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A Roadmap To Leaving Your Job And Starting A Creative Business

A Roadmap To Leaving Your Job And Starting A Creative Business

It’s one thing to sit in your cubicle and dream about fleeing corporate America to launch a creative business. It can be difficult, though, to figure out how to go about it on a logistical level. When an idea seems so abstract, it can be difficult to act on it.

Sumeera Rasul had these same thoughts when she was working for ad agencies and tech companies like Apple and Google. She realized that she wanted something more creative and fulfilling in her life and eventually started a small textile company with her sister. This led to launching MadeSmith, a platform that showcases handcrafted items and the designers who make them through storytelling and exclusive collaborations.

Rasul also recently created MadeSmith Academy, which helps people start and market their creative business. Her recent Jam Session offered a step-by-step guide to starting a creative business.

Step 1: 18 to 12 Months in Advance

Network! Get inspired and gain momentum. Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs, especially ones in a creative field. Ellevate is obviously a good place to network, as are niche-specific Meetups. Absorb as much as you can.

Develop your skills: Even if you don’t know exactly what kind of business you want to create, the only way to find out is through experiencing. You also need to be proficient in business skills as well as branding and marketing, how to price your product, etc.

Good places to start learning are local continuing education classes, weekend workshops, General Assembly as well as online at Udemy and Coursera.

Rasul is a fan of taking classes in things she is extremely uncomfortable with. These are usually areas you will need in your business and when you are first starting out it may not be feasible to hire someone to do it.

Save, save, save! One of the biggest reasons small businesses shut down is due to lack of cash. Money always goes out much faster than it comes in. Rasul says to have eight to twelve months of living expenses on hand as well as four to six months of business expenses. As anyone who’s actually launched a business will tell you: you always need much more cash than you think you will.

Rasul doesn’t advise looking for investors early on. Even if you find someone, they are going to want to take a huge chunk of your business. The later you seek them out the better. You’ll have more leverage once you’re established.

Test The Market: It’s a good idea to test the market little while you are still working full-time. You can do this on sites like Etsy.

Step 2: 6 months before launch

When you’re just starting out, Rasul recommends a one-page business plan. It helps you nail the key building blocks of your business and think through your concept. Since your ideas change early on, a one-page plan is easy to adjust

It should cover:

  1. Business vision and mission (It should be scalable to include new offerings in the future.)
  2. Value proposition (lifetime service, additional services around your product)
  3. Customer segments
  4. Revenue segments
  5. Revenue streams
  6. Marketing and distribution channels
  7. Partnerships
  8. Financials (costs, revenue, profits, etc.)

Step 3: 2 to 3 Months before launch

Product design is the most crucial part of the business. Some designers focus on creating only beautiful products and hope that this alone will sustain their business. Having a great product is important, but it’s not enough. You need to create an ecosystem around your product to ensure its success.

Things to consider:

• What problems are you solving for your customers? How are you validating it? Clearly state your ideal customer’s problem and how your product solves it. Talk to prospective clients and find out how your product could help them.

• How is your product unique? It must look and feel different from your competitors. Also     have a plan in case it is copied.

• How is your feedback loop integrated into your product design?

The Role of Social Media:

Use social media to create buzz around your product. Define what you’re doing, give customers sneak peaks, sketches and prototype. Share stories early on the various sites and get people excited.

You can also offer potential customers a value-add service, such as a free gift or a discount, if they sign up for updates, the email list, etc.

Step 4: Launch

The most successful launches are the ones who have been well thought out in advance.

• E-blast to your network to remind them of the benefit of your product. Make this communication as personal as possible. Give your customers a link to pre-sign up, etc.

• Offer exclusive coverage to bloggers. Send them physical packages, if you have a physical product. Send images, links, etc. Don’t send lookbooks or formal press releases. They get a lot of those and it doesn’t feel personal. Do not send a mass email to bloggers. Personalize each one. Bloggers are always looking for new content, so if your product is a good fit, they will cover you. Most importantly, know the blogs that you are pitching well and point out how your product would fit into their coverage.

• Create an effective customer referral program. It should be simple and worth the effort to share online, etc.

Step 5: 6 months after launch

• Gather feedback from customers and non-customers. A bigger market that you       can tap into are people who aren’t buying from you. Find out why.

• Improve your product: Materials, process, costs, accessibility, etc.

• Find out who your real customers are. How, why and when do they buy from you? Look for patterns.

• Start small and become profitable. Once you are profitable, grow quickly. If you   don’t grow you will die a slow death.

Step 6: 12 month after launch: Growth

We often get stuck in the day to day and we forget to plan long term for where we want our business to go. Plan for growth no later than twelve months after launch.

• Layout how you can convert non-customers.

• Find additional partnerships: blogs, organizations, etc.

• Create a launch calendar for new products and market research.

• Don’t forget your essence and your existing customers.