Remember that business idea? The one you slid to the back burner until the economic doomsayers clam up? Consider dusting it off.
“It’s an excellent time [to start a business],” says Carol Carter, assistant director of the Stephenson Entrepreneurship Institute at LSU’s E.J. Ourso College of Business.
Carter believes the climate is always ripe for the right new idea, and capital, the prevailing challenge of any startup, is no harder to secure than it was before the downturn. She says the three elements to have in place are a strong business plan, a promising market and a feature that sets your venture apart from its competitors.
Carter adds that as businesses decline nationwide, others will slide into place, bringing innovation along with them. Small businesses are particularly poised to compete because of their ability to answer niche markets, establish personal client relationships and adapt.
“We used to think that being big was the key, but we’ve watched all these big guys fall,” Carter says. “The key is being fast and flexible, being able to gauge what’s coming next and responding to it quickly.”
The ability to predict trends is crucial to taking the plunge, Carter says, and would-be business owners should begin fostering their creativity to keep the idea well flowing. Thinking entrepreneurially can be integrated into your everyday existence by simply paying attention. But Carter believes it’s a good habit that’s being subjugated by too much personal technology. Take a break from your BlackBerry and Facebook account, then look hard at the goods and services that work well in your own life. Consider where the gaps are. There’s a good chance the void will point to a new venture.
“It sounds simple, but keeping a journal of ideas is itself a way to foster creativity. Read the newspaper. Find out what’s going on in your community and around the country. It amazes me the number of people who want to start a business and who have no idea what’s going on in Baton Rouge,” Carter says.
The next step is to determine whether or not the business idea you’re considering is actually one you’d like to start. There is no shortage of possibilities—a quick scan of franchise options proves that. But the question is whether starting the business in question supports your personal career goals.
In the past few months, we’ve seen a surge of new programming coming out of SEI, the result of a sizeable donation in 2007 from LSU alums and successful entrepreneurs Toni and Emmet Stephenson. With a full complement of staff and a mission to expand the state’s culture of entrepreneurism, SEI offers more classes for everyday managers and potential business owners. The executive education program includes one-day, fee-based classes open to the public, and a reasonably priced series aimed at women and minorities starts next month.
“Part of our goal is to become a statewide resource and increase entrepreneurship across Louisiana,” Carter says.
Virtual meeting set
Science holds the key to global problem solving, and the world needs more women in the field. That’s the position of the National Engineers Week Foundation, which hosts its fifth annual global marathon for women in engineering and technology March 11-12. The North American component of the two-day event takes place Wednesday, March 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Virtual programming through eweek.org includes a text-messaging contest for innovative ideas in 40 words or less, discussion on how technology will solve international challenges and guidance on how young women can prepare for the field.