By Valerie Young
Is it really possible to come up with a great idea on a Saturday, be in business by Monday and grow sales to the $1 million mark in a year? It is if you’re willing to ditch a lot of lame rules that hold most people back, like one enterprising entrepreneur in Florida.
According to a recent article in The Miami Herald, serial entrepreneur Maria Elena Ibanez was at her hairdresser’s when she struck up a conversation with a woman who had a background in the Latino food business. Obviously this impromptu meeting stimulated her hunger. But not for food, for opportunity. It was in that instant that Ms. Ibanez decided to become a player in the Latino food business.
That was in 2002. By the end of year one, her business, Intermark had $1 million in sales from four food products. Today, her brand El Latino carries 256 products. It is worth noting that Ms. Ibanez did have a background in business. In fact, she’d already launched two successful international computer distribution businesses and sold one.
So yes, starting a business was nothing new. But this new enterprise took her into an entirely different industry. In fact, she knew nothing about the food business whatsoever. Zip. Nada. Despite a lack of knowledge, she didn’t just act when she saw an opportunity — she leapt!
What can you learn from this “weekend business launcher” that can help you jumpstart your own entrepreneurial dreams? Plenty!
Lesson 1: Find People Who Know More Than You Do
Stop thinking you need to know everything before you can begin. As Woodrow Wilson once said, “I use all the brains I have and all that I can borrow.”
There are lots of ways to tap the expertise of other people. You can partner with a subject matter expert, you can apprentice with an expert, you can pay someone to consult with you from time to time, or all of the above. The key is to ask!
Lesson 2: Create Your Own Crash Course
You don’t need to get an MBA or have worked in a field for 20 years to figure out the basics. Ms. Ibanez ordered a couple of cases of books on Amazon and spent a few weeks creating her own crash course in the food and grocery industry.
Pretend your boss told you to put together a three month self-paced training program on how to make money growing irises in your backyard or how to get a syndicated talk radio show. You’d figure it out right?
If you want to be self-employed you need to start acting like the boss of you! Get busy making a list of what you need to know to move your dream forward. Next, create a plan for how you will learn what it is you need to know. Will you do a web search? Read a book? Make a phone call? Then take one step, then another until you have completed the plan.
Lesson 3: Trust Your Instincts
Humans tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. For example, Ms. Ibanez built her brand by going into an under-served niche in the Latin food market — dairy foods. How did she know to specialize there? By walking the aisles in the supermarket.
How many times have you seen a solution right under your nose only to second guess yourself because it’s too “obvious”? That’s why you need to trust your instincts. If your gut is telling you to DO IT, you need to pay attention because within seconds, another voice will chime in. That other voice is the one you mistakenly think of as your more “practical” or “logical” side. You think, “Well, if cheese for the Latin market is such a great idea, someone else would have thought of it, right?”
What you think of as the so-called “logical” thinking is usually the far more emotional and fearful side. As a rule of thumb: If something looks like an opportunity and acts like an opportunity and your heart is saying, “Yes, go there!” then pay attention.
Lesson 4: See Problems as Opportunities
Opportunities often come disguised as problems. Rather than pull back during the slow economy, Ms. Ibanez capitalized on it. Cheaper rent and more available brainpower looking for work are just two reasons why she says an economic downturn is the best time to start a business.
What problem can you capitalize on right now? If you lost your job, can you use the extra time between job hunting to read a book on marketing or create a small profit center?
If you have no idea what you want to be when you grow up, can you invite a group of friends to dinner and ask them what they think you should “be.” [Warning: Only invite friends who are entrepreneurially minded… otherwise your brainstorming session will probably lead you back to working in a glorified cubicle.]
Lesson 5: Free Yourself From Analysis Paralysis
Notice Ms. Ibanez did not spend years, months, or even weeks locked in analysis paralysis. She made a decision one day and two days later was in full blown action mode. She acted so fast in fact that the Latino food expert she met at her hairdresser’s on Saturday reported to work in Ms. Ibanez’s home office on Monday! She didn’t even have time to tell her husband.
Lesson 6: Invest In Your Dream
It takes two things to start a business: Money and time. The more you have of each, the faster you can go. When I started out, my primary investment was time — lots and lots of time. I realized about seven years in that if I was going to grow I needed to invest money too. First I hired a virtual assistant. Next I dropped $2,500 on a live seminar in LA. I learned so much that I purchased several $1,000-$2,000 information products. These were so helpful that I started paying anywhere from $10,000 to (gulp) $27,000 to be involved in mastermind groups.
Do you need to invest tens of thousands of dollars before you can make progress? No. But looking back, I can see that had I been willing to make a bigger financial investment on the front end, I would have been successful must faster.
The point is, you do need to spend money. If you can only spare $100, then use it to buy some books or take a class. If you have $1,000, then get a web site and invest in more in-depth training. If you have $10,000, get a fancier web site and take a class or mastermind with someone who can help you grow your business faster.
The same goes for time. No one sits down and writes a book or creates a blog all at once. Invest 30 minutes to an hour a day into launching your business and you’ll be amazed at where you are in six months.
The Bottom Line
You don’t have to run out and start an empire tomorrow. But imagine what you could do if you just dove in and started somewhere…. anywhere! Will you make mistakes along the way? I certainly hope so. Because if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning anything.
Will you go from 0 to a million dollars in a weekend? Not unless you’re doing something illegal. What about a year? Clearly Ms. Ibanez’s story proves that some people do. But this is definitely the exception. Does that mean you shouldn’t start? Not at all.
It took me about seven years before I became an “overnight success!” However, if I’d understood these simple lessons then, I could have cut that time by more than half.
There are lots of ways you can profit from your own passion. Use all six lessons and there is no reason why you too can’t get your own entrepreneurial dream in motion in three days or less!