – at least people I’ve talked to – is that their idea needs to actually have an audience before that can be viable. Often, I heard of struggles trying to find your “starving crowd.”
Karen: Yes. That’s a really good way of putting it. The thing I think is people think, “Okay. Well, I can make this thing. Everybody will buy it like, it’s great! My thing is great. My service is great. My product is great. Anybody could buy it: any mum, any dad, or any grandparent.” They have this broad idea of who would be interested in it. But that makes it hard as well, because they think that they have a specific audience, but it’s not really. It’s hard to attract the right person to come and buy your thing if you’re not attracting anybody at all because you’re very busy trying to please everybody. I think it’s a bit tricky for people to hone in on who the people are that will actually need and desire what they want. There are a lot of ways, I think, you can go about it. You can look at what are some gaps in the market place. You can look at what other people are doing and see if you can do it in a new and innovative way. You can look at people who are kind of being ignored; the other part of the pie as they say that, nobody is really targeting. You can look at and see what problems people have around you that need solving and see what sorts of skills and expertise you can contribute to solving that problem. But I think if you have a really clear idea on how you can help one single other person in a specific way, then that’s a pretty good starting point.
Nick: Let’s move on to the next tip. So that’s “doing your research.” What’s this tip all about?
Karen: Yes, that kind of leads from the first one. Again, I’ve talked to so many people who get like, “Okay, I’ve got this product or service and I’ll start a Facebook page and I’ll start selling it.” But they haven’t really done their research. I would say you should put as much research into your idea, especially, at the beginning as you would into actually doing the job. If you’re a person who wants to start a business on the side when you’re not at your regular nine to 5 job and you plan on working two evenings a week and both days on a weekend, those are hours that you should put in right now into researching it. Doing your research into what business models exist out there already. How are other people selling this product or service, are they online, are they doing it in person, are they going to markets, are they setting up bricks and mortar stores? What kinds of business models are out there right now that you can learn from? Not only can you see how you can do it in a way that serves your own interest and also the needs of your people, but you can learn a lot from what other people who are doing.
Sometime people have got a pretty successful business model. It’s easy to take an idea that exists out there and to turn it into something unique just by making a few tweaks here and there. I say; definitely do research into what exist out there. Another reason for doing that is also, it will help you to see what your point of difference could be in the market place. If you’re doing research into what already exist in your little niche that you want to service, you’ve really got to know what’s out there. You got to know what other people are doing. You need to know who your competitors are, who any complimentary businesses are, what bloggers are talking about this, what online groups and local networks exist. The more research you do, the better you’ll be able to sell your product because you’ll really understand what your point of difference is plus you already have started making connections with people. Again, if you have a whole group of people out there already that you’ve talk to, then that sure it makes it a lot easier to find people to sell your product to.
Nick: Great tips.
Karen: Also, there’s just one more thing I’ll just add about that which I think is an important thing. Maybe it’s obvious but also to look into how profitable your business idea is going to be, because some people again start doing what they’re doing and they come up with random pricing that they feel good about or that they think is affordable or that they’d be willing to pay; therefore, other people will be willing to pay. They don’t always look at it with an idea of an end-goal in mind like how much money do you actually need to make from doing your business. Do you want to do it be full time? What kind of a wage do you want? How many hours can you put in? How much is it going to cost to you? Figure out and crunch your numbers. Even if you don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like, get a piece of paper, a pen and a calculator and really think about what kinds of prices will you need to charge to make this profitable and then, what would you have to do to be able to charge those prices. What value will you need to offer? What kind of difference will you need to make? Pricing is like we can have an entire podcast just on pricing which I’m sure you’ll probably have plans to do, but it’s one of the things that I find people struggle with the most – what to charge. The first step really is to sit down, crunch those numbers, and try to figure it out.
Nick: Yes, I definitely agree with those tips. Something that I’ve heard mentioned before is that if you start off by pricing yourself too low, it’s really difficult to increase your prices once the market already has an idea and expectation of what you’re charging. So getting in there early and doing the research of your ideal pricing might be a better way of going about it.
