Friday, January 8, 2010

Do You Know how to Swim? Then You Know how to Start a Biz!

I'm not sure where the idea crept in that goes something like this-

I want to start a business. I should bite the bullet, quit my job cold turkey and start one!
Or, I'll wait until I get fired and get so desperate, I'll do something about starting a business then.

As if there is a greater air of legitimacy when one is stepping out in blind faith, hoping against hope that things will be all right for no good or apparent reason.

The art of starting business is controlling risk.
That's a stupid risk.

When you learned to swim, I bet no one violently threw you, kicking and screaming and horror stricken, off the side of a fishing boat into a deep murky lake, did they?

(For those of you living in Louisiana and Arkansas, forgive me. I hear that's how y'all learn.)

I'm asking you now, to go back in your mind and think about how you learned to swim.
Go ahead. I'll wait...

Of course you did!
You just said to me, "I learned a little bit at a time."
That, boys and girls, is the very, very same way you're going to start a successful business.

A little bit at a time.

Entrepreneur Chick's mother was a beauty queen.
Here's how beauty queens teach their daughters to swim.

First of all, there's absolutely no getting wet.
Getting wet will mess up your hair, it will mess up your make up, and everyone knows a swimming suit is only for looking hot and sexy, certainly not for swimming.

Elizabeth carefully spreads her beach towel by the side of the pool.
She lights a cigarette. Adjusts her sunglasses. Exhales with a certain unidentifiable annoyance and says to me~

"Okay kid. Here's what I want you to do."


"First of all, hold your breath like this- and stick your face down in the water and hold it there a few seconds."

"Like that?"

"Yeah, like that. Now I want you to stick your face in the water but lay down in the water on your stomach and move your arms like this..."

"Like that?"

"Yeah, like that. Now I want you to stick your face in the water, lay down in the water on your stomach move your arms like I just showed you and kick your feet like this..."

"Like that?"

"Yeah, like that. Now you know how to swim. Don't bother me any more; I'm reading."

Are you ready to start of business?
Here's what Entrepreneur Chick wants you to do.

Write down a few business ideas that you have.
Go ahead, write them down.
Don't edit yourself, just write.
If you have ten, write ten.
If you have one, that's awesome too.

Now leave them in the comment section or email me, and next time, I'll show you how to, a little bit at a time, get started using your very ideas.

Let's make some cabbage, guppies!


  1. I love this post. The analogy of teaching to swim and teaching to start a good business sounds great.
    You are one of a kind Lisa!

  2. I had a very handsome blond, brown-eyed swimming teacher. I had a huge crush on him.

    Business ideas that come to mind right now:

    Green laundromat
    Writing and editing (already happening)
    Teen Cafe
    Assassin Agency (kidding)

  3. My father taught me how to swim (he used to be a lifeguard). Standing waist-deep in the pool (no make-up to mess up) he'd hold us while we learned the strokes, and then let us go to float on our own.

    He did toss us in a few times, though.

    Here we are: freelance cargo airline. Start small, I'm thinking, regional. Then go national, and international. Any tips on how to start a pub would come in handy, too. Thanks in advance.

    Polly: I think you should stick with your contract killing business. You could call it, "The Whole Blooming Hit."

  4. To start a business my feeling is you need bags of enthusiasm and more bags of naïveté. If we really knew all the things that could go wrong, most of us would never get started.

  5. Polly,

    You had a crush on your swim coach but I could have used your Assassin Agency to put a hit out on my ski instructor. I did not get along with that guy, not one bit!

    Love your business ideas. Those will be fun to work with, stay tuned.

  6. Polly,

    One more thing- I am so proud of the way you got after your business idea about writing and editing! Way to go, girl.

  7. Postman,

    You're on to millions right there, Posty.

    I'll address the pub idea, but you know what I've been thinking about ever since you wrote it?

    You know that school for learning bartending? That might be the money maker right there.

    You told me that it draws quite a cross section of people, that there's not a school closer to you than a two hour drive? One hour, two hours?

    If you are inconvenienced, how many other people are?

    I ran the numbers on what I believe their profit margin is, give or take. Pretty impressive, more so if you can duplicate the system and put it in other locations.

    I might play with both ideas, if you don't mind. Actually, the three.

    (1) Airlines
    (2) Bartending School, called, of course, "The School of Hootch".
    (3) Pub

    Interestingly enough, one of my three businesses does business exclusively with bars! How about that?

  8. Kim,

    You know, being an ex cheerleader has helped me a great deal in that regard! (Being enthusiastic even in the face of failure.)Goooooooo team!

    Do you feel you would not have started? Truly? Because you are awfully talented.

    I was thinking this morning about that business I had you take a look at for me a few months ago- my complete conclusion is:

    I'm glad I did it, otherwise it would have driven me crazy not knowing if it would have failed or succeeded.

