Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Entrepreneur is REALLY Hard to Spell


I've always toyed with running my own business, striking out on my own, setting my own hours and having the money pour in. I figured that all I needed was an idea, a thing, to market and sell and people would buy it and I'd be set!

Then I got older, there's something about age, and the pressures that come with it that make most people quietly accept mediocrity. People settle, they find something known and comfortable and they stay there. They get a degree because they are told to, and they get a job that pays the bills, and they take their vacation in the summer, and they slowly sink into obscurity.

I was sitting at IHOP one day, waiting for The Missus to get back from visiting with her family and I realized I wasn't happy. I could feel myself stagnating. I could feel that drive, that urge to just go fading. I did not like it. I began to think about what I needed, what was stopping me from doing what I wanted to do. Two things stood out clearly, a lack of time, and a lack of money.

Time, was the hard one. But money was an issue I could fix. I needed something I could do that would bring in some additional income, first to pay for my upcoming wedding, and then to allow me to do thinks that were a little crazier like seeing Europe, or skydiving, or buying a ridiculously expensive bottle of bourbon. In short, I wanted to live, and needed to find a way to finance it.

So I resolved to do something, and given my training and schooling I settled on something technical. However, it seems that even the mention of starting a business gets the sheep, I mean people, upset. Most people I consider friends warned me to not start, there was too much risk, it would never work, the Tech Crash of the 90's was brought up as a warning against doing anything.... different.

I refused to listen.

I had an idea, and I was going to give it a go.

But I knew I had to be careful, I knew some of the issues I was likely going to run into and I thought I knew how to deal with them.

  • Profit - If it doesn't make money then it's not worth doing.
  • Time - I don't have much, so if it takes too much hand-holding it's not worth doing.
  • Speed - I have to be able to design, develop, implement, and sell my idea quickly.
Profit: I knew the best way to make money was to get a large number of people paying a little bit. it's also a lot easier to convince someone to part with a few hundred dollars over a few thousand.

Time: I needed a product that would manage itself, of course I'd have to update it, and test it, and do the installs and setups but I wanted to keep the individual installs to less then an hour or two.

Speed: I needed to raise roughly $5,000 by October 25th. A wedding is a great motivator. That and school loans, and personal loans, and car repairs.... you get the idea.

But I needed to keep an eye on what could keep me from succeeding, and deal with those factors now.

  • Overhead - The anti-profit. Too much overhead and I would loose money.
  • Contracts - If things went south I wanted to be able to get out and not be locked in to long term contracts.
  • Product Differentiation - I needed to do something different, or what was the point
Overhead: This one was easy. I develop my code on free software, work alone, and run my own hosting.

Contracts: Everything I sign up for, every account, must be able to be canceled on a moments notice.

Product Differentiation: This was the hardest, simply put WYSIWYG editors are a dime a dozen, and most people simply don't care enough to tell the difference between good clean code and WYSIWYG code. So, instead of doing something novel I decided to do a lot of common things, only better. I would provide everything a small business owner would need, and make sure that they did not have to worry about a thing.

I'm going to give this a shot. Success or failure is simple, if I can turn a profit, and make enough money to to pay for the wedding and honeymoon then I will consider this a success. If I make more then that, and can use the extra income to help pay down my loans even better. Only time will tell.

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