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Maggie Mistal, Career Coach, Martha Stewart Living Radio

Here are Maggie Mistal’s insights and tips to help make the decision about starting your own business a little easier:

How to decide whether you’re too old to start a business:

No matter what your age, if starting your own business is something you want to do you can do it. Once you have an idea you can do a couple of things to get started. You can tap into your friends to see if they want to get involved or have ideas for starting a business. You can also access local resources like your chamber of commerce where you can actually go to some meetings and see other entrepreneurs making it happen and begin to network.

Resources to help you decide what kind of business to start:

If you want to start a business but you aren’t sure what kind of business to start there is a great web site you can access called www.vocationvacations.com. Once on the site, you can test out lots of entrepreneurial adventures and really see what kind of jobs suit you best. You can try being a bed and breakfast owner, a spa owner, or a wine bar owner. You can even test out being a private investigator. Before starting your own business you can “try it on”.

Determining whether you’re suited to be an entrepreneur:

It’s important to assess your skills and lifestyle to determine whether you are cut out to be an entrepreneur; to be your own boss. You need to think about whether you are a quick learner and if you like to learn, because when starting your own business you’ll be learning a lot of new things almost every day. Ask yourself if your lifestyle allows you the time on weeknights and weekends to devote to starting/owning your own business. Another good “how to start a business” resource you can access is the Small Business Administration’s web site www.sba.gov. Their web site provides lots of examples where you can see what it really takes to be an entrepreneur.

How to know whether the business you’re considering is a good fit for you:

There are a few really great ways to investigate if a business idea or a new career is right for you. One way to learn about a business is to job shadow someone, where you can physically follow someone around and work side by side with them. The great thing about a job shadow is that you can actually see if doing that kind of work or owning that kind of business suits you. If you can’t participate in a job shadow you can do an informational interview, in which you talk to someone to learn about the business. This talk can take place on the phone or in person and can provide excellent insight into how to start your own business. Throughout the interview you can ask them questions like: What do you love about your job? What do you hate about your job? If you were going to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Keep in mind you don’t need to recreate the wheel, especially in the age of the Internet. Everybody is doing interesting and creative things. If you just do a little bit of research you can get a lot of insights and avoid the pitfalls yourself.

How to match passion with career:

Some people are at a point in their lives when they don’t have to work to support their family and instead can create a business or find a new career that they are passionate about. For many the biggest question around how to start a business is figuring out what to do. To help yourself figure out what kind of business to start or what kind of career to get involved in, you should ask yourself this question: What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail? Or, think back to what you enjoyed doing as a child. Often those childhood activities that were fun for you (that you weren’t paid to do) such as conducting science experiments or doing arts and crafts will inspire you to find a new career that’s right for you.

Additional Resources:

Vocation Vacations

Small Business Administration

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