Monday, August 3, 2009

What the Mompreneur didn't ask me

As some of you may already know, Bamboobino is the cover feature of the latest annual green issue of Mompreneur magazine. When editor Kathryn Bechthold called me up for the feature, I was trembling with excitement - I've been a longtime fan of the Mompreneur. Familiar with the magazine's Q & A format, I drafted several Q & A's of my own for the interview. She had so many great questions and was genuinely interested in our company's commitment to environmental and social responsibility. One question often asked of Q & A interviewees is tips for entrepreneurial women starting out. I didn't get asked this question as we focused on carbon emissions issues - and I'm glad she did. So here is how I would have answered the question:

Q: What advice would you give for women wanting to start a successful business?
  1. Be honest with yourself.  So many fall in love with an idea (or even the idea of running their own business), but you MUST calculate feasibility. Do the market research, and be realistic. Are you ready to start a business and are you prepared for the hard work?
  2. Take an entrepreneurial training course. You may be a talented lawyer, a gifted artesan, but have no idea about how to run a business. Then write out a business plan - in any shape or form to start - and revisit regularly.
  3. Network – either by attending events or through online social networking. Never underestimate what doors may open from networking. 
  4. Know your numbers, and keep track of your cash flow. What profit or loss are you making – if you're making a loss, when will you be making profit?
  5. Visualize where your business will be in 5, then in 10 years. It'll help determine what you do today.
  6. Find a mentor. S/He does not necessarily have to be in the same business or industry, just someone who has "been there, done that" and can offer insight, inspiration, focus and advice. 
  7. At the beginning, do your own PR. Online resources are out there to help. For example, Elena Verlee's ebook "PR in your Pajamas" is a great tool for mompreneurs wanting to get started on their own PR.
  8. Don’t spend money unnecessarily. Ask yourself over and over again if you really need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on, for example, advertising, trade shows, or volume purchases. You may have to do all at some point - and assess if it will meet your objectives and if the benefits (financial and/or nonfinancial) outweigh the costs.
  9. Balance. It’s easy to be "obsessed" with the business when it’s gaining momentum. Do something active, really spend quality time with your kids and "turn off" the business several times during the day. You need that mental coffee break, and you'll have a fresh view to a problem when you're taken away from it. And don't sweat the small stuff - chances are, in a week you won't be worrying about it.