Starting a small business is a fun and exciting time for any aspiring entrepreneur, but starting a small business when you have kids is a whole different story. Some might say that starting a business is almost like having another child––one you have to nurture, feed, and help grow.
It can be a lot to juggle, but by taking the time to plan and put some important processes in place, you’ll be able to set your small business up for success without sacrificing time spent with your family. In this article, we’ll go over some tips for things you need to start a business when you have a kid.
Coming up with your business idea
One of the biggest barriers to starting a small business is knowing what kind of business you’d like to start. Some people are able to constantly come up with new business ideas, but for others, it can be difficult to create an original, compelling concept.
While it may seem counterintuitive, the key to choosing your business idea is to stop putting pressure on yourself to come up with an idea that is completely unique. As the saying goes, there are no new ideas, just better iterations of them.
Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, think about how you can help individuals or businesses. Some ways to think of a business idea include:
- Solving a known problem
- Saving people money
- Making people’s lives easier
- Turning a hobby you love into a business
- Offering an experience
- Fulfilling a need
Write down a few ideas and think about how your skill sets would work with them. Sometimes an outside opinion can help, so ask your friends and family for their ideas on what would work for you if you’re feeling stuck. You could even incorporate your experience as a parent by choosing a business idea that is child-friendly.
Once you’ve got some good ideas to choose from, narrow down the list by selecting the one that appeals to you the most. After all, being passionate about your business is a key ingredient for success. Just don’t forget to conduct market research to ensure that your business idea is potentially profitable, not just enjoyable.
Set goals and make a business plan
The excitement of starting a small business can make you feel like you just want to get started right away, but it’s always a good idea to take the time to make a plan before you dive into the deep end. By setting goals, you’ll be able to start your business off on the right foot as well as save your time, money, and energy.
There are several ways to set goals for your business. You could approach your goals from a monetary perspective, setting a sales income target for your first year, then breaking that up into quarterly and monthly earnings to stay on track. Alternatively, you could focus on goals like developing a high customer retention rate or automating your business.
Writing a business plan can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never written one before, so here are some things to remember to include:
- The executive summary: what your company is about and why it will be successful
- A description of the company
- Market analysis: what does the market look like? Who might your competitors be?
- The organization of the company, even if it’s just you
- The service or product you’ll offer
- Marketing and sales: how will you find and draw in customers?
- Estimated financial projections for the first year
- Will your business need funding?
There are many business plan templates available, so choose one that best suits your unique business needs.
Give yourself time to work on your business
You’re excited about your business and want it to succeed immediately, but your business may not grow as fast as you would like, especially if other responsibilities like caring for your kids take priority. So what can you do to grow your business without sacrificing your family commitments?
It’s important that you find a way to schedule work time for yourself so you can get things done, even if that means taking advantage of quiet moments before your kids wake up or after they go to bed. Depending on what type of business you have, you could even try to find ways to include your kids in the process. For example, maybe you could turn a post office run into a family adventure, or your kids could even help address your order shipments.
Decide on your business’s legal structure
There are four main options when it comes to your business’s legal structure. They are:
Each option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages when it comes to taxes, liability, and earnings, so do your research to make sure you choose the right business structure for you.
Determine if your business will need funding
One of the best things about running a small business is the access to multiple options for funding, including small business bank loans, crowdfunding, bootstrapping, federal and provincial government grants, and angel investors.
Depending on your business, you may not need funding in order to start operating. However, as your business grows, pay attention to signs that you need funding, like outgrowing your current facilities or needing more cash flow to spend on inventory, staff, or research and development.
Choose your business name and establish your branding
Coming up with the right name and business branding isn’t easy, but it can also provide the perfect opportunity to make your kids feel included. You want a name and branding that are easy to recognize and remember, and effectively communicate what your product or service is all about. It’s also key that your business name and branding be unique and available.
There are several ways to come up with a name and branding for your business. You can do it old school and brainstorm ideas with a pen and paper, or you can try a name generator tool.
Once you’ve got some good options for your business name, check to see if the business name is available by looking it up online or checking business registries. If it’s available, you can go ahead and register your business under that name, and don’t forget to secure the domain for your website.
Work with an accountant or bookkeeper
Take it from us, any business can benefit from an accountant or bookkeeper. You could take care of your business finances on your own, but that may mean sacrificing time and effort that could be better spent on other aspects of your business. A professional accountant or bookkeeper can help by keeping your finances on track, ensuring you get relevant business deductions, and paying your taxes on time.
You can find an accountant or bookkeeper via recommendations from other business owners or by checking professional accounting associations. Take the time to ask questions and make sure you’re comfortable. You want to like and trust your accountant or bookkeeper because you are trusting them with your business’ finances.
If you do choose to take more of a DIY approach to your business finances, consider using business software to stay organized.
Set up your home office
If you’ve been working from home since the start of the pandemic, you may already have a home office, but if you haven’t, consider setting up a dedicated space where you can focus on your business without interruptions from kids. Ideally, your office should have enough space for you to work on your business and store any products or packaging materials, and if possible, a door that you can close to keep your work life and home life separate. If you’re limited on space, you could always consider a backyard office shed.
