First, familiarize yourself with FDA regulations. Then consider these more general resources for aspiring entrepreneurs
I would like to launch a line of skin products based on medicinal herbs and plants, but I have no idea where to start. Could you give me some idea where I can get more detailed information? —M.M., Euless, Tex.
Brand-new entrepreneurs must research, research, and then research again (BusinessWeek.com, 1/9/08) before they sink any money into a new venture, or go into debt to fund it. You can't do too much homework to acquaint yourself with the practical aspects of running a small business and the reality of the particular industry you're contemplating. Developing skin-care products, in particular, will require an investment in research and development and a thorough understanding of how your products will be regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (look at its Web site, under the cosmetics category). A partnership (BusinessWeek SmallBiz, June/July, 2007) with a dermatologist would probably also be wise.
Check with your nearest community college or local Small Business Development Center about taking an entrepreneurship class. Connect with nonprofit entrepreneurial training organizations such as SCORE, the Kauffman Foundation's eVenture, and My Own Business. If possible, take a job at a business similar to the one you'd like to open, and learn everything you can from the inside out about how it works. Figure out what is not working at that company, and how you can do things differently at your own business.
Join an Information-Sharing Group
Look for professional business associations you can join and then read their trade publications, talk to other business owners, and attend networking meetings for entrepreneurs. Avoid jumping quickly into a poorly thought-out business. Too many people borrow money or mortgage their homes to start businesses without having a clear, realistic understanding of how the business should work. Failure rates for startup businesses are high: You'll need a solid business plan (BusinessWeek.com, 1/7/08) and plenty of capital (BusinessWeek.com, 2/1/08) before you get started, in order to be successful.
Robin Stein, who launched the PortaMEe baby carrier in September, 2006, says she got valuable help through a women-entrepreneurs group in New York. "They shared information with me about finding an attorney, referred me to my accountant, and helped me find distributors and a graphic designer, who gave me a reference to a Web marketer," she says.
Believing in Your Product Makes It Easy
Lynn Falwell, president of It's Your Move, based in Natick, Mass., recommends you assess whether you have the right personality for entrepreneurship (you can take a quiz on the Small Business Administration Web site). "Becoming an entrepreneur means you can't be shy. You've got to feel comfortable promoting yourself through meetings, presentations, brochures, and media interviews—especially until word-of-mouth referrals become your mainstay. If you absolutely and totally believe in the positive value of what you're doing, that becomes easy," she says.
Blake Patton, chief executive of iKobo, an electronic money-transfer firm based in Atlanta, says to be successful, a startup entrepreneur must provide a unique business solution. "You've got to have a better value proposition than your competitors, and you've got to make potential customers aware of your alternative," he says. Good luck.