28 Aug Ask Mitch – I want to start a business but where do I start?
We’re doing something new with this episode. If it works… we may turn it into a series called, “Ask Mitch.”
Here’s the backstory:
I was recently on the phone with a fellow DREAM THINK DO-er, and we were on a topic that I get a lot of questions about. So I asked for his permission to record the call. This is a person with an idea for a business, and he’s passionate about it. He’s excited about it but he’s also a little scared.
We’re going to talk about what to do when you have a business idea but you don’t feel like you have the money to pursue it.
Money is one of the biggest perceived problems that stop people in their tracks. As you’ll hear in our conversation we blast past that problem, and talk about no or low-cost opportunities to build his business idea.
The strategies that we’re going to talk about are things anybody could apply.
As you listen to the interview though, know that we’ll take a little time getting his background, tell a little bit of a story but then we’ll really dive into his situation as a case study.
I hope you enjoy it, I hope you benefit from it.
That’s awesome. So tell me a little bit more about the business.
I started it last summer doing aerial photography. I went to a demolition. I live in Pennsylvania and went to a demolition across the Susquehanna River, and I saw all these drones flying around. I got a card from the owner who is based out of North Carolina. He was doing drone video and I thought that was pretty cool. So I figured I would just go ahead and give it a shot and see what I could make of it.
That’s awesome. So you went out and got a drone. I know there are all sorts of certifications that you can get for flying a drone. So you’re all good to go on that?
Yes. I actually taught myself. Went through, watched a couple classes on YouTube. You can actually pay to have classes but as a college student, I don’t have money for that.
Well, most of the answers are on YouTube anyway, so why not?
I went out there, passed it the first time. I got all my certifications, and I’m set to go.
I know you’re just getting started, but where have you been finding business at this point?
I’ve done a couple promotional things just try to get the business going. I’ve had one client so far through a co-worker my dad used to work with. I filmed her grandparents’ farm. They were moving out of the farm and wanted just keeps out there as a memory, so I did a video for them.
They were also using it to list the farm for sale but it doubled so they could just have it as a memory.
I know the key to being an entrepreneur a lot of times is the pivot. It’s like learning, growing, learning, growing but when you think about this, who would you love to have as clients?
Who would be your ideal client knowing what you know right now?
People in real estate. They know they want something, but they really want someone to put everything together. That’s what I did when I did the farm. I walked around the landscape and told them about this one shot with a creek.
It was right alongside the house, and I thought it would be a cool approach. That was their favorite part of the film. Just when they give you the opportunity to just take the lead.
Yeah, so you like to have that little bit ownership to be able to say, “I’d recommend this,” and you love it when a client says, “All right, I trust you. Let’s try it.”
Yeah because I do all the editing, too. It’s great when you know what is going to look good on a video and they can just let you run with it.
That’s awesome, I love it. I have a number of questions but I know when you reached out, you had some questions as well. So what are some of your questions right now when it comes to your business?
Primarily I would say capital. Capital is the hardest thing especially being a college student. I bought a computer with a small loan, but I could use more capital for marketing and more equipment – that kind of thing.
Sure. What kind of equipment do you need?
Drone equipment is always changing, so you have to get new drone equipment. Mine’s still good for now but probably in another year or two, I will need new drones. Computer equipment’s always changing. Well, marketing is a big factor too and that’s not cheap.
Right. So, on a side note, way to go! What year are you at Kansas State?
First year. Freshman.
Half the people listening are going, “I wish I would have started that early.” Right man, so what I love is that you’re creating a business and you’re doing it at the best time. Not necessarily because you’re in college, but I always say the best time to create a business is when you’re not dependent on it for income. Now that doesn’t mean you don’t want to be making money, that doesn’t mean you don’t want to profit from it, but that is the best time to create a business. So you’re doing it smart by, and I’m sure you’ve got plenty of things to do, being a freshman in college. But at the same time, being able to create it now is brilliant.
You’re going to learn a ton. Yes, you do need capital and money is almost always the first perceived barrier to any dream. It’s the perceived barrier but there is so much you can do. You’ve already got the core equipment that you need and yes, drones are changing all the time. Computers need to be upgraded all the time, but you could probably go like you’re saying at least a year if not two years without upgrading your equipment. Now down the road, as you start to make money, you can start adding equipment, upgrading your equipment, but you can wait on that and I’m sure still create a lot of great work right now.
So your first client involved real estate. When you think about that, does that idea excite you? Does being able to go and do something similar with real estate, does that get you jazzed? You like where that might take you? Do you like the feel of that?
Yeah, it does. I like it. And there are so many different markets you can explore with drone photography. I’m actually looking into doing a music video when I come back for summer break.
I have a friend who’s doing music and he’s also trying to start up, so he’s looking for all the help he can get.