Karen: Well in that, I think I may mistake that people make sometimes is that they don’t realise that their price is part of their brand. So if they start out and they’re making handmade jewellery and they think, “I’ll charge twenty dollars or whatever for this thing. That’s what I’ll be willing to pay, so that’s what I’ll do.” Then they realise as time goes on that, first of all, they need to charge a lot more to make it worth their while. Second of all, that they need to attract people that are looking for more high-end, exquisite hand-made items and so they need to charge more in order to get into that more luxury niche. They realise this entire brand that they’ve created is all based on twenty dollar earrings and they can’t suddenly turn around and charge a hundred dollars for those earrings. So your price is part of your brand, it sends a strong message and I always say to people, if “affordable” is what you want to sell, that’s just about the hardest thing because affordable is relative. What one person values is totally different to another person. What’s affordable to you is different to me and that can change. I think you have to look at it and you really have to crunch the numbers and you have to think about the brand you want to build and the kind of people that you want to attract to buy what you’re selling and really look at your pricing that way. If you figure it out and then you decide for a little while to charge a little bit less as you’re growing, that’s one thing. But to start low and undersell yourself, then realise in a year or two years, you need to fix it. That’s difficult.
Nick: Right. Well, let’s go on to the next tip and that is building the framework of your biz. What’s this tip all about?
Karen: Okay, so again, this leads to what I was saying already. Your framework is what I say your basis for everything else. If you are clear about this, it’s easier to build your business. The thing that I find is that a lot of people start with the products and they’re selling it, and they’re out there, but then when I ask them questions like, “Okay, who exactly are you targeting? Who is your perfect customer?” They don’t really don’t know. Like I said before they get anxious. “Oh, any mum. Any mum around the world!” That’s not very specific. It’s hard to attract every mum and so you end up not attracting any mums. What I often make people do is go backwards and get clear on their framework. By this I mean really getting clear on who exactly you want to attract – your perfect customers – those ones who actually love what you do, need what you do, and will buy anything you’d sell just because they love it so much. That’s one.
Another one is your products. A lot of people, they’re selling jewellery, or photographs, or service like copywriting, or whatever, but they don’t get the real benefits of what they’re selling like that they’re saving people time, or making people feel really good about themselves, or giving people a solution to a deep inner problem that they’re not really expressing. They think, “Oh I want some jewelry” but what they really want is a way to feel especial and feel good about themselves or fit in with all the other mums at school, or whatever it might be. You’re not just selling jewelry. You’re not just selling photographs. You’re not just selling your service. You’re selling something a lot broader and deeper than that. If you can get to the real benefits of what you sell, and if you can really get to the emotions behind what you sell, then that makes it a lot easier to talk to people about it. That’s the second part of your framework.
So you got your customers, your products – what you’re really selling, and you’ve got “you”. That’s the big one people forget. They don’t realise that you are the most unique part of your business. Nobody else can copy your idea exactly if they can’t copy you. If you pop up a store, you start selling photography services and it looks like everyone else’s store, online website and nothing about it stands out, then it’s pretty hard to compete. But if you can put ‘you’ into your business and what makes you special, and what gifts you have – your ‘secret sauce’ is what I sometimes call it. What’s your secret sauce? What is it about you that you can add to your business that really makes it stands out? That also makes doing business more fun because then its really a reflection of your own passion and your own joy and your spark. You know that thing that gets you excited to get out of bed in the morning to work on your business. That is the third part.
Then the fourth part of your framework is just what’s happening in the marketplace. Where do you fit in with your competitors? Who are some other complimentary businesses out there who are doing similar things or things that are attracting the same audience as you? Or perhaps they have complimentary services to your product, or vice versa. You can learn a lot about what they’re doing and you can figure out how you fit in there. You can also figure out how to make yourself different. You can look at what objections exist in the marketplace like if everyone else is saying, “Oh there is no way I would buy that. I’ve heard this and that about it.” Then, if you know that, then you can start addressing those objections in your own brand and attracting all those people who think, “Oh it’s not going to work for me.” You suddenly know how to talk to them because you see what they said about other people. You can learn a lot about what’s happening in your marketplace. Then once you have a really clear idea of those four things, then you can start to put together what your brand is going to be. What message do you want to send about your business? Who do you want to attract? What do you want? What does the voice of your business need to be; the look of your business? Are you going to be low-end, high-end, mid-range, or are you going to be luxury, fast, quality or personal? There are so many different things that you could be with your brand, and messages that you can send with your brand. That is going to be perfect for you if you understand everything else.
