Questions to Ask When Starting a Business

 “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”
― William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894)

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That quote by 19th century theologian William Shedd sums up what it means to be an entrepreneur.While it’s true that there’s a lot of risk involved in starting your own business, it can also be an opportunity for growth, prosperity, and self determination. There’s nothing wrong with working for someone else — and a lot of people need the security of a steady paycheck and company-provided benefits.  Entrepreneurs are a unique breed, however, and are not content having someone else call the shots and place a limit on their potential.

There’s Nothing Easy About Starting a Business

Starting a new business in not unlike preparing for a triathlon, sailing across the Atlantic, or climbing Mount Everest —  well maybe it’s not quite that grueling and treacherous!

In all cases, however, it pays to go into it with as much knowledge, training, preparation, supplies, equipment, and mental toughness as possible. Survival and success in any of these undertakings also depends on the cultivation of self belief, determination, and persistence.

While tenacity and preparation are usually prerequisites to success in any undertaking, one has to acknowledge, early on, whether or not they’re really up to the challenge.

Before taking the plunge into self employment or small business ownership, it’s wise to temper your enthusiasm with a reality check. In the same way that you wouldn’t want to attempt swimming the English Channel without being 100% sure you had the strength, endurance, and motivation to go the distance, it’s also inadvisable to attempt to start your own business if you’re ill prepared or poorly suited to the challenge ahead.

The First Step in Starting a Business

Although many entrepreneurs do not take the time to really think things through, doing a self assessment is a step that should precede all other steps. In the same way that a job interviewer assesses a candidate’s readiness or capability to handle the demands of a particular job, someone considering starting their own business should evaluate their own readiness.

Here are a few of the key questions one should ask themselves when starting a business:

  1. Do I possess the knowledge, skills, and credentials necessary to succeed in this business or profession? (And if not, would I be able to acquire them within a reasonable period of time?)
  2. Do I have access to the money I’ll need for startup costs, operating costs, and living expenses? (If not, have I explored options for obtaining a small business loan, government grant, or other forms of financing?)
  3. Have I demonstrated to myself and others that I can handle setbacks, work through frustration, and overcome obstacles in the pursuit of my goals?
  4. Do I possess the organizational skills, the “people skills,” and the work ethic to handle everything from sales and marketing to customers relations and record keeping?

One you’ve given serious consideration to those kind of probing questions, you’ll be in a better position to decide whether self employment and small business ownership is really the right path for you.

Although there are a lot of different ways one can approach self employment, it’s always best to make sure you’re a good match for the demands of an entrepreneurial lifestyle.

What Do I Need to Start a Business?

Once you’ve decided that you have what it takes to start and succeed in your own business, the U.S.Small Business Administration offers some additional points to ponder that will help you pinpoint your objectives, clarify what you need to do to start a business, and hone in on your strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and priorities. I would strongly recommend reading the SBA’s list of 20 questions to ask yourself before starting a business.

If you’re stuck on the answer to question #2, which is “What kind of business do I want?” then perhaps the following list of startup business ideas will help you narrow down the possibilities. I’ve gathered more than 100 small business ideas that include everything from property management to cake decorating.

What Business Should I Start?

Other than fear of failure, one of the biggest mental barriers to starting your own business is a lack of clarity about what kind of business you should start. There are literally hundreds of self employment options available to you, and each one has its own individual costs, challenges, potential rewards, and startup requirements.

So with that in mind, here’s a list of over 100 of the most popular business ideas — some of which may help you gravitate toward the best small business idea for your temperament, capabilities, tolerance for risk, market conditions, geographic location, and budget.

