In the past several months, I have been working to start up an online business with my husband as our first entrepreneur venture. We always wanted to start our own business and to be our own boss. Based on our passion of photography, we decided to start an on-line rental business for digital camera equipment. From marketing research, competitive analysis, funding planning, product selection to website design, we finally officially launched our website www.cameraconcierge.com on 2/22. We are now taking baby steps to nurture the business and hope it will grow to meet our long term goal.
Now we are the business owners, but nothing came together easily. I went through many anxious and stressful moments, especially when the website design was delayed for more than one and half month. However, the new entrepreneur experience already taught me a lot. I wish to share my experience with anyone who desires to start their own business.
Chase your passion
Many stories of successful entrepreneurship suggest that we should pursue what we are passionate about. That is very true. In the past, I have been tried a few ideas to start my own business, but I stopped pursuing them fair quickly because I did not feel passionate about them. Basically, I feel lazy to put more time in them. However, after I got into art of photography, I feel it is something I will enjoy doing every day. When we are able to turn our passion into business, we will have a better chance to success from our persistence. And we will enjoy doing it as the same time. I remember a survey saying that about 50% of workforce in the U.S. does not like what they are doing. That is a very sad thing for the society. Those 50% will hardly be innovated, motivated or inspired. Many times, we are facing the pressure of paying the bills and could not think about our passion for life. But once we have a moment to map out what we value most for our life, we can sometimes find a totally different path for our career and be happy at the same time. Chase after your passion, pursue your happiness, and be persistent will be the elements of success.
Forget about business plan
I am not saying not to do business plan. It is very necessary to do market research, to understand your competitors, to know your customers and the market size, and create your own differentiated strategy. There are several a few on-line rental camera and lens rental in the market already, but they all were pretty much the same: rent X lens for X dollars, nothing more. We hope to improve that by becoming the resource not just for equipment, but also for sharing and gathering of photographers. Hence, we started this site with the vision to evolve into a gathering point for people like ourselves, amateur photographers looking to improve our skills. Incorporating social media and an open community-based approach, we are providing concierge service when the customers need us. The formal business plan is used for VC or bank loan. So, I say, forget about the business plan in order to start because it is extreme challenging and time consuming to get VC or loan for a startup. Bill Gates did not get loan when he started Microsoft, instead, he maxed out his credit cards to begin with. When we are sparked by our inspiration and intuition, we do not want to wait for angels landing on our shoulders. During waiting, the opportunity will go away and more competitors will be in the market. Once we are confident with our idea and plan, we should start the business as soon as we can by emptying saving accounts, maxing out credit cards, and borrowing from family and friends. The formal business plan will be the next step when we establish the business and ready to grow, then we will be able to show a successful case to convince loaners.
Utilize Social Media for Marketing
There are way too many articles about social media from many experts, so I don’t need to say more about it. Thanks to social media, it gives small business such a great opportunity to market themselves free! However, because it is free, we need to provide superb content to bring the customers back, again and again. Because it is free, we need to spend a lot of more time to engage the customers, draw their attentions and to build relationship with them. We use Twitter, Facebook, on-line forum and newsletter to meet different prospects or tastes of the customers. Social media is all about engagement. As a new player in the market, we need to get our name out, and at the same time to “pull” the customers, instead of “push”. Frankly, I am still learning how to better utilize social media to engage more customers for their loyalty.
Beside social media, other grass-root marketing approaches, such as meetup and local clubs, can be great choices for many local small businesses. Those get-together events are great opportunities for the business to mingle with the targeted customers and know them personally. Through word of mouth, the name of business will be known by more and more people.
Needless to say, our one-month old business is just a new-born baby and has a long way to go for success or profitability. We keep exploring new ways to market ourselves and to grow. Believe there will be more huddles ahead of us to overcome and more learning to share in the future. Nothing will be easy, but I am glad that we made the first step to realize our entrepreneurship dream. If you have the same dream, go ahead to chase it. 🙂