Karen: Does that make sense?
Nick: Yes, that makes perfect sense.
Nick: I think, yes some really good tips. Let’s move on to our fourth tip which is “giving yourself a time-frame.”
Karen: A lot of people say, “I can’t start right now because I don’t have my website up or I’m not really sure yet about my pricing so I don’t want to get started. Or I haven’t really picked exactly who I want to target.” The best advice I can give is just to get started. You’re not going to learn everything you need to know about how to make your business a success until you actually start talking to people about it. You can do your research, sit online, and look and see what everyone else is doing. But until you start talking to people, I don’t think you really know what they need, what they’re looking for, and how you can help them. So the best thing that thing I would say to people is, “Just start now.” Even if you just want to get on Twitter and start talking about what it is you’re thinking about selling and see what kind of reaction you get. Just do something. What I usually recommend people do is have what I call a “portfolio building stage.” This is what photographers often do. They’ll look at where their business needs to be as far as pricing packages, kinds of prints, and stuff they’re going to offer. But they realised they’re not quite there yet, they have learning to do and they’ve got to build their portfolio, and they better find customers and work with them, and test out their systems.
What we often do in photography is have a portfolio building stage. We allow ourselves a set amount of time and we’ll have goals of what we want to put in to our portfolio. We’ll find people who want to work with us and offer them a really excellent deal for doing that. Then, we get excellent feedback, and we can grow testimonials, figure out our systems – what sucks and what we need to fix. We might find that we hate it and don’t want to do anymore. It’s great because it’s a way to sort of get started without under pricing yourself, and under-valuing yourself and sort of ruining the brand that you want to create right on the get go. I always suggest to people that they should try and find a way to incorporate that into your business plan. So get started right now and then allow yourselves three months, six months, or one month if you’re on a mission to get this going. Then say; this is my portfolio building stage. For this period of time, I’m going to offer these discounts, deals, bonuses, or I’m going to work with anybody who asks or whatever it is, and just take it as a learning stage realising that you can fix things as you go. Anything that you do for your business right now is not a tattoo; it’s doesn’t last forever. You can fix it, you can change it and you can make it work better once you learn better, but you’re only going to do that by starting now. So get started!
Nick: Great. I really like the tip of giving yourself a time frame. Something that I often find trouble with is not coming up with ideas but actioning them.
Nick: Like, always planning in my head but then actually getting something out on the page and getting it started can be quite difficult.
That’s kind of the story of this podcast. I was thinking about it for ages and then all of a sudden, I thought, “Well maybe I should just get it started… and learn as I go”
Karen: Just get started, yes.
Nick: It’s much better to have something out there than it is to have to wait for like six months, a year, or never because you’re trying to get it perfect before you release it.
Karen: The thing is if you are at all like me, you want everything to be just perfect before you put it out there. I think a lot business owners are that way. We’re really hard on ourselves because we’re kind of on our own, we don’t have employees or bosses to lift us up and push us along. So, it’s easy to sort of get stuck in that stage of saying “It’s not as quite ready yet, it’s not quite perfect.” But yes, I think you have to just put it out there. You’ll probably look back in a couple of years, and think, “Oh my God. I learned so much since then. It’s kind of embarrassing what I did back then.” But that’s what leads you to where you’re going to be next. I was thinking the same thing a little while ago and Seth Godin had a great post about what you do for your business – It’s not a tattoo, it’s not permanent, it doesn’t last forever, you can fix it, you can change it, you can adjust it, you can do whatever you have to do. Ever since I read that I’ve thought “You know what? That’s right. It’s not a tattoo. I’m just going to put it out there and because I’m my own boss I can just give myself permission to change it when I need to.”
Nick: Great. Yes, I really like that tattoo analogy.
Karen: Yes, you’ll be thinking that now. You’ll be thinking, “Oh, I don’t know if I could do this.” And then you’ll hear my voice saying, “It’s not a tattoo Nick. Just do it.”
All right, so let’s move on to our last tip which is; ‘starting right now with simple marketing strategy’ which kind of melds into the last discussion…
Karen: Yes, exactly.
Nick: Tell us a bit more about that.
