There's a misconception that keeps those with dreams of owning their own business from following their dreams. It's a misconception that's not only false but dangerous to the small business community. It's not true that every entrepreneur sits in a rundown apartment somewhere in Silicon Valley, eats boxes of cheap mac-and-cheese and stays up all night building the next big startup. Most entrepreneurs aren't living in poverty hoping to someday sign the papers for millions of dollars in funding only to see their dreams become the next worldwide craze.
SEE: The 10 Greatest Entrepreneurs
The real landscape of entrepreneurship is much different and more mainstream than the model seen in the movies. According a Kauffman Foundation study, entrepreneurs are more likely to be between the ages of 45-54 and of minority descent. They may be starting businesses as second careers, but even those entrepreneurs don't fit the stereotype.
Another misconception is the notion that businesses have to start with a "bang," which translates to lots of time, quitting your day job, sacrificing family time and taking a big personal and financial risk on a dream that may not succeed and could burden you with large amounts of debt.
In fact, many business owners start their businesses as side ventures. They don't quit their day jobs, but instead use the skills they've learned to start that side business. They aren't expecting these businesses to pay the bills, but they don't limit themselves on growth either. Starting small keeps the startup costs low. If it does fail, they have lost very little. How do you start a side business? Here are a few tips.
Make It Scaleable
So you love to cook? You could start a restaurant that will take a full-time commitment and a lot of money – or you could start a weekend catering business or a mobile food truck. A business where you provide small services on your own schedule can grow as much or as little as your time allows. Look for those opportunities while you're starting out.
Limit the Formal Marketing
You want to gain business, but investing in large marketing efforts could have two negative effects: You could waste a lot of money on a campaign that produced very little business or it could produce so much business that you don't have the time to handle all of the orders. Instead, focus on word-of-mouth advertising and let the business grow debt free.
SEE: Starting a Small Business in Tough Economic Times
If you're going to keep your day job, try not to mix the two businesses. The job that pays the bills and offers health insurance and a retirement package deserves the bulk of your time and energy, even if you've lost some of the passion for that position. After work, when you get back home, concentrate on your side business.
Don't Expect It to Be Easy
Before starting your side business, consider your expectations. If it's going to be a part-time effort, expecting to rival your full-time competitors in the first few years is unrealistic. You don't have to be the biggest to find fulfillment. Expecting to do something you enjoy while making a little extra money is a healthy and appropriate goal.
The Bottom Line
If you dream of starting a business, don't fall for the misconception that you have to quit your job and put all of your time and money into your idea. Instead, start small and see where the business takes you. Launching a business for the enjoyment of doing what you love is just as noble as being a Silicon Valley entrepreneur starting a dotcom.