By Roger Pierce
Starting a small business is a popular dream shared by people tired of the daily employment grind. Attracted to the idea of being one's own boss, entrepreneurship is the hottest career choice today with 20% of working Canadians expected to be self-employed by 2010.
Since James Zinman launched his business in 1997, more than 8,000 children have participated in "edu-tainment" science and technology birthday parties and programs created by his company, The Kid's Fun Factory.
People enter entrepreneurship for different reasons. "I started my own business because I was feeling creatively and financially limited in the employed world," comments James Zinman, founder of The Kid's Fun Factory in Toronto. "I have always been a dreamer with perhaps a few too many control issues to be anything but an entrepreneur!"
Eager to venture out on his own, Zinman sought to create a small business that combined his personal passion with marketplace opportunity.
"I've always loved working with kids and knew the benefits of collaborative, hands-on and fun learning environments for children," he recalls. "I had my 'a-ha' moment when I recognized a void in the marketplace for such activities."
Since its launch in 1997, more than 8,000 children have participated in "edu-tainment" science and technology birthday parties and programs created by The Kid's Fun Factory (www.thekidsfunfactory.com
Zinman says the best part of being an entrepreneur is the opportunity to develop whatever vision you want to pursue. However, he says being your own boss includes plenty of challenges. "The hardest part is staying totally committed and on-track with your vision without getting tangled up in all the little day-to-day headaches of running a small business."
He says that's how a business plan can keep you focused. "Starting a small business without a business plan is like jumping into a car without a roadmap and hoping to end up at a specific destination," he says. Considering that 80% of new small businesses fail within the first two years, developing a sound business plan is critical preparation.
"Anyone even considering starting his or her own business should spend several months developing and refining a true business plan," Zinman says.
Other challenges include longer-than-expected working hours. "I was under the misguided belief that being my own boss would mean flexible hours and more three-day weekends," Zinman laughingly recalls. "Instead, I'm working between 55 and 65 hours per week -- plus many more hours thinking about my business!"
Balancing work and family life is a tough juggling act, Zinman admits. It's critical to secure complete support from loved ones because the early years of any small business consume plenty of time and energy.
With so much at risk, it's vital that new entrepreneurs properly prepare. "Never rush to open your doors," advises Zinman. "Prepare by working in the industry prior to starting your venture to make contacts, understand competition and wire into customers. Then, think about easing into your small business part-time while keeping some outside income."
-- Entrepreneurship expert Roger Pierce trains people how to start a small business in the Up & Running Biz Launch Program.
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