Test your business idea
Before you go all-in on your business idea, test it out to see if it’ll work. There are several ways to test your idea. First, start with some questions:
- What problem will your product or service solve?
- Who is your target customer?
- What resources do you have?
Your business plan may already answer many of these questions, but there are other things you can do to further test your idea, such as focus groups and competitive analyses.
Determine if you need insurance
What kind of insurance does your small business need? While small business insurance isn’t mandatory, it can offer peace of mind against the possibility of lawsuits and other claims against your business. Some examples of business insurance include commercial general liability (which covers you against property damage), professional liability insurance (against negligence or misconduct), product liability insurance (against property damage as a result of your product or service), and cyber liability insurance (against data theft).
Find out if you need special licensing
Depending on your small business, you may need additional licenses or permits in order to operate legally. There are a number of different types of licenses, and your location and industry will determine your business’ licensing requirements.
For example, if you have a small business that could disrupt your neighbours, you may need to get a municipal license and open your business in a designated area. Other licenses include professional ones that allow you to practice in good standing. You may need to do some type of training before you can open your business, and getting a license is part of that process.
If you plan on working with hazardous materials, you’ll probably need a license to handle said materials. Check with your town or city guidelines or professional organizations to see if you need to be licensed before you start running your business.
Decide how your customers will pay you
Getting paid is one of the best things about running a small business, but you have to make it easy for your customers to pay you. In the old days, it used to be cheques or credit cards, but now there are so many options that simplify the process and get you paid as quickly as possible. Some options include:
Plan how you’ll grow your business
So you’ve launched your business and it’s done well thanks to implementing your goals and business plan. Word of mouth has been great, but now it’s time for the next step: growing your business. You could do this by introducing new products or services, expanding your market share, acquiring a similar or related business and leveraging their products or services and market share, or by adding new locations. Whatever the method, you need a plan to help you succeed.
Create a marketing plan
Before we talk about what you need for your marketing plan, it’s important to understand the difference between a marketing plan and a business plan.
While a business plan focuses on the entire business from concept to production to hiring, a marketing plan takes a narrower approach, helping you get specific about how you’ll sell your product to your customers. This includes understanding your audience, their pain points, where they’re looking for your product and service, and what kind of messaging they respond to. Your marketing plan should also detail how you plan to measure key results.
Is search engine optimization (SEO) right for you?
If you want to be found on the web, especially on the first page of search results, search engine optimization or SEO might be the right choice for your business. It’s a cost-effective way for customers to find you, especially as consumers have moved their buying habits from brick-and-mortar stores to online.
Following SEO best practices for your business can help you:
What other types of online marketing should you try?
There are so many different types of online marketing strategies and tactics you can use to grow your business, including email marketing, content marketing, influencer marketing, search engine marketing (SEM), pay-per-click (PPC), and social media marketing.
You can focus on one type of online marketing or combine multiple types, like content and email marketing, to reach different audiences or meet different business goals. Done right, your marketing efforts should continue to bring in customers even when you’re away from your business spending time with your family.
How to set up a website that converts customers
Are you really a small business owner if you don’t have a business website? And if you do, is it a website that will convert customers from browsing to buying? You want your website to be working when you’re not, and that means ensuring that it’s optimized for conversion. Here’s how.
Tell potential customers exactly who you are and what you do
Your website should immediately tell your customers exactly what you offer and how you can help them. This is sometimes known as a value proposition.
Make it easy for customers to make purchases
Keep the customer journey between arriving at your site and buying your product as short and simple as possible. Things to consider are the placement of call to action buttons and keeping forms short and easy to fill out.
Check headlines with A/B testing
The right headline can make or break a sale, so test various headlines for the same piece of content to see which one performs better with your customers. And don’t be afraid to ask customers for feedback: a short survey can get you vital information that you can use to help improve your business and marketing plans.
Consider referral programs
Some people find it easy to pitch their business to strangers and make a sale, but if cold calling isn’t for you, don’t worry. Another way to gain new customers is through referrals. When your customers are happy with their purchase, they’re generally open to referring you to friends and family who are looking for your type of products or services.
It’s possible that your customers will naturally recommend your business, but setting up a referral program that provides them with an incentive to share your business can be an extremely effective method of word-of-mouth marketing. A referral program can help you bring in new, warm leads even when you’re not actively working on your business. Plus these leads are cheaper and have a better return on investment than the time and money you’d spend making cold calls.
Setting up a referral program involves asking your customers to refer people who might be interested in your business’ services or products. There are many templates that can help you develop a referral program, but the basics include a message that outlines what you’d like from your customers (a referral) and any incentives to encourage referrals (like a commission on referred sales or a discount on their next purchase).
Final words of wisdom on setting up a business when you have a child
Setting up a small business while raising a child may require time you don’t always feel you have. However, solid business and marketing plans that leverage technology and optimize (or even automate) parts of your business can keep working hard for you even after you’ve clocked out for the day to spend time with your family.