Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @EbongEka. Ebong gives real life-practical money solutions tailored to the everyday person, the aspiring entrepreneur and the existing small business owner. Ebong developed experience with some of the largest consulting firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte & Touche. Ebong is a CPA and Consultant with Levyti Consulting, LLC, a tax advisory firm in the Washington, DC area. Ebong regularly appears on MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business Channel, NBC and CNN. Ebong is also the author of the small business book, Start Me Up! – The No-Business-Plan Business Plan. For more information, visit www.ebongeka.com
SmallBizLady: What is the first step in starting your own business?
Ebong Eka: It’s important to focus on ideas that solve problems. All businesses that experience longevity and become self-sufficient solve problems, coming from a problem solving perspective increases the chances of success.
SmallBizLady: What are the biggest fears and doubts many face when starting out?
Ebong Eka: Many people fear that starting a business is risky because they have been told about the chances of failure. We spend our whole lives trying to avoid making mistakes and failing. The reality is that entrepreneurial learning is best accomplished by doing and action. It’s risky to not do something and become a victim of the economy and circumstances. Another fear or doubt is in believing we don’t have what it takes to make a business successful. In the 1300s, very few people could read and knowledge was a treasure only reserved for the wealthy or clergy. In 2014, there’s no monopoly on knowledge. We have all the tools to learn what we need to increase the chances of success.
SmallBizLady: What are the four pitfalls small business owners need to beware of?
Ebong Eka: The Four major pitfalls are:
- Falling in love with an idea instead of a problem you want to solve.
- Believing customers only buy based on price and competing on price.
- Trying to do everything in your business by yourself.
- Not being committed to selling
SmallBizLady: You say you don’t need a business plan. Why not?
Ebong Eka: A business plan generally gives entrepreneurs a false sense of start up security. In my experience, commercial bankers, venture capitalists and investors don’t spend time reading business plans. The business plan is not only biased but wrought with assumptions. Most of them want to know
- What’s your business idea?
- Why are you the one to start this business? (focus on providing your experience and expertise)
- Who wants to pay you for your product and services and why?
- How much will you charge for your product or service and how did you come to that conclusion?
SmallBizLady: What are the Four S’s of starting a business?
Ebong Eka: 1. Structure – Fall in love with a problem you want to solve and find your niche.
- Strategy – Don’t compete on price
- Systems – Create processes & systems and leverage tasks
- Sales – Using social media and content marketing (also understand the psychology of selling.)
SmallBizLady: What’s your formula for fool-proof pricing in a start-up small business?
Ebong Eka: Research the price strategies of your competition. Create packages of product and services that exceed the level of expectations for that price. Then subsequently raise your prices based on the increased values that you provide.
SmallBizLady: What is your advice to developing the perfect elevator pitch?
Ebong Eka: Write 1-2 sentences for the following:
- Opportunity – What opportunity/problem exists that requires your solution (product/service).
- Customer Benefit – What benefits does your solution provide?
- Timing – Why is your solution timely? You can use an anecdotal example to explain why you service/product is needed!
SmallBizLady: If your idea requires seed money, where’s the best place to get it?
Ebong Eka: Your seed money should come from friends and family or a bank. However, I believe it’s imperative to try to start a business without the need for large amounts of money. This will force you to start a business very lean and economically. More importantly, friends, family and a bank will give you little to no money if you haven’t proven the concept. This is where the entrepreneur has to hustle and get their first customer. Then repeat the process!
SmallBizLady: Let’s talk about social media. How can a start up best use Twitter?
Ebong Eka: Each social media platform has its own demographic group that favors it. Twitter tends to skew a younger demographic. Start ups should use social media to identify potential customers, share information and become an expert in their field. They should use Twitter to consistently interact with others they can connect to via keyword searches and users interested in their industry.
People are using social media and marketing like 1997. Social media isn’t a distribution channel but it’s a platform for story telling and content delivery. It’s imperative to show your audience that you’re an expert in your space – way before you ask for their money. In short, share content – even the content of competitors. They will feel somewhat obligated to reciprocate the gesture!
SmallBizLady: How can a start-up best use Facebook?
Ebong Eka: Use Facebook to share visual information, infographics, and inspirational quotes and lead generation/capture pages. Facebook also has an older demographic and is more visual than Twitter. In addition, once you’ve identified your demographic or target market, you can advertise to them directly with Facebook.
SmallBizLady: How can a start up best use Pinterest?
Ebong Eka: This will depend on the type of business you have. If you’re visually driven – ie: Products, cakes, fashion etc., interacting with others and pinning can lead to a lucrative result.
SmallBizLady: How can a start-up best use YouTube?
Ebong Eka: This is an easy answer if done right. Create content and become a consistent content provider. For example, it doesn’t take a lot to shoot good videos. The two important things to remember are sound and video quality. Don’t expect your videos to go viral, but focus more on consistent and quality content. People mainly search youtube for “how-tos”…provide them with what they want!
SmallBizLady: How can a start-up best use LinkedIn?
Ebong Eka: Join groups that are in your industry. Search for people you should get to know and use existing connections to facilitate an introduction. Continue to be persistent with content and share information about your expertise.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.