Q: Dear Dr. Culp, Ive been working in a business that allows me to do what I love baking and decorating cakes. Meanwhile, Ive been making cakes here and there for special occasions, such as weddings, bachelorette parties and graduation ceremonies. Ive just had a baby.
Im torn between continuing to work full-time, because I have to drive 90 minutes one-way, which makes for a very long day. Do you think I could develop a business out of my passion?
A: Dear Baker, No doubt about it, but it takes more than passion. It takes planning.
First, see if its practical. Can you afford to a long start-up without your income? Can you make it safe for the baby?
Read books and articles about bakeries, especially those that are home-based. Find out how to market and develop referral sources. How can you get media attention? Drop by bakeries in the area to see what you can learn. Find a commercial banker, a bookkeeper, an attorney, a web designer and a graphics person for stationery, sales brochures and cards. Plan a budget.
Being in business involves very much more than producing a delicious product. You have to sell and run the business, too.
Q: Dear Dr. Culp, Ive been a business owner for seven years, including during the recession. While Ive been able to make some money, its clear that Ill never earn a full income out of it. My being small is obvious, because I have no employees. Because its just me doing everything, I cant project myself as anything but small. How do I make a case for myself?
A: Dear Closing, If you dont want to add a new service, consider looking at small businesses, where you wont seem as small as you would even if the companies were medium-sized.
Think about what you have to offer that makes you different from others on the market. Day by day youve lived with the need to keep costs down, retain quality and make a profit. Think how you could transfer these skills to a business that has even five or ten employees.
Find a connection between the business you have and the ones where you apply. If you can build a bridge so other people see the connection, youre almost there. Use your entrepreneurial drive to keep going.