How to Turn Your Idea into a Fledgling Company

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So many of us have 'great ideas' for businesses, but so few actually get realised. Here, Dina Yuen shares the lessons she learned whilst turning three of her ideas into successful companies.

There is constant argument in the world of entrepreneurship over whether an idea in and of itself has great value without the ability to execute. In my humble opinion, I answer staunchly “yes.” Without ideas there would be nothing to execute, nothing to get excited over, nothing to build teams for and nothing to change the world with. Having said that, without execution, ideas remain magnificently sparkling jewels we keep in a little hidden box somewhere in the attic, left to obscurity under the weight of what ifs, could haves, should haves and all that regrettable dust.

So how exactly do we turn those brilliant ideas into that first step: a fledgling company?

Having done exactly this three times successfully, here are my top 10 tips for launching ideas into a viable business.

1. Commitment

Commitment is a recurring theme in nearly all of my articles because it is the one key element that most people lack when they attempt to build a company. In all my years as the right hand woman to a major CEO, to being an entrepreneur myself and a consultant to numerous other businesses, I long ago lost count of the number of people who come to me saying “I’ve got this great idea.” Great ideas are wonderful but without commitment, without that unwillingness to accept defeat in the face of insurmountable obstacles, ideas will eventually collect dust like everything else in your basement.

Being an entrepreneur means striking a balance between being an idealistic dreamer with being a realist.

If I told you that you’ll need to sacrifice sleep, your well being, your standard of living, that you’ll face at the very least months (if not years) of heartache, crying on the bathroom floor wondering how you’re going to pay next month’s bills, that you’ll have more detractors than supporters and that you’ll need to play the role of ten different people all at once…if I told you all this and it scares you enough to stop you, then you don’t have what it takes. This may sound harsh but the weight of my words don’t compare to the harshness of reality as an entrepreneur.

2. Assess Your Target Market

Once you’ve decided that you do have the commitment it takes to be part of this exclusive club of wonderfully insane game changers, you now have the task of determining the target market for this winning idea of yours. You’ve got to decide who exactly you’re selling to and get into their minds. How old are these people? Is it mainly one gender or both? Where do they live? What income bracket are they in? Are you filling some type of void in their lives with your product?

If you’re creating a product that is similar in any way to something out on the market, much of your research has already been done for you by those companies. You’ve just got to learn from the information available online. Another cost effective way to scope your market is to go where they go to buy similar products (this will work depending on what your product is).

For example, while I was researching my target market for my upcoming frozen food line, I spent hours on end at various supermarkets watching who bought my competitors’ products.

This strategy gave me invaluable insight with my own two eyes.

3. Assess Finances

This is the step that often decides whether you can pursue a great idea or not, but bear in mind that some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs started out on little more than a few thousand US dollars and limitless determination. The first task is to figure out how much it will take to launch your product. You need to factor in more than just barebones cost. There are your living expenses to consider if you’re dropping everything else and focusing solely on this, in addition to incorporation fees, legal fees, potential patent or trademark fees and marketing costs.

Once you’ve figured out the product launch cost, the question becomes, do you have the finances needed to cover everything or not?

If you do not, there are several options available. The first is to approach family and friends for outright loans or investment in exchange for stock in your company. Another route which many great entrepreneurs opt for is cash advances on low APR credit cards. A very viable option nowadays is to raise funds via a crowd sourcing platform like Indiegogo or Kickstarter. You could also attempt to secure angel investin,g though that can be a difficult option if you’re extremely early in your journey. 

4. Research

With an excruciating amount of information at our fingertips today, there’s no excuse for not knowing every nook and cranny of the industry you’re getting into. Read, read and read more about what others before you have done, what others are currently doing and what trends are happening around the world.

Even if your product isn’t meant for a global market, chances are you’ll encounter other entrepreneurs doing something similar somewhere else and those are free case studies all over the place without the MBA price tag.

Many of today’s most successful entrepreneurs spend a great deal of their time reading everything from internal company documents to news about competitors and market shifts. Building a successful company isn’t a 100 meter race; it’s a strenuous marathon in which you’ve got to look out for what’s going on around you while pacing yourself.

5. Network Wisely

When you’ve got this fantastic idea, it can be very tempting to tell everybody about it since naturally, you’re excited. If you can learn early on to resist this temptation, you’ll not only save yourself a lot of heartache but you’ll be doing a lot to ensure your own success. It is of course, highly imperative to network wisely as an entrepreneur. However, in networking, you’ll encounter more than just entrepreneurs; you’ll meet investors, journalists and employees of other companies.

