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Columbia Business Monthly

Make 2018 your EntrepreYEAR!

Feb 08, 2018 09:37AM ● By Emily Stevenson
By Hadia Ghandour
Lecturer in Global Business and Entrepreneurship At Columbia College

Is 2018 the year that your business is going to take off? Whether you just have an idea for a business, are seriously considering being your own boss, or have a small business that is chugging along and ready to take off to the next level, there may be resources available in the Midlands area and nationally to help you. This the first of two articles intended to start a conversation on what is available for whom out there; it does not address resources that are exclusively for students and is by no means comprehensive.

Many people have an idea and dream of becoming their own boss. For most people, it remains just that: a dream. Others find themselves at a crossroads in life and becoming an entrepreneur becomes the obvious choice that they had never thought of before. Whether you are an experienced business professional or a college student, there are many steps that have to be taken to move that idea from dream to reality. While you have to be the main engine, there is help along every step of your journey, starting with understanding yourself and your personal situation to understanding and limiting the risk, business planning, marketing, and financing. 

Understanding the path
While this sounds rather Zen-like, it is very helpful in your life plan to have an idea of what lies ahead. By definition, if you want to be an entrepreneur, and work for yourself, you won’t require a bachelors in entrepreneurship. Obtaining a degree in your subject matter and gaining deep experience and ongoing education and certifications are better bets. A minor or certificate in entrepreneurship may give you the necessary skills. Columbia College has a minor in entrepreneurship open to all majors, and USC has a music major with a minor in Entrepreneurship. Otherwise, the best place to start would be the Small Business Association, which always has courses on many topics, including how to “start your business with the SBA.” Keep an eye out for the occasional course aimed at women at Columbia College, such as “the intentional entrepreneur,” which come around every now and then.

Validating your idea
An idea is only worth something if people are willing to pay for it.  A central part of growing a business is validating the idea.

Every fall, there is an event here in Columbia called Soda City Startup. This is one long weekend where participants are encouraged to pitch ideas and take the winning ideas through the validation process. This event is open to everyone interested in entrepreneurship and is a great place to network. Similar startup weekends are held in several cities around the state. Last year’s weekend was held in November at the Darla Moore School of Business. An overview of the weekend can be found here:

Alternatively, women can sign up for Columbia College’s Kauffman FastTrac program that is held over several weeks once a year:

Starting your business
The physical act of starting your business is a major milestone and can be quite daunting. Find all the licensing and paperwork that is needed at SCBOS, South Carolina Business One Stop:

To talk to a person and get advice, you may want to arrange a meeting with SCSBDC, the South Carolina Small Business Development Center, or the SBA or SCORE. Law firms such as Nelson Mullins offer pro bono advice on company set up to potentially high scaling companies with intellectual property.

If you want to buy an existing company or want to invest into a franchise, there are many business and franchise brokers that would be more than willing to help you.

Finding your market
The U.S. government is the largest purchaser of goods and services. There are many opportunities for selling to the government and extra opportunities if you belong to a minority, are a veteran, or are a woman (or all three!). Again, SCSBDC is your best resource.

If you want to do some market research and want to make use of the great young talent that this city hosts, then contact the Faber Institute at USC.  Your project might end up as one of the Masters level marketing classes.

Having evaluated yourself, your idea, and your market, the next steps will be to find your space and the ongoing support, ongoing development, and most importantly, financing. These topics will be addressed next month.

Hadia Ghandour is a lecturer in Global Business and Entrepreneurship at Columbia College and is an active Angel Investor.  She received her MBA from USC’s Darla Moore School of Business.