How to keep that precious spark of idea alive
A few thoughts for aspiring mumpreneurs
Everyone wants to have a fulfilling job. Doing something that we are passionate about, that really matters to us, that fits into our own core values, our family lives is a dream that many of us share. Some people find fulfilling careers in corporate jobs, others look at their work as a tool to earn money that they can spend on their further education or until they can turn their goals into reality. However, starting a new venture from scratch is not easy. Ideally it requires full attention, or rather full-time attention. Maybe we have a great idea, or many great ideas, maybe we’ve discovered a new business opportunity, maybe we just want to be our own boss. Maybe we are ready to jump into the unknown and prepared to work super hard to turn our vision into a reality. Maybe we are even willing to take risks… and then life happens and it throws a huge full upper-case BUT in our faces…
What if we cannot afford to quit our bill-paying job right when that business idea sparked in our minds? What if we don’t have the resources or support from the people around us? What if we know already that it’s going to be months or maybe even years to collect those resources, finish that course, get certified, set up our lives in a way that we can kick-start our own project full-time? Should we just give up instead? In the past couple of months I’ve learnt that the answer to this question is a definite ‘no’.
So what can we do to keep that spark of idea alive while we are put on standby?
Matching assets and goals
When I started thinking about creating my own business, I had no one big idea in mind, it rather started from a place of desire to make a living with what I love, to work for myself and to have a more flexible schedule than my 9 to 5 job. But even without much business background I knew it was not enough to build on. So I realized I needed to look around and see if I could find skills and resources that might become the pillar for my new venture. This was a very important step that offered a chance to reflect on myself and take a stock of my experiences, strengths and weaknesses. I had to be very honest with myself about what I wanted to achieve and about what assets I was missing, so that I could start taking actions and moving forward. Having this conversation with myself was not easy and it’s definitely not a one-time inventory. Having a constant dialogue is an important tool for developing further.
When I hear about successful entrepreneurs, my first thought is always that they have a vast amount of knowledge and experience about their fields. That admirable expertise is built up by learning and putting what they’ve learnt into practice. So after figuring out what my niche was, I started studying my topic more deeper, exploring what trends rule the chosen line of business, researching what current products, services are being offered by other companies, experts. Reading books and articles, listening to podcasts, contacting people from the same industry, writing posts on social media, exploring groups - just to mention a few examples - make me feel that I am deeply connected to my business goals because I grow and learn something everyday about the topic I am passionate about.
Noticing the gold mine
I truly believe that there is a way to turn every experience into a learning opportunity. Working in an office, serving food in a restaurant, talking to people on the phone all day, babysitting may not sound too relevant if someone wants to open for example a flower shop. But what if I said, all these jobs that we have in order to pay our bills, that seemingly have no connection to our dreams, could be gold mines for our own business plans. Why? There is a good chance that we meet our future customers on the way and we can use the opportunity to talk to them and learn about their habits, their needs without any extra effort or investment. I knew I wanted to create content for mums, so when I have a chat at my 9 to 5 job with colleagues who have kids I listen more actively to them and what they tell about their lives. It’s basically free market research and another way to feel that I make some progress.
Putting milestones onto the horizon
I am a very impatient person, so if you want to torture me, just put me in a room to wait. But I know from experience that I am much better at waiting when I have some reference points about how long I need to wait for. So if this moment is not the right time to start a new business, I might be able to reassess my financial resources for my plans in 6 months for example, or in a year I’ll finish that course that will be an integral part of the set up I have in mind. Creating tangible milestones makes the waiting less straining, it keeps motivation going and may trigger less negative emotions.
Celebrating every step, no matter how small it is
Another potential pitfall for aspiring founders could be keeping the eyes only on the prize. Being distracted by the thought of creating something big, successful (overnight!) that also pays well can actually take away the focus from the journey itself and we may end up skipping important steps and milestones on the way. I like breaking down tasks into smaller chunks, because this approach keeps me more present in the process and I can celebrate even the small achievements. (And let’s be honest, ticking down items from the to-do list is a super satisfying feeling and with this method, I get to do it more frequently.) In fact I love this concept so much that it became one of the core parts of my business idea. It’s so much easier to find time for the small bits within my days and they just feel more achievable, manageable. For example, the task of ‘creating a website’ can be broken down into pieces like ‘researching out-of-the-box website providers’, ‘collecting website designs that fit the future business’, ‘trying out website templates’, ‘collecting website inspirations’ etc.
One of the thinking traps that people very frequently fall into is using an ‘all-or-nothing mentality’ when it comes to their goals and dreams. This is also called black-or-white thinking and it can be a major cause of unhappiness. It is a tendency to think only in categories that are on opposite ends of the spectrum, for example: “if I cannot start my dream business plan right away, I won’t start it at all”. Someone with these thoughts might perceive the situation that there are only these two choices, and it can make them give up on their plans right at the beginning. But in reality there are many-many shades of grey in-between that could offer alternatives. It is always possible to transform a project into a part-time gig, taking on only a few clients or targeting to create less content, crafts, products.
Testing and connecting
The standby period is perfect for testing out ideas or trying out different approaches, new materials, colours, softwares, anything that is connected to the new venture. Getting the idea or product out there gives people a chance to play around, provide feedback and react. It’s an incredible learning and development opportunity. Attending industry events, going to meetups, networking, posting on social media are just a few ways to use the power of the community to give guidance on what needs to be fine-tuned on the plan. When I meet like-minded people (physically or virtually), I feel I get more ideas, I usually gain a new perspective on the industry or tools that I want to use for my project and in general I just feel super inspired.
Original of this piece was written for Found&Flourish
Original of thumbnail image is from Unsplash.