QUESTION on How To Start a Business Before Retirement
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion, Art and Design. At this time I am an Art teacher in a High school.
Now I am sewing handbags and purses which I would like to sell. I made over 60 already. I usually sell them to my friends at school (they say that they are beautiful). My question is “How can I begin a small business from my home?”
I will be retiring from my actual work in seven or eight years. I would like to begin my business now, maybe I could go on my own. Please help me! Thank you very much
– L.D. Chinea – Puerto Rico
ANSWER by Isabel Isidro
I believe your decision to start a business right now – before your retirement — is a sound one, for several reasons:
- You are giving yourself time to learn about the process of entrepreneurship and what it is like to be an entrepreneur — from product development to marketing to management of the business.
- You are giving yourself time to test your business idea.
- You are starting your business when you still have a fixed monthly income, instead of drawing resources from your retirement funds.
Being an entrepreneur requires a whole new mindset. You are in control of the business, not just one aspect of the entire operation as you have been in your job. This aspect alone can be off-putting to many employees who are thinking of becoming entrepreneurs.
You have the time right now. I suggest you:
1. Learn more about the business.
Read and learn as much as you can about the business you want to start. Learn more about custom-sewn and designed handbags including technical processes involved and designs that work, among other things.
Also, start identifying your market. Who do you think is the best market for your bags and purses? Are your products geared for the high-end market? Is it geared towards hip young adults? Start thinking of the market you want to reach for your business, and learn as much as you can about them — from how often they purchase bags, how they use their bags, etc.
2. Plan out your production.
Right now, you may be doing everything — from the design to sewing. You need to think of how you will handle hundreds of orders from retail chains. It may be a little far from the horizon at this point, but you need to start to research how you will handle this challenge. One option may be outsourcing production to China, which poses a huge number of challenges in itself.
3. Get feedback and test the market.
You said that you are currently selling your custom-sewn bags and purses only to your friends in school. Get their reaction and honest feedback. What are the best features of your products? What features are currently not in your products that they’d like to see? Use these feedback to improve your products.
One other way to test the market is to use auction sites such as eBay or sites dedicated to hand crafted items like Etsy. You can sell a limited amount of products on these sites, and the experience can teach you a lot of things:
- how potential customers are responding to your products (or not)
- what language or copy are effective in describing your products
- how you deal with customers questions, feedback, and yes, complaints
- how to do shipping
- how to handle returns
You may want to check the article Using eBay to Test Your New Product
4. Consult experts.
I appreciate you coming to PowerHomeBiz.com to get ideas on how to jump start the business. But I also suggest that you reach out to other organizations, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration. Congress created the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in 1953 to help America’s entrepreneurs form successful small enterprises. Today, SBA offices in every state, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico offer financing, training and advocacy for small firms. The Agency also works with thousands of lending, educational and training institutions nationwide. Please also contact the SBA Office in Puerto Rico.
You may take also advantage of SBA’s resource partners. The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides free one-on-one counseling to those interested in starting and expanding a business. This includes, critiquing your business plan, legal requirements, marketing, and licenses needed for your business.
Of course, after everything is said and done, the thing you need to do is to listen to your guts. And just do it!
Thank you for visiting PowerHomeBiz.com and I wish you all the best!
Recommended Books on the How to Start a Business
- So, You Want to Start a Business?: 8 Steps to Take Before Making the Leap
- Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months: A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business that Works
- The Six-Figure Second Income: How To Start and Grow A Successful Online Business Without Quitting Your Day Job
- Before You Launch Your Business: How to decide if being an Entrepreneur is for you
Article originally published April 2002. Updated on February 13, 2012
Category: Q & A