Sponsored 25 July 2019
Female founders and C-level executives are dominating the market right now. There are more women in top-level management than ever before. New and existing startups founded by women are also tackling market challenges left and right, seizing a lot of opportunities along the way.
There is no better time to start a new business than right now. Market opportunities are plentiful and ready to be seized. Resources needed to start a new business are in abundance. More importantly, getting started with your own company is easier than ever.
Before you go ahead and join forces with colleagues to start a new business, however, there are a few preparations to be made first. You have to be ready for the challenges ahead, and these five things are exactly what you need to be the next startup success story.
A Mature Product Idea
The process of developing a simple idea into a product that customers can actually use is a long one. Many founders started their businesses with a simple idea in mind, only to find that transforming that idea into tangible products and services is not as easy as it seems.
Rather than developing a raw idea after starting the new business, it is actually better to take your idea to a certain point before entering the business landscape. At the very least, you want your idea to be mature enough as a business proposition.
The best product ideas are ones that solve real, existing problems faced by potential customers. When you have a solution to a problem everyone faces, you don't have to spend as many resources trying to create a market for your new business.
While developing the idea, you can also start working on your business plan. How will the product enter the market? What are the resources you need to turn that plan into a reality? What's the market size for your product or service?
The more of these details you collect and process, the more prepared you'll be as a startup founder. You know exactly what to expect from the market when you do start the new business, making the rest of the process easier to manage.
Good Project Management
Many founders see leadership as an essential skill. It is, but it is not the only fundamental skill that you absolutely need to succeed. A more fundamental skill is project management. Think of starting a business as managing multiple projects. There are tasks that need to be completed before you can take the business off the ground, and good project management is the key to completing those tasks.
The Kanban system is a methodology that you can count on if you are new to project management. It is simple enough to use and flexible enough to adapt to different organizations and business models. You can even make an adjustment to the Kanban board based on what you actually need.
Mastering the basics of the Kanban system will also make you a better project manager. What is cycle time? How you can keep the lead time of each task at a minimum? How do you spot bottlenecks based on the Kanban cards? These questions become easier to answer now that your tasks – the projects you handle – are visualized on the board. Kanbanize is a great example of a Kanban board. Visit their site to learn more and read up on the Kanban way of managing projects.
A Strong Team
As a founder, you need to be prepared to do most of the heavy lifting. After all, this is your business, and its future is tied – in large part – to your future. You cannot expect your business to be successful from the beginning, at least not when you are not willing to invest time, money, and energy into it.
However, being a startup founder doesn't mean doing everything yourself. In fact, it doesn't have to be that way at all. You still have the ability to create a strong team, filled with capable people whose skills can help support the business.
If you are not sure about the business side of, well, your business, you can add a team member whose focus is in this field. The same is true with other tasks that you need to tackle, including manufacturing your products and marketing them to a wider audience.
Developing a strong team is perhaps the biggest challenge all founders must face. It is never easy to find likeminded people that understand your vision. Never settle for less, especially when you have big dreams for the new business.
Sufficient Financial Support
The last thing to prepare is the set of resources required to start the business. I'm talking about having enough funds to get the ball rolling, at least until the business begins generating revenue from selling products and services. Sufficient financial support, however, doesn't mean a large starting capital.
Most of the big corporations we know today were founded in a garage somewhere, with little to no capital and plenty of passion. However, those businesses face financial challenges along the way, and their founders know exactly how to face those challenges like a champ.
When you suddenly receive a big order for your product, for instance, you should know how to best cover the manufacturing and distribution costs to fulfill that order. You may have to rely on loans from friends or financial institutions.
The important thing here is knowing what to do. You can self-fund the new business at the beginning. You can keep the business self-funded in the long run too. Nevertheless, you always know what to do when you run into financial roadblocks.
Okay, there is one more thing to get right when you are starting a new business: a strong passion for the business venture. As mentioned repeatedly before, there are a lot of challenges to overcome when starting a new business. Those challenges can be overwhelming, and the only way you can stay motivated is by loving – and I do mean truly loving – what you do.
Passion is the last piece of the puzzle. Combined with the other four components covered in this article, you are ready to be the next big success story in the startup landscape.
