Small Business

Small Business Shenanigans: How to start a small business, Myths and reality


But, really, it isn't easy. 

I have no business experience whatsoever, nor do I have many mentors in the way of opening small entrepreneurial ventures. I do have a master's degree but instead of being helpful in starting a business, my MA often led me to regressing back to the nefarious imposter syndrome that I'd contracted from literally every grad student ever.

Instead, I plunged down the track and, at each hurdle I encountered, I asked for help. My inner monologue was begging for permission from individuals, companies, agencies, the universe, but I simply asked a smorgasbord of questions.

I trusted that people who were paid to do their jobs knew more than I would about that hurdle I was about to smack with my nose. I have a sickly sweet customer service voice that I can conjure on demand. I'm pretty fucking charming when I need to be, I mean, all the time.

But I also did a lot of research. 

Balancing trust and doing reconnaissance prevented me from becoming completely naïve or completely bitter.

myths of starting an online business

There seems to be a lot of confusion and misunderstandings about opening online businesses in particular. Such myths deserve dispelling and I will do my best to provide some of my learning experiences here to help quash them.

MYTH: Online businesses don't require permits/licenses, etc.

REALITY: I had to obtain my business license from the IN Secretary of State, my sales tax license from IN Department of Revenue, my food permit license from my County Department of Health, all while not owning a brick-and-mortar. The Small Business Association website helped me outline the course of action on how to obtain these licenses and permits.

MYTH: Online businesses are "easier" than having a brick-and-mortar because you don't have the overhead costs involved in running your business.

REALITY: Overhead is certainly a barrier to entry in starting businesses. In the case of starting small businesses, especially food-related businesses, overhead can be a nonstarter. Living in a small city as I do, resources are also on the scarce side; per my County Department of Health, there are only two (2) certified kitchens that I could be permitted to use to make my chocolates.

Sure, there are some sharing relationships where a food establishment will allow small makers to use their facilities during off hours and while this can indeed be a symbiotic relationship of sorts (small maker gets to rent space and equipment much cheaper than purchasing it, establishment gets extra revenue and potential mentoring experience) it can also provide its own set of challenges. Considerations would include any time, product, and personality conflicts.

In my case, I am going the route of the certified kitchen. It certainly meets my needs and is absolutely cheaper than purchasing or leasing building space as my own independent spot. I also have the potential to forge new relationships in this capacity with the building's community and other makers who use this space. Ultimately, all of my chocolate confections are made in a certified kitchen that I have access to, but I don't have control over, and I would be hard-pressed to label this "easy."

In addition to the kitchen space, because I am an online business owner who makes and ships product, I experience a blurring of the lines between "home" and "office." All of my paperwork, shipping and packaging materials, and homo decor materials are housed in my home office (which is predominately our kitchen table and needs to be cleared off by dinner time).

I will look forward to having the level of success that would support having a brick-and-mortar base from which I can still operate my online sales. That will be the ideal arrangement and we can throw this concept of "easier" out the window.

MYTH: Online businesses are "easier" because you don't have set hours.


"Easier"? Again? What about business is easy???

If you can't manage time, tasks, and relationships, regardless of set business hours of operation, business is going to be that much harder if not utterly daunting. Here, grad school experience came in handy because I was used to setting goals, planning, consiste.... where was I going with this pack of lies?

Time management is my biggest personal challenge. I've had to develop this skill and, honestly, it is still very much a work in progress and not a linear one at that.

Set hours of a brick-and-mortar is nothing more than an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so.

MYTH: You don't have to deal with people with an online business.

REALITY: It is a lonelier venture, but people and relationships and interactions are still key to business success, online or brick-and-mortar. For me, specifically, I am a people-person to a fault and much prefer interacting face-to-face with folx. Also, that was a huge understatement, in case you didn't realize.

Myths abound in starting a business, especially a small, online business. If you have any passion in starting your own business, congratulations! You've won half the battle in starting one! 

The next half is still a beast. Don't let myths get in your way! And, if you need a sounding board just to bounce around ideas, drop me an email and let's chat.