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Thinking about starting your own business? You're not alone. According to the most recent available U.S. Census data, women-owned businesses generate nearly $940 billion in revenue. But it's not just about the money, says Beth Schoenfeldt, co-author of Ladies Who Launch: Embracing Entrepreneurship & Creativity as a Lifestyle. "Launching your own business is about creating something that fits your overall vision," she explains. "It gives you more control over your life and flexibility." Here are a few tips to get you started.Find a Mentor
Stepping out on your own can be daunting, but a good mentor can steer you in the right direction. If you're short on networking contacts, check out the Small Business Administration Web site, which provides links to local counseling, training, and development opportunities. You might also want to reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce.
Your friends and family might tell you your idea is remarkable, but is it marketable? The best way to know is to come up with a business plan to identify and service your customer's needs. Check out BPlans.com for helpful tips and templates.
What often separates dreams from becoming reality is cold, hard cash. Thankfully, finding funding isn't hard if you know where to look. Check out WomanOwned.com for some great leads to get you started.
It's all in a name, or as Schoenfeldt says, "there really is nothing new out there -- all you can do is find your own packaging, unique voice, and have fun with it!" Secure your business by protecting your brand. Visit Copyright.gov and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Web site for more information on how to safeguard your intellectual property.
It's great to be able to do things on your own, but there are some aspects of your business that you should leave to the professionals. Starting a business is a great reason to find a good lawyer. "I really believe in going to people who are experts," says Schoenfeldt. "Get an accountant or bookkeeper, too. It will make it that much easier for you."
Busy working moms can tell you: Women make great managers. Remember to keep an eye out for your employees' strengths, allowing for flexibility and growth. If you don't have managing experience, training seminars, such as those offered by the Women's Leadership Exchange, will also give you the managerial skills to take you and your team to the next level.
Knowing how and when to close up shop can have a huge impact on your bottom line. "That's a tricky one," says Schoenfeldt says, "but it's smart to have that in the back of your mind: Do you want to pass your business down as a legacy? Do you want to sell? Bring in people who might want to take it over? These are all very important things to consider."
Originally published on LHJ.com, April 2007.