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5 Min Read
Organic growth has made all the difference for my company. Since its start in 2010, Fresh n' Lean has delivered more than 7.2 million organic meals that are free of pesticides, hormones, GMOs, and other additives. The business itself has grown organically, too, without the help of any outside capital. Over the past decade, Fresh n' Lean's bootstrapped operation has grown into a 220-employee company with nine-figure revenue.
Here's how I've been able to successfully build my business without taking on a penny of outside funding.
1. A Hard Decision
The decision of whether or not to take on outside capital is a difficult one.
I was lucky— I relied on personal savings to fund Fresh n' Lean at the company's onset. I thought Fresh n' Lean was a meaningful endeavor, and I believed in myself and my vision.
Not every business owner would be financially able to make the same decision I did. Either way, it's important that your company's growth happens gradually and naturally.
2. Start Small
I was an 18-year-old college student when I launched Fresh n' Lean.
I would regularly work upwards of 20 hours a day— cooking dishes, arranging the meals in tupperware containers, handwriting the labels, and personally delivering them to some of our earliest customers.
Pretty soon we were shipping meals nationally, and I began renting a commercial kitchen space.
We generated a ton of enthusiasm from our customers, and that support prooved that we were on to something. But the early days featured lots of trial and error. We made mistakes and learned from them before scaling the business.
3. Rely On Your Network
Fresh n' Lean started with a team of five people. My friends and relatives chipped in, and my brother Thomas joined Fresh n' Lean as co-CEO.
Relying on those close colleagues was so meaningful in helping me get the company off the ground. I often look at Fresh n' Lean's employees as a family, and that mentality was especially true in those early days.
As I ramped up the hiring, my experiences with every aspect of our operation made me sharp at understanding the company's needs— and helped me to hire employees with the right skill set and mentality to drive the company forward.
4. Hold Firm
Fresh n' Lean embodies a lifestyle choice, a chance for everyone in the United States to have access to nourishing meals amid their busy lives.
We probably could have driven more sales by offering non-organic meal options, but I wanted the company to remain true to my mission.
A decade later, I'm so proud to see the impact Fresh n' Lean has made in redefining fast food.
5. Capitalize On Industry Trends
We live in a society of instant gratification— we want everything now, and our world is completely focused on convenience.
When Fresh n' Lean was launched, the idea of receiving ready-to-eat meals on your doorstep was a strange concept. But a decade later, we're used to having everything delivered to our homes. Recognizing and capitalizing on those changing consumer habits was a big part of our growth.
6. Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
For years, I wanted to open our own kitchen facility— it was a top priority.
But building the space was a difficult and extensive process that could have financially devastated us if we attempted it too soon. In those early years, the project would have left the company too vulnerable.
Instead of moving forward with the project, we waited. In the meantime, we continued renting commercial kitchen space. One day a week turned into two, and then three and four, and eventually we were renting the space five days a week.
In time, we had no other options but to build our own kitchen facility— and our restraint before moving forward with that project was crucial, even if it was frustrating for the short-term.
7. Focus On You
As you build your company, it's easy to try to compare it to the growth other companies experience.
But headlines and press releases don't reveal the full story, and outside funding can mask structural and foundational problems. One example is the online ordering and meal delivery service Munchery, which secured more than $125 million from lenders before closing in early 2019.
Every company's story is unique! You can't judge your company's success based on the ups and downs of others. Focus on making your company the best you can.
8. One Thing At A Time
Our meal offerings have expanded through deliberate, strategic planning and extensive customer feedback.
Building the recipes takes time— we want to be sure to get it right. And our customer feedback ensures that there's built-in interest before rolling out new meal options.
9. Be Resourceful
Building the company without outside capital forced me to be more resourceful. I couldn't throw money at everything I wanted to change— I had to be patient and find alternative solutions.
It's similar, in a way, to cooking a dish without having every ingredient listed in the recipe. You must have the key ingredients! Our executive chef was one of our earliest hires.
But you can adjust and improvise on some of the secondary ingredients, using whatever alternatives you have available and relying on tried-and-true methods to fill in the gaps.
Who knows? Through experimentation, you just might find a better way to cook your dish or guide your company forward.