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7 tips to (actually) start your startup

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DeLorean Johnson, founder of Greenville-based small business Au Courant Interiors | photo provided by CommunityWorks

Inspiration has struck – now it’s up to you to ride that wave like a surfer. Getting a new side-hustle or small business up-and-running can be the hardest part of it all, so here are 7 tips for (actually) getting started on your startup from local CommunityWorks Loan Officers.

  1. Buy a notebook or start a Notes sheet in your phone just for your small business notes, and write down everything that pops into your head.
  • Good ideas come along steadily, but truly great ideas come infrequently. Be ready to write when it happens and don’t worry about full sentences or grammar, just record your crazy brilliant thoughts before they disappear.
  1. Take an honest look at your personal finances.
  • Most small business loans are secured with personal collateral and assets, so it’s best to have a full understanding of where you stand financially before you apply for a loan.
  • If you’re not sure your personal finances are up to snuff, consider scheduling a free personal financial assessment with Edris Tucker, CommunityWork’s financial coach.
  1. Take an inventory of your personal strengths + weaknesses.
  • Are you a morning person? Owning a bakery might be a great idea. On the flip side, opening up a concert hall probably isn’t the best for a morning person. Know thyself.
  1. Start surfing the web… for research.
  • Spend some time getting to know the other occupiers in the space you want to move into. Look at competitors’ Facebook traffic, their website structure + their service footprint. Know your market.
  • Is there another coffee shop next door to where you want to open your pastry shop? Or perhaps there are already 10 dog walkers in your neighborhood, but only one across town.
  1. Talk it out with a loved one or friend.

  • Q: “Hey, dad, what are your thoughts about the gyms in your area?”
  • A: “There is only one gym near me and it’s full of meatheads. I wish there was another option.”
  • Q: “What about if I opened up my own gym by the old elementary school?”
  • A: “DUDE. That would be epic. We could cater to regular folks like us with dad bods.”

  • The people who know us best are often the best source of support – and can be honest with you about whether or not they think you’re hitting on a good idea.
  1. Road test it.
  • Want to open up a bakery? Take some samples to work and ask for good feedback. Interested in a long-haul trucking business? Spend some long days on the road to make sure you’re a good match for that line of work.
  1. Starting your own business may mean working alone for a while.
  • Most start-ups and microbusinesses have 1-2 employees at the beginning, so be prepared to fly solo for a little while.

Greenville-based nonprofit CommunityWorks is one of only a few lenders in S.C. who invest in small, startup businesses – and the only one in the Upstate. They offer loans to fit every business (from micro to macro) at affordable rates; specialize in providing Small Business Loans and coaching to low-wealth families + underrepresented entrepreneurs.

And they’re a nonprofit lender, which means they aren’t trying to meet quotas or Q2 goals. Learn more about their financing options online.

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