Chances are you’ve read a few articles in the past couple weeks about Oprah’s success and how it translates to small business.
Wherever your Oprah fandom or non-fandom feelings lie, there is no doubt this business mogul has left an impression on Chicago’s business scene.
She has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to building a small business (or an empire, if you plan to attempt). Here are a few tips you can learn from Oprah's international success.
Create your own service department: You don't need a billion-dollar idea. Think about a service profession, something that people want, need and don’t care to do themselves.
Test-drive your idea: Be your own guinea pig, then try it out on friends – for free, if you can. Make jewelry, cook, design a website or even do something that might end up as a failure – (and if so, try something else).
Apprentice yourself: For dreams that can't be tried out on a small scale, you might investigate something like VocationVacation, which matches you with someone who helps you determine if you, too, are meant to be an alpaca farmer or coffeehouse owner (starting at $549). Volunteering is another option—and free. If you think you want to be an event planner, for instance, help organize a walk for charity.
Find a mentor: Look for organizations that will help with advice and, with luck and research, offer possible connections to help your business get started.
Do your homework: Check out the competition in your area and find out what their business is lacking and what you believe you can provide.
Find a workspace: Here is where incubators can help if you can’t immediately provide the business tools yourself.
And the obvious: Create a business plan, market, market, market – and find funding. That’s likely the most difficult part, but it can be done. It’s almost impossible to get a loan based solely on an idea. But once you have your product (or service), a business plan and a cash flow (no matter how small), you can start to look for funds to expand your business. You'll need to be clear about exactly how much money you need and what specifically you'll use the loan for.
If you'd like to learn more, the Oprah.com article expands on financing and other tips.