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Page 10

[PART I of III; STEPS 1 to 12] - STARCO REPORT #2177
Copyright 1997 Joseph R. Birkner

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In PART I, (steps 1 to 12), of a 3 part series, learn: Entrepreneurship, business skills needed for success, choosing the perfect business, business startup basics, procedures, stationery, equipment, mail order start up, where to find products to sell, how to create your own products and more...


Starting a home business is the dream of millions of budding entrepreneurs. Maybe you have also thought of starting a home business but for one reason or another you never got around to it. Now, perhaps you are laid off or 'down-sized' and must 'do something' to survive. Maybe you are retired or perhaps you need extra money, whatever your motives are for wanting to become more independent financially or mentally, here are some step by step tips on how you can get started in a home business of your own.


It has often been stated that an entrepreneur is a risk taker. Although that is true to some extent, my definition of an entrepreneur follows: "Entrepreneurs are not risktakers, rather, they see opportunities and seize them!" You will have to be a self starter and not depend on others. For example, when you worked at your "regular job" your boss 'fed you work' and you had to do whatever job you were given even though you hated it. On payday, you got your reward. As an entrepreneur, you'll have to find WHAT you want to do, HOW to do it and WHERE to sell your creation or service. You'll spend more time than you'd ever imagine but you'll enjoy it better.


For instance, if you enjoy woodworking, then try to establish a business involving woodworking. Some thoughts that come to mind are making wooden novelties, birdhouses, whirligigs (wind toys), crafts or even building decks and sheds. Start with your hobbies to find a potential business opportunity that you already enjoy. If you do what you enjoy, the money will come, unless there is no market. So, don't hock the family jewels to start a buggy whip manufacturing business!!


Computers are big now and will be the growth area in the future. Learn a word processing program such as Ami Pro, Microsoft Word, or Word Perfect.

You don't need the fastest, most powerful computer to do a decent job and you don't have to spend a lot of money on a computer or on training either. Used computer stores and mail order suppliers listed in computer magazines have good computers for low cost. Check out your local computer users group or your local adult education programs offered at local high schools and colleges for low cost training. Ask your reference librarian for help or check the "yellow pages "...but do it now!!


The 'perfect' business in my view is one that you enjoy and is fun rather than work. For example, I always liked to tinker and build all kinds of contraptions from discarded items. I'd never throw away anything away without first dissecting it and salvaging good parts that I could use for other "thing-a-ma-jigs".

I once built a simple metal detector from electronic parts that I "stole" from a broken radio. I used a few resistors, a capacitor, some lamp cord wire [for the search coil] scrap plywood to mount the components and an old broom handle to hold during searching. Oh yes, the receiver was a cheap working transistor radio tuned to the right frequency and attached to the broom handle with [thick] rubber bands I cut from a bicycle inner tube that had a blow out. Despite the "Rube Goldberg contraption", it did and still does work and I've found several coins with it and lots of bottle caps!!

You too have many hidden untapped talents that you can use to start and build your own business at home. Start by making a list of your hobbies and interests for getting ideas. When you do what you love, it is fun and not work!


A friend of mine, an accountant, said that someone asked him to 'get involved with designing and setting up web pages on the Internet. This sounded like a great opportunity, and when my friend told me that he knew nothing about web page design I told him to either get knowledge from books or seminars and courses or find a business that he understands and enjoys. Not having the time or interest to pursue web page design, he followed my advice and, several months ago, he set up a financial investment service business which was related to his accounting background.

So, to get going fast, start the business that is closely related to your interests. Go with what you know!!


A business license costs about $10. Request 2 or 3 extra copies of the license with the official city seal on it, your bank will need an official copy for their files. Before a license is issued, the clerk checks the files to see if the business name you picked is available and is not already used by another. A DBA "doing business as" account is one such as: Mary Jones doing business as (DBA) "ABC Company". 7. OPEN A BUSINESS CHECKING ACCOUNT AT YOUR LOCAL BANK.

Usually, a DBA checking account is FREE. You need the business checking account to cash your customer's checks made payable to your business. If you do not have a business checking account, then you can't cash or deposit checks. When opening a business checking account, the bank will ask for your business license and some form of ID such as a driver's license. Start with a small deposit say, $100 and you'll soon get your printed checks and you are ready for business.


