When it comes to starting a business, Marsha Guerrier knows what she’s talking about.
As the Chief Executive Officer of consulting firm Women on the Rise NY, Guerrier provides one-on-one coaching to women currently working on launching and growing their companies. She’s also the bestselling author of Business Success Strategies for Women on the Rise and Life Balance for the Women on the Rise, a sought-after speaker on life balance and mindfulness for working women, and the founder of the Yva Jourdan Foundation, a non-profit that helps children with special needs and female entrepreneurs. She’s received the State Assembly of New York’s Women of Distinction Award twice for her work with her two empowering companies, and she’s also spent over 20 years in the financial technology industry working for a combination of Fortune 500 and startup firms.
I got to chat with this incredible woman who lifts and empowers female entrepreneurs. I asked her for her best advice for the budding entrepreneur, and these are the six most enlightening tips and tricks she shared with me that are often overlooked when most people are first getting started with their business.
1. Form an Alliance.
To start a business, you need to do your research and know your idea well, but most importantly, you need to know the business. Guerrier recommended looking into companies that are doing what you are doing, studying that company, and aligning yourself with similar people in the business. You should definitely consider getting a mentor in the industry, she told me—but recognize some people won’t want to share their secret information, which is completely fine. Continue to ask questions when and where you can, and join communities of like-minded entrepreneurs at various stages: some who have just started out like you and others who are further along and have seen a slither of success.
When people are just starting their new business, they often think they have to do it all themselves. But the truth is, we all have our weaknesses—areas that we need help and support. Instead of spending all your time trying to accomplish everything alone (and failing to accomplish everything as well or as effectively as you’d like to), focus on recognizing those areas where you could use help, Guerrier recommended. Then form an alliance of partners in which you all have strengths to bring to the table and help each other tackle your weak spots.
2. Stop questioning your idea.
You birthed this idea because you identified a need, whether based on your own personal needs or a problem you’ve observed others having it. As long as there’s a group of people out there who really do need it, then it’s a good idea that’s worth pursuing. The more time you spend questioning it, the less time you’re spending actually working out the kinks and bringing it to life.
The first prototype is not your final product, Guerrier reminded; it’s just an essential element in discovering how to move forward efficiently. Consider testing your product on your chosen market and receiving focus group feedback if possible.
3. Yes, you’ll have to finance this yourself at first.
You need to believe in your own idea. According to Guerrier, typically over 40 percent of the initial financial investment comes from your own finances, and then you’ll need to start reaching out to family and friends to help supplement the rest.
4. Connect with investors.
Guerrier recommended LinkedIn as one of the best ways to find angel investors. Search for companies that involve women investing in women and then connect with the people who work there. Start up a conversation, and when the time feels right, send over your product pitch! You can also use other social media platforms like Twitter as well, she said. You’re essentially trying to find sources of income you don’t know about. Look for investors, influencers at conferences, forums, and workshops.
When approaching angel investors, you need to hone in on your pitch—that means being able to grab and captivate them in the first two to three sentences. The story needs to sing to them. Get to the heart, the problem, and then the solution—your product!
5. Network outside your inner circle to find your board of executives.
When choosing people for your board, you need to network with people outside of your inner circle. You want to find people that are entrepreneurs who can lend real advice to you, not just people who jive well with or who make you feel comfortable. Of course, the best way to see if a potential board member really fits your business is simply to see if they really believe in you and your story, Guerrier said. Don’t forget that you can give something to them in return, too; try to be a real asset in their lives.
6. Stay connected and educated about your industry.
Is your product durable? What’s changing in your product’s industry? You need to hone in on the trends and understand the shifts of the market, Guerrier explained. Notice what platforms super attractive and active for your consumers (Instagram, for example), and be agile and adaptable as those platforms and other dynamics may change. You need to make your product durable: When you initially make it, know that it’s going to change quite a bit from now until when it’s finally up, running, functional, and lucrative. Be flexible.