You have an idea for a business and you’re ready to launch, but should you? USA TODAY Contributor Paul C. Brunson explains why good ideas don’t necessarily make for good businesses.
Mindy Sepeti developed her passion for baking at the University of Texas. “I would skip classes to make cookies for friends,” says Sepeti, 32, who with her husband Ken Sepeti, 33, is co-owner of Austin-based Mindy’s Bakeshop.
Sepeti was an elementary education and theater major at UT from 2004 to 2009 but moved back home to Alamo, Texas, for a year once she realized she wanted to switch careers. While at home attending community college, she waited tables at Chili’s. “I started bringing in sweets for co-workers, and soon they were placing regular orders,” she says.
After her manager suggested she go to pastry school, she quit college and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin. She graduated from pastry school in 2011, worked in various pastry kitchens around town, and sold her cakes and cookies on the side.
She met her husband in 2012 while baking for a bar and grill where he was a line cook. “After a few months of dating and baking together, Ken decided to go to pastry school as well,” Sepeti says.
They kept their full-time jobs for two years while selling treats on the side. In the summer of 2015, they set up their bakery and dessert-catering business at home.
According to an October 2017 survey by OnePoll for GoDaddy, 50% of Millennials and 25% of Baby Boomers have a side hustle; some of the top jobs include selling items online, offering cleaning services and volunteering services to a charity.
But how – and when — do you take your hustle full time?
Entrepreneurs say there are several factors to consider, among them setting a date to leave your day job, legally establishing your company’s identity and successfully building an online brand.
“If you’re willing to take prudent risks, make mistakes and learn from them, invest in your development, and ask for help when needed, you may be ready,” says Marsha Haygood, President of StepWise Associates LLC, a full-service career and personal development firm in New York City.
If you’re serious about making your part-time job a full-time success, here’s a checklist to help you get started.
Set a cutoff date. Fashion designer Kadeem Alphanso Fyffe, 26, founded Muxe New York, which specializes in gender-fluid streetwear, last year. It’s his way of combining the entrepreneurial spirit he’s always felt with his experience in the fashion industry.
In 2009, he started studying art and fashion design at the University of Richmond in Virginia. By 2013, he had graduated and entered Parsons School of Design in New York City, while working full-time.
“At Parsons, I mastered sewing, draping, illustration, CAD (computer-aided design) and collection development, all while building a strong network of fellow fashion students, mentors and industry professionals,” says Fyffe.
Over the past five years, he’s worked at Michael Kors, Lyssé and Susana Monaco fashion labels.
But the only way to make his dream of owning a fashion house come true was to take the leap. He chose Sept. 21, his 26th birthday, as the day that he would start his company no matter what. “Setting the cut-off date forced me to remain focused –I didn’t give myself the option to not be ready by 26,” he says.
Make it official. Growing at a slow and steady clip is much better than taking on more than you can handle. “Think quality, not quantity,” says Laura Orrico, president and founder of Laura Orrico Public Relations LLC, a Chicago-based PR boutique firm that works with businesses large and small on image development, media placement and crisis management.
The 41-year-old TV model and actress turned PR guru had years of experience doing publicity for her own career and others. After a celebrity friend reached out two years ago with an ongoing project, Orrico knew she could grow her side hustle into a full-time venture. She officially launched her business in 2016.
First, she started a site in addition to managing her social media pages. Then she set up the business. She took on a limited number of clients even if it meant having a waiting list. Now, her company averages 7-10 clients and has one full-time employee and one intern.
Ready to do the same? Orrico’s advice is to file your business with the state, get an attorney to draw up incorporation paperwork, and consult with an accountant to figure out how to handle taxes. The Small Business Administration offers a guide to help you plan, launch, manage, and grow your company.
Get social. Home-based baker Sepeti didn’t have extra cash for advertising when she started Mindy’s Bakeshop, so she created an Instagram account to curate the brand. “My husband and I also use the platform to connect and build relationships with other local businesses we admired,” says Sepeti, whose posts have been been regrammed by big brands including Martha Stewart and King Arthur Flour.
“Networking via Instagram was such a natural fit and it helped us to grow our circles in a major way,” Sepeti says.
Instagram recently built out its “shopping” feature, which allows users to shop whenever they spy something of interest in a company’s feed. The Sepetis don’t currently use the tool because Texas doesn’t allow home-based bakers to sell food online. But once their enterprise grows, they plan to open a brick-and mortar shop and sell their goods on the Gram.
Hack your productivity. You’ll want to be as efficient as possible once you transition your side hustle, so streamline every process you can. For tech marketer turned voice-over actor Scott Reyns, apps were the answer.
Most of his clients paid invoices on time, but some were habitually late. “Eventually, I retooled my whole billing system using InvoiceNinja, an app that lets me automate invoicing and charge late fees,” says Reyns, 43, who works from his San Francisco recording studio.
To help him stay focused during the day and accomplish more, he employs OmniFocus. He uses Streak, a customer relationship management app, to manage customers and deals inside his inbox. Reyns downloaded the app to track bookings and auditions in one place and communicate with clients.
Save every penny possible. That’s what Ina Coveney, 36, did. She started her web design and development business in 2011 while on maternity leave with her first child by offering to design the local diner’s website for free. In 2015, once the company had grown, she incorporated, opened separate business bank accounts, and saved.
“If you have a full-time job, treat the new business income as a piggy bank,” says Coveney, president and CEO of Ina Nutshell LLC in Wakefield, Massachusetts. “Cover your business expenses, set aside a third for taxes, and save the rest for when you’re ready to make the jump.”
From day one, Coveney hired a coach to guide her through business set-up, developing a marketing strategy and connecting with influencers. If you need the same type of help, contact the Small Business Development Centers and SCORE.
As for the Sepetis, they are fine with growing organically. “One of the best pieces of advice we received when we first started was, ‘do as much as you can for as long as you can with as little as you can’,” says Sepeti.
“While our growth hasn’t been as fast as others, it’s kept us out of debt and allowed us to learn and adapt as we go.”