Do I need a business degree to start a business? Like most people, I believed you had to have this to run your own business. I’m happy to say I was wrong. If you have a passion for something, you too can turn it in to a successful business venture. While it’s helpful, you do not need a business degree to start your own business. Here are my five tips for starting a business with no business degree.
First, here’s a little about my background. I was mediocre in high school, and far more of a creative person. ‘Type A’ in personality, I could take charge in group work, but not “right side of the brain” enough to excel in math and science.
When I finished high school, I applied for the the graphic design program at NSCAD and pursued that. I knew in high school that I loved tattoos and tattooing, but I thought it was like saying I want to be a rock star. I didn’t think it would happen. After graduating university, I moved back to Newfoundland and began working in my field. I met a tattooer whose work I really admired. I then basically harassed him for 2 years to teach me how to tattoo and finally, he agreed.
With 7 years of tattooing under my belt, I decided to relocate to Nova Scotia, where my sister and nieces lived. This would also allow me to travel more easily (there are a lot of limitations living on an island, as well as extra travel cost). I had worked off and on in Nova Scotia over those 7 years so I decided to take the leap and open my own studio here (Rolling Sea Tattooery). I wanted the freedom to be able to travel and work at the same time. If I were working for someone else, I would be limited to the amount of time I could do that.
The idea of running a business was daunting because I didn’t think I could handle the actual ‘business’ side of things. I knew nothing about bookkeeping, paying taxes outside my own income tax (which I didn’t even do myself), ordering supplies, managing costs – nothing! Professionals would ask what my business model was, and I didn’t know. I had to research and learn as I went. I’d go to workshops or seminars, and leave with a list of terms I would have to google after to understand what it meant: ROI, KPI, B2B or B2C!
It was terrifying to open my own business, but 8 years later, I own an award-winning shop and now own two more businesses! It was a big leap to go from my own tattoo studio to creating what became a media and promotions company which is Truro Buzz. From the success of that business came my newest venture, Secret Nova Scotia Tours.
I’m not going to sit here and say it’s easy, because it’s not. Here’s what worked for me. You can easily apply it to your own business model (are you business to business, or business to consumer for example).
Create a business around something you’re passionate about.
The first of my tips for starting a business is to start with something you’re passionate about. Do you want to start a business because you have a product or service you know an audience will love, or are you just trying to make money? Building a business around something you’re passionate about is really the secret sauce for success. When you can tap in to WHY you’re doing what you’re doing, that will help set the frame work for your business and marketing.
Identify your customer/ Ideal Customer Avatar
If you don’t know who you’re selling to, how can you market your product or service to them? Chances are you’re creating something you’re passionate about so you are your own ICA, or close to it. That was the case for me. For Truro Buzz, I loved the community and wanted to know what was happening but there was no one stop shop to find that out.
With the tour company, I love visiting new communities, finding unique makers and delicious local products. I enjoyed putting together tours of my favourite local spots when friends or family would come visit. That’s how Secret Nova Scotia Tours was born. It seemed a natural fit for what I was already doing with Truro Buzz. So where is your customer hanging out online? Where are they shopping for a product or service like yours! Spend some time figuring that out and secure your return on investment.
Learn to love the numbers…
Cash flow analysis and cost analysis are your friends, even if you’re like me and your brain is NOT wired that way. I was guilty of looking at the cost of a product or service and then just rounding up without considering value added. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this and have heard of others doing the same.
If you feel like you’re working like a dog, making sales but not enough money’s coming in, you’re not charging enough. If this is not your forte, don’t fret. There are lots of great people out there who thrive in this category and willing to help you and your business! Its ok if you can’t do it all yourself, but don’t be an ostrich with your head in the sand. You need to understand what money’s coming in and going out! This is an important but often overlooked tip for starting a business.
You can’t do everything!
Believe me, I’ve tried and it leads to burnout in a hurry. Farm out what you can. It took me years to hire an employee for many reasons: I couldn’t afford it, was afraid to not be controlling everything or losing sight of the details. Hiring a book keeper to take that off my plate was the best thing I ever did. Then once I hired a full time employee (which was super scary) my business was immediately able to grow. I now have five employees across all three businesses and I couldn’t operate any of them without this hard working team!
Get all the professional development you can
Last of my tips for starting a business, but certainly not least – get in all the professional development you can! Read books on topics you need to know, listen to podcasts, find mentors! Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who are doing a great job in their field. Ask them how they got to where they are, or what advice they’re willing to offer you! I’ve been incredibly fortunate that where I live offers free classes to business owners through CBDC-NOBL. I was able to learn accounting for small business, social media for business, leadership training and so much more.
Believe in yourself. You CAN do it. You will have to fight through imposter syndrome. You’ll talk yourself out of trying, or giving up once you’ve started in a million different ways. Believe me when I say, you can do it. The more you read or listen to podcasts, you’ll notice you hear the same advice over and over:
Mindset is everything.
Surround yourself with the right people who motivate and support you.
Mistakes will happen – what you learn from them is what makes the difference.
I hope you’ve found my five tips on starting a business with no business training helpful. This isn’t meant to discredit education. If you have a business degree or training, that’s great, but I want you to know you do not need a business degree to start your own business, if that’s what’s stopping you!
I hope you enjoyed my 5 tips for starting a business with no business degree. If you have any questions about anything, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. It’s only through the help of so many others that I am where I am today. Collaboration over competition is what propels us all forward. I wish you success in your own business ventures and hope this helps you on your own journey! To read more from me, check out my blog at aliciaetattoo.ca!