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Do you dream of starting your own business?

Before you quit your day job, consider the demands of a small business and prepare wisely.  Here are a few tips to get you started.
/ Source: TODAY

If you're a woman who's always wanted to start her own business but just haven't figured out how — or if — you could actually do it, here's some good news: Women-owned businesses account for 28 percent of all businesses in the U.S. and represent about 775,000 new start-ups per year. Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio started their own public relations and marketing firm and co-wrote "The Girl's Guide to Starting Your Own Business." They offer these suggestions to help you figure out if a small business is the right choice for you:

Ask yourself the tough questions
You sit at your desk, in the middle of a sea of cubicles, thinking about opening that little, cozy bookstore. You convince yourself that if you were surrounded by Alice Hoffman, Stephen King and Shakespeare everything would be right in your world. Well, it might. Or it might not! We encourage everyone before they jump into their fantasy business to ask themselves some tough questions.

  • Are you a people pleaser? This is hopefully a "yes," because you will need to please many people as a small business owner, everyone from your customers and clients to your landlord and investor.
  • Are you a hard worker? Of course you are, otherwise you wouldn’t even think about doing this. Even if you start out doing a consulting business three days a week, these will be long days!
  • Can you live on a fluctuating income? We mean pay the bills, eat, take care of your family and maintain your life insurance (very important) while starting this business.

And most importantly when thinking about a specific business, think through what your typical day would look like. In the case of the bookstore, you would be stacking books, opening boxes, dusting merchandise, answering customer questions, placing orders, reviewing ads in the local paper, dealing with your employees, meeting with sales reps from the various publishers, reading a few pages of the latest best-seller during a slow moment, wrapping gifts and running to the bank. If at least most of this sounds good to you — go for it!

What business is right for you?
Think about your skills and your professional background. What are you bringing to the table? If you have always wanted to open a bakery because you like to make cakes in your spare time but haven’t ever worked in retail, then you might want to consider moonlighting. In the case of little practical or applicable experience, we recommend not quitting your day job yet. Take a part-time job in the field you are interested in or an internship on the weekends. You do need some real world experience in the area you want to go into. In our case, we wanted to open an agency but didn’t have enough clients to hang our shingle. So we took on a three-day-a-week consulting job and began developing our own business the other four days a week. You should also ask yourself what you are interested in — your hobbies don’t always make for great business ideas, but sometimes they do. If you love quilting and everyone has complimented your work for years, then maybe it's time for you to approach a few local stores about selling a few of them, or to put them up on Ebay.

Assemble your small-business team
Unfortunately, there are forms to be filed, taxes to be paid and documents to be notarized when you start a business, so it is best to assemble your small-business team. These are the professional consultants that you will work with on an ongoing basis to help you with the legal and financial nitty-gritty of running your business. You might be an excellent clothing designer, but that doesn’t mean that you will be an excellent bookkeeper so it is best to get help with the things that you don’t know how to do. In addition to working with a bookkeeper, we recommend consulting a lawyer at the beginning stages of your business launch to help get everything squared away before you open your door. We also recommend meeting with an accountant to help you register your company in the appropriate way. All of the filing options, including LLC, C Corp and S Corp, have tax ramifications, so you want to do it right the first time.

Business plansOnce you have hit upon a business that you are passionate about, have consulted your family about doing this, and looked at your finances so that you know you can afford to do it, the time has come for you to sit down and get it all on paper. This process of planning out the vision for your company forces you to really look hard at the realities of being an entrepreneur. You will need to do market research, figure out the expense of running your business, the potential for profitability, staffing issues. If you are starting a business that won’t require you to go to a bank or investor for money, then don’t go crazy with the business plan. It doesn’t need to be a 60-page document — just the basics. However, if you are going to go through the process of getting outside money, then spend the extra time filling in every question. You might want to consider working with a mentor during this writing process; a great resource is www.score.org. They are a non-profit that will put you in touch with someone who can help guide you through it.

Final thoughts
Owning your own business is an amazing thing — we want to encourage all of you that have dreamed about it to take the chance. Everyone we interviewed for “The Girl’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business” said the same thing to us — “Starting my own business was the best decision I ever made.” And we feel the same way! Good luck!