When you’re just beginning, most people will smile and nod politely while listening to your ideas, secretly thinking that you’re just another wannabe destined for the entrepreneurial graveyard.

Others won’t be so kind. Some will tell you outright that your idea is stupid and give you a myriad of unsolicited reasons as to why it won’t work. This will only serve to demoralize you. One or two others still may even try to steal your idea. That’s a battle you don’t want to face.

In the beginning, stick to the cliché of keeping your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut. Channel your excitement towards building a great product and company. Down the road, when your product is launching, that’s the time to bark loudly like the neighbor’s annoying dog.
 

6. Get the Right Mentor

Like life itself, the entrepreneurship journey cannot be experienced alone. Having the right people around you can make all the difference between success and failure. Now that you’ve networked wisely, you should have either a wide enough span of contacts in which to choose a mentor from, get introduced to one, or the knowledge of whom you want to approach. Make a list of several successful people in your industry who you admire. Approach one of them via email or LinkedIn and concisely but passionately explain to him/her who you are, what you’re trying to create and why you feel that he/she would make the perfect mentor to you. Hopefully you’ll get a positive response. If not, move on to the next person on your list. Sooner or later, you’ll hit gold.

Another option is embarking on a mentoring programme, such as The NextWomen's Business Advice Programme.

7. Create Your Brand

As Warren Buffett, says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Discover who you are and exactly what you stand for very early on. Think of your brand as the personality of your company. Work closely with great people who are experts in their individual fields (like web and logo designers) and are able to translate the personality of your company into various mediums.

Establish your online presence even if it’s with a one page website to begin with.

Just make sure you always start with high quality. You can build on high quality but it’s extremely difficult to tear down bad quality and rebuild your image.

Depending on your product, choose which social media outlets you’ll be on (stick to two to begin with) and begin interacting with people in a meaningful manner that helps establish your brand. Keep a strict guideline as to what you will and will not talk about on social media. Remember, remain professional. Your brand’s social media presence is not your personal account.

8. Develop

Depending on what your product is, steps 7 and 8 may be interchangeable.

Some businesses benefit from establishing an early online presence, especially with social media while others need to remain more stealth.

Now it’s time to develop and execute on your idea. This is the phase where you shut out all the noise and focus hard on turning your idea into a viable product. You’ve done a lot of work already just to get to this phase and this is the huge push you need to make. Never settle for sub-par quality from yourself. Building your product right the first time will save you unspeakable amounts of stress, money and time.

9. Market Wisely

Now you’ve got an amazing product that you’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into and it’s time to let the world know about it.

Use social media to connect directly with your market and form that priceless personal bond. Contact trade magazines, newspapers, local radio shows and even local morning television shows to get your product out there. Find bloggers with sizeable followings and let them know what you’ve just created. Whenever possible, give freebies to all these people who are helping to spread the word about you. Create contests for the chance to win one of your products. Go to trade shows and get the word out.

10. Stay In Love

Last but definitely not least, you must stay in love with what you’re doing. The fastest way to burn out and fail is to forget why you started all this in the first place.

Entrepreneurship is a marriage between yourself and what you’re building. If you don’t love both the product and the journey of creation and building, there’s no point. The end results do not justify embarking on such an arduous journey. That’s not to say that you have to love losing sleep, running low on cash, facing rejections and all that, but you do have to love overcoming challenges, solving problems, dealing with people and switching from being laser focused to seeing the bigger picture. You’ve got to be in love with the everyday even when it’s not pretty, not just the end goal when all is glittering gold.

Of Chinese and Russian heritage, Dina Yuen is an entrepreneur, published author, journalist, musician, chef and CEO of multimedia company AsianFusion. She was the youngest to ever graduate from the Nila Chandra Culinary Academy at 12 years old before going on to study Industrial Engineering and Classical Piano. She has traveled extensively throughout Asia working with orphans and rescuing young girls forced into prostitution- issues she continues to support as a voice for women’s and children’s rights. She is currently developing several product lines under the AsianFusion and AsianFusionGirl brands, creating her first television series and writing her third and fourth books. Dina is based in San Francisco. Her websites are Asian-Fusion.com and AsianFusionGirl.com.

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