You must have business stationery ie. a printed envelope and letterhead and a business card in order to do business with suppliers. A local print shop such as "Staples", "Office Max" and others can quickly print a small quantity (500) of each or you can type set your own with your computer and save some money. Don't get fancy with your printing when you start out. Avoid paying for special logo designs when you can use a stock ":logo cut" at very little extra cost, but a logo alone, does not necessarily sell more of your offers so keep your printed stationery simple.


A business phone and a business answering machine with a professional outgoing message means that you are serious. Avoid using your personal answering machine and home phone as your business one too. Often I have reached 'businesses' that were answered by children or that had barking dogs in the background. When you answer the phone, say your company name, such as "ABC COMPANY, John Smith speaking..May I help You?" rather than a personal "hello". Also, with your business phone you get a free one line yellow (& white page) listing for your business. The cost for a business phone is under $20 a month (basic service) with a one time installation charge of about $100. Buy an answering machine with a speaker phone so you can speak while you read or write. I use Phone Mate #8200 ($39.95) with good results.

An example of how having a business phone listing paid off was when a book publisher called directory assistance under our company name to see if we had a business phone before he agreed to work with us!! So, look professional and act professional and you'll be treated with respect and opportunities will come to you seemingly out of the blue. I believe that the SMARTER (not the HARDER) you work the LUCKIER you get!!


Starting a mail order business is another popular 'easy entry' way to start a home based business with little investment. The big problem is to find a product or information to sell. Reading and responding to classified and display ads in printed opportunity magazines, on-line business magazines and E Newsletters such as this one is an excellent way to gain entry into the mail order or direct marketing business with little money. Note, too, how and why the particular ad you responded to got your attention. Pattern, but do not copy, your own ads the same way. Example: use the word FREE if possible in your ad to get attention fast or use an attention getting ad such as "MAKE 1998% PROFIT SELLING INFORMATION!!"


Trade shows, magazines, newsletters, on-line publications, manufacturers, and importers are good places to look for products to sell.

For trade shows, contact the Chamber of Commerce in your area. Also, contact local convention or trade centers via the Chamber of Commerce in any large city for a calendar of up-coming trade shows which are typically held annually. To attend these shows, you must be "in the trade" since they are not open to the public. Sometimes you may be able to get a free pass and badge from a sponsor. I've attended many trade shows in Chicago, New York City and in Boston just by contacting the sponsor and telling them that I am a direct marketer seeking new products.

You can directly contact manufacturers and suppliers requesting their wholesale prices (remember to use your business stationery). The companies can be found in the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers (22 volumes; 1997 cost $240) under 55,000 product & service headings. This valuable resource looks like a big green encyclopedia and is available in any large public or college library.

Contact a local field office of the Department of Commerce for Importing/Exporting information in the blue pages phone book under US Government Listings. Your local library and especially the business library of a College or University is an excellent source of business books, publications and trade magazines where you can get ideas for products that you can sell.


Invent your own products by improving existing products. I taught a creativity seminar and asked the students to find as many uses as possible for a piece of fluorescent property marking tape. In 15 minutes they brainstormed over 167 uses!! Some were: fuel; toilet paper; decoration; a belt; a bikini; a hat, bookmark, fishing lure etc. Try brainstorming on any product that you want to improve. Simply list as many ways that come to mind in say, 20 minutes, of how you can improve the product. The more ideas the better regardless of how seemingly silly or stupid they may seem to be at first. Don't stop to evaluate any of them now, rather just let your creative juices flow and you will find that you too can invent!!

Avoid responding to late night scam invention marketing companies who promise you the world and fail to deliver anything. Some highly touted companies may be fraudulent. Contact and question the Federal Trade Commission about the reputation of any invention marketing firms that you are considering. Do this before submitting your ideas and your money to them. Deal with reputable firms. The Patent and Trademark Office provides patent and trademark protection to inventors and businesses. It offers some information on invention marketing companies also that you may want to check out. It grants patents on inventions registers trademarks, publishes patent information and maintains files of U.S. and foreign patents for public use. If you invent a new product ask for information regarding patents and trademarks: Contact: U.S. Department of Commerce, Patent and Trademark Office, Washington, D.C. 20231 or call 703-308-4357.


In PART II, (steps 13 to 22), of a 3 part series, learn: how to approach suppliers, finding products, Information products, advertising, order filling, distribution and more...


Joseph R. Birkner is a writer, author, speaker, direct marketing consultant, inventor, mechanical engineer, and President of Star Research Company (est. 1984). A prime source supplier for unique high profit products and inventions and How-To Information, Star Research Company also provides honest help to new business start-ups, inventors and entrepreneurs.

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