Get Real About Your Startup Timeline
When you have a fantastic idea for a business, it may seem like waiting even a few days to see it succeed is too long. Why wait to show the world your brilliance and talent?
While we here at the Kantner Foundation agree that young entrepreneurs shouldn’t procrastinate, we also know that success is built over time. Even companies who seem like an “overnight success” likely weren’t.
As a college-bound high schooler, you may feel a sense of urgency to get your business up and running as quickly as possible. You want that on your college and scholarship applications, right?
We hear you. We get it. And while your timeline may not be as long as someone else’s, you still need to think about the path ahead. Entrepreneurship is a journey, not a destination.
So how much time is realistic for young entrepreneurs to be up and running? The following stages of a business start-up should take you as long as you need without holding you back.
THE PREPARATION STAGE
This is the stage of the mind. Here’s where you do a little research to find out if your idea has legs. Ask around, go online, and try to figure out:
- Does my idea solve a problem?
- Will my idea be easy for others to understand?
- Who needs my idea?
- What do I need to make my idea a reality?
This is also a great brainstorming stage, as any ideas you come up with may help set you up for success.
- What makes my idea different from others like it?
- Is there a more efficient way to make my idea happen?
- Can my idea solve other problems, too?
During The Preparation Stage, you shouldn’t be spending any money, making any deals, or creating any products yet. Before you move to the next step, you need to use The Preparation Stage to fully explore your idea. When you can answer “yes” to the following questions, you’ll know it’s time to move on:
- Will my idea solve a real-world problem?
- Do I need investors?
- Can I make this product or offer this service myself?
- Are there potential customers out there already?
THE SEED STAGE
Think of this as the gathering stage. Here’s where you start to gather your materials in anticipation of making a product. That doesn’t only mean the physical materials that will be used to craft a prototype. You’ll need to have a pretty good idea of the financials involved in running your business. This is also where you write a business plan so you can start hunting for investors.
This stage of the timeline should include fun things like coming up with your company’s brand, including the name and logo. Create your business’s social media accounts and websites. Get yourself a business-only email address. (Smart young entrepreneurs know better than to use personal accounts for their startups.)
THE MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT STAGE (MVP)
Now we’re starting to get hands-on! In this stage of your timeline, you’ll finally create a prototype of your product, also known as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
Your MVP will show investors that you are doing what you said you’d do. You’re keeping up your end of the deal. It also shows customers what they can expect once you make your official launch.
Don’t skip this phase. You’re not done yet! You’ll need your MVP to work out glitches and errors, do a little market research, and get an idea of how long it takes and how much it costs to make. Do potential customers like what they see? If not, why not? Do you need to hire others to help you speed up production? Do you need different materials?
This stage helps you avoid more costly mistakes after your official launch. If your MVP Stage didn’t work out quite as well as you’d hoped, head back to The Preparation Stage. Do that as many times as you need, and remember there’s no such thing as failure, only learning.
THE SOFT LAUNCH STAGE
You’ve done the best you can and you’re reasonably certain there’s a market out there for your product. Time for a soft launch. This is where you’ll invite your VIPs to try out your product. It’s kind of like The MVP stage, but with less data collection and more general impressions. The point of this stage is to gather reviews and feedback, preferably positive. The Soft Launch Stage is how you get happy customer testimonials on your website, spread word-of-mouth marketing, begin the process of social media interaction, and start offering discounts to your VIPs for their referrals. If you’re going to use brand ambassadors, now’s the time to make deals with them.
THE LAUNCH STAGE
Because you were smart enough to explore each previous stage as thoroughly as possible, this is where your hard work will pay off. Launch that website. Sell to those customers. Bust out a marketing plan that will take over the world.
This stage doesn’t mean you’re done, though.
If you’ve planned well, then you’ll have enough emergency funding to cover slow growth and those days when you’re not seeing a profit just yet. On the other hand, you should also be prepared for high demand. As your startup moves along, keep track of your profits, goals, growth, and – maybe most importantly – what’s not working.
THE GROWTH STAGE
With a little bit of luck and a lot of preparation, young entrepreneurs will make it to this stage. Here’s where you consider ideas like re-investing your profits, charitable donations, expansion, hiring, or even selling your business. We definitely want to hear from those of you who make it to this stage!
The truth is that no one can tell you an exact number of days, weeks, or months it will take you to go from idea to growth. Your journey will take as long as it needs to take. Most smaller businesses will probably be quicker to launch, but that’s not set in stone.
Be careful not to rush through any of the stages. Yet be mindful to avoid procrastinating.
Your ideas are valid, and none of these stages are meant to deter you or suggest you give up. Instead, look at these stages as ways to invest in yourself!
The Kantner Foundation awards college scholarships to young entrepreneurs in Florida. Click here to learn more and apply.