    Perhaps the bad economy would have clued me in, but still, I think I'd driven myself nuts. Now I know.

  9. I'm so glad I'm doing this writing/editing thing. What I've been realizing profoundly is that I've truly found a niche for myself because (and I hope this doesn't sound conceited) I'm damn good at it, and most other people aren't.

    I keep getting these awesome compliments from the people I'm working for, and I'm like - duh, it's easy. It's hard to believe that something that comes so easily to me is really really hard for a lot of people. And I love doing it! And I'm getting paid for it! How cool is that?

  10. Perhaps a naive self belief is really what I mean. If I don't really believe I can fail, then clearly I haven't taken on board all that could go wrong. But it's that belief which drives us (me) to leap into projects with a sense that if anything unexpected happens I'll figure out a way to deal with it.

    And as long as the passion and enthusiasm are there, I will figure out a way to overcome whatever problems are thrown at me. But when I no longer want something enough, the problems will become too big.

  11. Millions, eh? I'm interested already.

    You don't say! Bartender's school the cash cow, is it? That makes sense. These things are few and far between. There's one in Palm Springs (about two hours away, in the Coachella Valley); the one in Riverside that I go to (about 45 minutes west of Palm Springs, still an hour and a half south of me on a good day); and another two in Los Angeles proper, I think. And I don't even know about anywhere else. The nearest ones to the north are probably in Vegas. Yes, if I could get one started here in the High Desert, it might take off like a shot.

    I can give you some numbers if that helps. Tuition is a flat rate, but it buys you unlimited use of the school's resources and job placement services. The fee is $595 (they cut it down to $545 for me, because I live up here; but I think most of their students come from the towns nearby). There's an additional fee of $65 to take the once-a-month SafeServ certification course, but I don't think the school draws any direct profit from that; I think the $65 just pays for the materials. As for expenditures, the school's owner pays $10 to anybody who brings him a new (empty) liquor bottle that he can fill up with water and food coloring and use as a practice prop. I'm not sure what utilities are going for down the hill now but the lights and water use aren't too bad.

    Play with all the ideas you want. I'm interested in anything you come up with. And ONE OF YOUR BUSINESSES DEALS EXCLUSIVELY WITH BARS?! How ABOUT that? Jeez, small world.

    Thanks again...

  12. Fortune Cookies and Crackers...!!!

  13. Polly,

    You see? Money always follows talent if you let it. GREAT JOB.

    I know what you mean, being a dance instructor and getting my entrepreneurial start in that, (and NO, you do not sound arrogant) I can pick up a dance lickity split, but it'd take my students lesson after lesson after lesson- which is great for me- cha ching. :)

  14. Kim,

    All excellent points that you make there.

    I do not believe I can fail. I believe things might not go as I planned, but with all labor, there is profit.

    Therefore, if I do anything constructive in any way, something constructive will come of it.

  15. Posty,

    I ran the numbers on the "School of Hootch" based on a $500.00 flat rate, but those (numbers you've given me) do help a great deal more.

    Where the real money would come in, not just the six figure money, would be when you can open multiple locations. When you franchise or sell licensing rights.

    However, six figures is nothing to sneeze at.

    Running at a 50% profit margin (which is way high and business that require real estate will never run at the high of a margin generally speaking) it's not that great- six figures.

    I thought you'd get a kick to hear that my company deals with bars. :)

  16. Haddock,

    Hey- good to have you stop by!

  17. Chloe,

    WAY TO GO! You put it out there, you know that, right?

    That is the most awesome, awesome business idea yet, and what I like best is low overhead and start up costs.

  18. Everyone:

    What I'm going to do in the next post is show you how to ask four questions to determine your venture's legitimacy.

    Past there, I'm going to take your ideas (Polly, Postman, Chloe) and break them down simply but individually.

    If anyone would like to add business ideas past this post, I'll be glad to play with those too.

    This is going to be fun.

    I'm already having fun. Of course, I have fun most days...

  19. This is bizarre. I just started reading Life of Pi - have you read it? There's a whole big discussion about learning to swim at the beginning.

    I think that's what I'm doing, metaphorically, learning to swim.

    Don't mind my ramblings, please. Carry on.

  20. You keep disappearing! Where are you? I miss you.

  21. Polly,

    That's so sweet that you missed me. (I miss you too, when you take time off.)

    I've had family drop in and some other stuff came up.

    I should be more on schedule now.

  22. No, I don't know how to swim!!! Is that why my business (almost) sunk? Here via Ms. Willow's place. And just so you don't think I'm a Peeping Peep, I'm saying HI!!

  23. Angie,

    So nice of you to stop by!

    Sorry to hear you had a rough row of it.

    I think businesses fail for these three reasons:

    (1) Undercapitalization
    (2) Mismanagement
    (3) Not relevant in the market place