  1. Cleaning business
  2. Photography
  3. Catering
  4. Consulting
  5. Landscaping
  6. Lawn care
  7. Real estate
  8. Construction
  9. Jewelry
  10. Tutoring, giving group or private lessons, seminars
  11. Vending machine business
  12. Event planning services
  13. Painting services
  14. Retail
  15. eBay business
  16. Carpet cleaning
  17. Clothing business
  18. Fashion business
  19. Shoe business
  20. Food businesses: restaurant, deli, food truck, hot dog cart, ice cream shop
  21. Bakery, cupcake business, cookies, birthday and wedding cake baking and decorating
  22. Pizza shop
  23. Party planning
  24. Bar business
  25. Lawn mowing
  26. Recycling business
  27. Transportation or trucking business
  28. Bookkeeping services
  29. Computer repair services
  30. Courier services and/or delivery services
  31. Daycare center
  32. Home health care
  33. Senior care business
  34. Medical transportation
  35. Wedding planning services
  36. Limo business
  37. Import export business
  38. Wholesale business
  39. Craft business
  40. Gift basket business
  41. Handyman business
  42. Janitorial services
  43. Pressure washing
  44. Laundry business, dry cleaning service, laundromat
  45. Repo business
  46. Web design and/or graphic design business
  47. Printing services (print shop or print broker)
  48. Advertising or marketing business
  49. Credit repair
  50. Cell phone business
  51. Gym business
  52. Bail bonds business
  53. Manufacturing
  54. Pest control
  55. Tax preparation
  56. Insurance
  57. Financial services
  58. Home and business security services
  59. Chiropractic services
  60. Massage therapy
  61. Boutique business
  62. T shirt business
  63. Car detailing
  64. Car rental
  65. Concierge/personal assistant business
  66. DJ business
  67. Junk removal
  68. Scrap metal business
  69. Coffee business: coffee roasting, cafe business, coffee retailing, distribution
  70. Hotel or Bed and Breakfast business
  71. Candle business
  72. Dog boarding
  73. Dog training
  74. Dog grooming
  75. Farming, ranching, growing produce, aquaculture, greenhouse business
  76. Professional practices, such as medical, legal, dental, eye care, CPA, veterinarian
  77. Life coaching
  78. Magazine publishing
  79. Medical billing
  80. Medical supply business
  81. Storage business
  82. Secretarial services
  83. Travel agency
  84. Consignment business
  85. Lingerie business
  86. Party rental
  87. Interior design
  88. Swimming pool cleaning, opening and closing, and maintenance
  89. Fundraising business
  90. Dropship business
  91. Home staging services
  92. Furniture store (new or used), furniture making, woodworking
  93. Fundraising
  94. Mail order
  95. Recruiting business
  96. Property management business
  97. Spa business
  98. Web hosting business
  99. Sewing business, being a seamstress, tailor, clothing alterations
  100. Contracting business, such as construction, home improvement, remodeling, electrician services, HVAC services, plumbing, excavating, roofing, etc.

BTW… If you’d like to download a guide to starting a specific business, I’ve posted links to several small business startup guides* at my website Marketing Survival Kit.

Cool Business Ideas

So if you’ve been asking yourself and others “What kind of business can I start?” I hope the above list will help you generate some great business ideas.

If none of these entrepreneurial ideas resonated with you, then perhaps you’d like to peruse 999 more business ideas developed by the creative minds from Seth Godin’s Alternative MBA program. Whether you’re looking for so-called “crazy business ideas,” fun business ideas, or innovative business ideas, this list is sure to get your creative juices flowing!

If you’ve stumbled across any other cool business ideas that you’d like to share, don’t hesitate to post a comment on this blog or contact me via my email address at prowriter30years@yahoo.com

Thanks for checking out my latest thoughts, observations, and opinions about the ever-challenging and exciting world of self employment and business development. It kind of brings to mind the opening lines from the old TV show The Wide World of Sports: “The thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat.” (The memory of the skier who took that nasty spill at the beginning the program still makes me cringe decades later!)

As you pursue your entrepreneurial goals, may you experience many more victories than defeats!

–Joel
Business blogger, freelance writer, marketing strategist

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*Disclaimer: This blog, as well as my website Marketing Survival Kit, contain links to digital products, websites, and marketing services for which I am a compensated affiliate. Although my mission is to feature only high-quality products and services, at the present time I am not personally endorsing any of them.

Business startup tip: Always consult with licensed business advisors, like Certified Public Accountants, business attorneys, and insurance experts when seeking advice on starting, expanding, and protecting your business.