Karen: So, yes, just start right now and you might not know what you’re going to sell, or you might have a product already but you don’t know who you’re going to sell it to or whatever. Like you might have one small piece of your framework built. You might have one bit of your research done, and you might not know anything else yet. But just get started. The simplest combination of things that I suggest to people is;
Number 1: Have some sort of online presence like a blog or a website. You can start this yourself for free like there’s heaps of free options. You can set up a WordPress site on your own. You can look for one of the ready to build sites, or get a blog started, whatever it is. But just start something. Again, it’s not tattoo like in a year you might get someone to design it with something flash and amazing, but just start right now. So you want to have your own little piece of the online world. Even if you want to start a local business or a business that you tend to have it be in person and everything, it’s good to have something online; because that’s the way our society is right now.
Start to have your little piece of the online world with a website or blog. Blogs are great because you can just start talking to people like you can start writing about whatever it is that your passion or expertise is. You know what it is you love about what you do, and start attracting people just purely based on you telling the stories about what it is you do and want to offer this world. They are really flexible, you can do anything you want to do: photos, video and audio, whatever floats your boat, and whatever makes you jump out of bed in the morning because you’re excited to do. Get that online and get going.
Number 2: Then the other thing is just have some part of social media working for you. So whether you’re into Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn or whatever, start talking about what you do and sharing your passion, interest, your expertise, and helping people. Be generous with your skills and expertise, and just start talking to people. Direct the back to your little hub, website, or blog, start getting traffic, and making connections with people, just being out there interacting and just being genuine.
Number 3: Then the third piece, really simply, is just to have a way to capture traffic, interest and fans who tell you that they are interested. I suggest having an email list and starting it right away. Even if you don’t even know what you’re going to sell yet. If you just know “I love doing this. I somehow want to turn into a business, but I don’t how I’m going to do it yet.” If you start an email list and start collecting emails of people who think what you do is amazing, you’re ideas are amazing, and your passions are amazing, then you have a way of getting in touch with them again. Once that time comes, you start maybe getting fans on Facebook, getting friends and followers on Twitter, or getting people coming over to check out your website. If you have a way of capturing their email address, and keeping in touch with them, that lets you start building a list of people who already love what you do.
When you’re ready to launch your product, service, or you come up with a new idea on something that you haven’t tried yet or whatever, you got all these people who are interested in it. In your portfolio building stage, you can say, “Okay, I want to try this new product. I don’t know how it’s going to work. Do I have any volunteers to be guinea pigs?” When you put it out there, send out that email to people who already like what you do, then, you got people right there who are ready to hear from you. Even if you don’t know what you’re going to email yet to those people, start capturing their email addresses right away because it gives you something to start building even if you don’t know anything else about what you’re doing.
I compare it to the idea of if you were to go to a networking event and hand out business cards, that’s awesome. You could go around and say, “Hello! This is my idea and I’ve got these business cards.” A lot of people start with the business cards. They go order like a thousand business cards with their website on them and their name. Then, you go hand them out but once you hand them out the ball’s in their court. You’re relying on those people to remember to call you, to be interested enough to go find the card and call you, talk to you some more, ask questions or whatever. So you’ve handed out your business cards, you got your website up, and you’re ready but you’re waiting for people to come to you; whereas, if you have an email list of people that have already told you they’re interested in what you’re doing, then you have a way to contact them in a non-icky way. You don’t want to spam them with whatever sale offers you have but to send genuine emails about how you want to help them, or asking them what their problems are and see if there’s a way you could help them or whatever it is. That puts the ball in your court and gives you some control over keeping in contact with people and staying on people’s radar. Before you go and buy a thousand business cards, you can start for free really right now with a simple website or blog, some presence somewhere on social media where you think your best people are hanging out and a free email list from a place like Mail Chimp or something.
Nick: Great traffic of tips to finish off those Five Tips on Starting a Business. Thanks very much for coming on the show, Karen. It’s been really great having you.
Karen: Thank you for having me. It’s great to chat.
Nick: If people want to find out more about you and your business, it’s buildalittlebiz.com, is that right?
Karen: That’s right. See you up.
Nick: Great. Well, hopefully we might be talk to you again in the future if we have another episode on, perhaps on pricing like you mentioned earlier in the show. Until then.
Karen: Yes, we can talk about that for sure.
Nick: Great Karen. Until then I hope we have good one.
Karen: Thanks Nick.