February 24, 2022
Co-Founder, Tribe & Oak
Founder, Raise the Bar Investments, Certified Financial Education Instructor
Founder and CEO, FIT: MATCH
Director of Programs, Tory Burch Foundation
Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, CO—
Making the decision to start your own business is intimidating, and it can be hard to know where to go for guidance. CO— by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently launched its “Start. Run. Grow: Creating a New Business” series to give entrepreneurs the confidence and insights they need to take that leap.
In the first installment, the series focused on creating a new business in the pandemic era and spoke with four entrepreneurs about their small business journeys. The panelists discussed creating a community with their customers, “scary goals,” writing a business plan, and forming partnerships with other businesses.
Intentional Research Is Key to Understanding Your Audience
Knowing who your audience is and what their needs are is key for developing strategies to reach them and subsequently grow your business. As a biology teacher by trade, Ray’Chel Wilson, certified financial education instructor and founder of Raise the Bar Investments, is always trying to find quality information and numerical data to inform her decisions. She warns aspiring entrepreneurs not to conduct research just for the sake of doing it, but to intentionally find their target market.
“Research definitely is important because it really empowers you to meet the needs of your customers,” said Wilson. “Who is your target market? What do they enjoy doing in terms of lifestyle? What locations do they frequent? What are their sources of income? All of that's really going to help you determine what your market penetration strategy is, and that's useful whether you have a product-based business or a service-based business.”
“It's important to be intentional about the qualitative — the detailed information — but also the quantitative — the numerical information — that's needed to help with funding as well,” Wilson added.
Entrepreneurs Shouldn’t Buy Into the Myth of ‘Balance’
New entrepreneurs that are starting a business as a "side hustle" might have an expectation that they can “do it all” and achieve perfect balance in their work and personal lives. But that notion of balance “is not real,” said Taylor Tankson, who currently runs her luxury home essentials brand Tribe & Oak with her partner on the side of their full-time careers.
“[Entrepreneurs] think that we can focus on a bunch of things and give it 100% … but that's not true,” Tankson said. “We have to take specific times and focus on specific things when we can. When we are focused on a thing, we're giving that thing 100%, and then we try to make a plan to make sure that we're hitting everything else that we need to.”
Business Plans Should Be ‘Living Documents’ That Evolve With Your Business
As the director of programs for the Tory Burch Foundation, Heesun Lho helps women entrepreneurs by providing them with access to capital, education, and resources including how to write business plans. Lho advocates that having a fleshed-out business plan is essential for the growth of new businesses.
“Research shows that businesses that plan grow 30% faster than ones that don't and 71% fast-growing companies have plans,” said Lho.
Business plans should constantly be changing and growing with the business, Lho noted. The first business plan an entrepreneur writes shouldn’t be the same one they have in the future. The plan should also vary depending on who it is being presented to.
“If the past couple of years have taught us anything, planning is not a static exercise,” she said. “Nothing is set in stone.”
Lho described a business plan as a living document, meant to be updated as your business grows and evolves.
“I like to think of it like we're drawing a map of the journey your business will take,” she explained. “[You’re] understanding what tools [and] resources you need along the way. And, like with all maps, you want to check where you are during the journey and make changes as you gain more insights.”
Working and Partnering With the Right People Helps Businesses Grow
Haniff Brown the founder and CEO of AI-powered fashion tech company FIT: MATCH, believes that the way your business will reach its full potential is through the people you hire and the businesses you partner with.
Brown credits the success of FIT: MATCH to great partnerships with other players in the industry such as Fabletics and Savage X Fenty, and organizations that helped expand the company’s reach, like Cornell University.
“If you find the right relationships — if you work hard on researching your end market with who's at the other side of the table — chances are the person you are aligned with to get to that end goal is going to help you way more than all the hard work you could have done alone,” Brown said.
From the Series