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1. Secure Funding

Not surprisingly, most startup companies face issues with having adequate funding – but that shouldn’t hold you back. In the first stages of your business you may need proof of concept, prototypes, research, inventory, marketing and packaging. There are several options that you can explore to obtain funds, including seed capital, potential grants, and various loans.

To help you determine exactly how much money you should be seeking, fill out a Financial Projections Template  (provided by SCORE, click will open link in a new window) to calculate startup expenses, payroll costs, and more!

2. Find Space to Grow

Sure starting out in your basement or your buddy’s garage may work now – but there is a good chance that eventually your business will need additional space and technology requirements. Looking ahead and planning will allow you to grow without breaking the bank and leaving your startup vulnerable.

Most communities have access to incubator facilities, such as the Chippewa Valley Innovation Center or Applied Technology Center.

3. Get On Board with Teamwork

Small team dynamics can become hindering if two or more individuals don’t get along. In addition to getting along, small startups have to find an team of individuals with experience and talent. Unfortunately, most startups  aren’t able to offer competitive salaries – making it even more difficult to secure a team that will build the company up to something great.

Don’t let the daunting task of pulling together the right team be overwhelming, there are several ways to connect and network to find those individuals who have the skills your company needs to grow. The most important component is to have a team that is as passionate as you are about the startup’s mission and goals.

4. Locate a Mentor

A mentor can help you navigate through the ins and outs of getting your startup off the ground. The easiest, and perhaps easiest to overlook, source for mentors is someone who you already know. Take a look at your Facebook or LinkedIn account and post that you are seeking a mentor – there is a decent chance that you may be able to connect with someone.

Face-to-face more your style? Not a problem, there are several state and local organizations that you can connect with to help locate a mentor: SCORE, Wisconsin Dairyland, and the Small Business Development Center are all great places to start.

5. Establish a Clear Direction

There is no one way to get your business up off the ground. Nor is there a quick algorithm that you can use to guarantee success – but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have options to help yourself. Business plans are a great tool, but are lengthy and often don’t have the flexibility that most startups require.

The Lean Startup Model is used in startups to quickly determine the most feasible path towards market fit. Using the Lean Startup Canvas, businesses are able to layout key elements of their business to help make decisions, and invest their time into actively building products or services.

Click here to download the Lean Start Cheat-Sheet.

Learn more about the Lean Startup Model and Business Plan Development by clicking here.

6. Find Your Niche

Very rarely is an idea completely new. Innovation typically comes in the form of a unique or revolutionary change in an already existing idea. Because of this, it is difficult to cut through the noise and have your company stand out from the crowd. You have to find your niche … and it needs to be something no one else is doing (hint: everyone thinks they are the best at what they do, so saying “we are the best” is not going to cut it).

Your niche could consist of enhance of current products in the market, or be a completely new innovative take on how something is done. The goal is for your idea to make people’s live better, easier, more affordable, or flat out awesome!

7. Set Realistic Goals

“Reach for the stars!” may have sounded great when you were in second grade, but when running a startup you are going to want something more measurable and obtainable.

Don’t short yourself (and set your business up for failure) by setting poorly derived or immeasurable goals. Take the time to really think about what you want to accomplish and how you can get there. Two popular methods for setting goals:

  • SMART goals (Specific Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic & Time-based)
  • HARD goals (Heartfelt, Animated, Required & Difficult)

Regardless of the methods you choose – it helps to write them down and continue to revisit them periodically to make adjustments.

8. Listen to Your Audience

By now you should have already filled out a Lean-Startup Canvas (if not go ahead – we will wait here) and you have probably noticed that one of the best things about the canvas is that it is really easy to update- particularly if you used pencil.

If your product release is met with a lukewarm approval, don’t be afraid to return to your original idea to see what can be improved. Do you think the first Mac computer was awesome? No – they went back to the drawing board several times until they got it right.

9. Embrace Creative Problem Solving

While working at 3M, Spencer Silver attempted to make a super strong adhesive. This goal was an utter failure. Instead of adhesive that was so strong it could be used in the aerospace industry to build planes, it wasn’t even strong enough to hold two pieces of paper together. Management agreed with Silver that this was a failed product and it was shelved.

Fast forward to Art Fry, a Product Development Engineer at 3M, almost a decade later who also happened to sing in a St. Paul, MN choir. After continuously losing his song page markers in his hymn book, he used the adhesive to make the markers stick to the pages without damaging the book.

It was this creative problem solving that generated one of the most widely used office products today – Post-It Notes.

Using creative problem solving can turn what some see as a failure into a completely new innovation!

10. Balance Expansion with Quality

Growing too quickly or without solid funding in place can leave your startup on shaky ground. Take the time to set up a plan for expanding, remembering that every change your company undergoes effects the quality of your product.

Hire too many too quickly? You could be making the mistake of hiring individuals who aren’t the best fit for your organization, or you could be hiring beyond your budget.

Expecting to work from a couch and laptop only to you realize you need to have office space? If you have at least considered this possibility, it won’t be such a shock to your company (not to mention your budget) if you need to change your plans to keep up with your company’s growth…and you can always move that couch to the office.

In conclusion, starting a new company is not something to take lightly and will require a lot of thought. Lucky for you, there are a lot of resources to help you along your way. Organizations such as SCORE and the Eau Claire Area EDC are here to help individuals make their business dreams feasible, and programs such as the Idea Challenge and Startup Weekend can assist you with planning and finding mentors. With a lot of planning and passion – and maybe a bit of luck – you can set yourself and your business up to become something amazing!


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Christina Wasson