I love your story. Now first I asked, are you excited about real estate? Now that’s more of a gut-based question. That’s not a data-based question. We can dive into the data side of it saying, “Okay, what’s real estate market like in your area? How many real estate agents are there in your area?” The data stuff could be good to take a look at, but right now with where you’re at, not being dependent on the income from a month-to-month basis, you really can take a look at the numbers. You can take a look at the data, but you can also go with your gut a little bit. I want you to be excited and stoked, and hungry for this.
I love that you’re going to try some different things. One of the other ways to bust through that perceived barrier of capital and cash is doing what you’re doing. That is looking around saying who else needs this? So if you’ve got a buddy who wants to shoot music videos then experiment with that. See if that is something you guys work well on. Is that something you can explore and do more of, and/or is there a way that you guys could partner with other types of video?
Absolutely. Two different ventures that go hand in hand.
That’s awesome. Look for someone who can you collaborate with, and also who’s hungry. So that’s a great example of someone that needs something that you’ve got, but also could be something that would also create a high-visibility product for you. Again, since you’re not dependent on this income, you really can do some of these experiments like you’re doing with either a low-cost or no-cost. You don’t want to do that forever, but some low-cost no-cost experiments can really help to get your work out there. One of the other things that can also shed a lot of light on something like this is to think about who could be an ideal client.
Let’s say you think about realtors. Their game has changed dramatically in a very short period of time. It used to be that if you decided you were going to come to an area, or you were going to stay in the same area but upgrade, you would go and ride around with a realtor. Look at 20 houses, exhaust yourself. Those days are gone. For a small percentage of people, that still is the way you do it, but for most people and you talk to real estate agents too. For most people, they will sit at their desk.
They just go to the web and they’re looking at the pictures. Those pictures, that video, that’s what sets you apart. Every realtor is looking for ways to set their properties apart. So I know that with the real estate side of things, obviously, you’re going to benefit. You’re going to be able to set yourself apart even more for probably larger properties, whether that’s half acreage, bigger, small farms that kind of stuff where again you can capture the grandeur. You can capture the space. Are you also a photographer?
I am not currently but I was actually just thinking about going out and doing that, just so I have the full package I can do specifically for real estate. That would expand my range of projects. I could do weddings if I was also a still photographer.
You’re obviously hungry. You’re going after this, so I’m guessing that you’ve got a couple of people around you, or you’re not afraid to surround yourself with hungry people, people that are also going after it. I’m guessing that if that’s something you want to explore and learn, then, by all means, yeah, absolutely.
I also have to wonder if there isn’t somebody else that you know, that maybe is like a ninja when it comes to photography. You guys could partner, and you wouldn’t be out to cash for the camera. You could be up and running a lot faster if it was the two of you working on something. That might be another option.
One of the other questions is who could you be learning from? What if you did some research and said all right, who are five realtors in my area that are killing it?
Yeah, I actually did that.
Did you already?
Yes. Most of them, in fact, most of them already have. I don’t know if they do it themselves or they pay people to do it, but I was looking on their websites and they’re already on it. This is at home in Pennsylvania.
I would say it probably would be worth taking a look around there in Kansas where you spend most of the year. Also, you are looking at the Realtors that are killing it, but then also take a look at the realtors that are in the next tier down. The ones that are killing it probably are already being really intentional with their photography. Maybe they’re even working in some aerial shots, some drone stuff, that kind of thing, but those are the innovators, those are the guys on the far side of that bell curve. But there are probably many who are interested in doing something but they either don’t know how to do it, they’re not sure who they should reach out to, maybe they don’t think they can afford it.
Take a look properties where they’re not maximizing the photography, they’re not maximizing the drone work. Maybe they’re not doing any of that. Reach out and just ask some basic questions, not asking them for a job right away, but to be able to say, “Can I learn about what you do? Can I learn from what you’re doing?”
If somebody is genuinely interested in them and their story, there’s a very good chance they’ll take your call, but then you can say, “Listen, I’m an entrepreneurship student at Kansas State. I’m thinking about putting a business together. I’m thinking that one of my potential clients or client bases could be real estate agents, and I would love to ask you a few questions. Just 15 minutes on the phone. Would you be willing to help me out as a student?” You could ask them a couple of questions about how they got into real estate, what do they like about it, but also to be able to say where do they see their needs especially when it comes to photography, drone work, all of that.
You’re going to have all sorts of different types of people in any business, but I’m guessing there’s going to be some people who want to be innovative but just haven’t found a way to do it yet.
I’d also suggest asking them, “Do you have a property where I could try this, where we could experiment? Where my buddy and I will come, we will take photographs, I’ll do some drone work, and we’ll just create something for you. I would provide that to you for free, but also I’d be able to use those pictures in my portfolio in the future,” and just see if they’d be willing to do that. And the last question I always suggest asking is, “Who else should I be talking to? Based on our conversation, who else should I be talking to?”
And I want to say, just the fact that you’re having this call right now means, I believe Jake you’re going to be successful. I guarantee you, my money is on Jake because if you’re willing to put it out there to ask for help, to do this kind of stuff, you keep doing that, keep building, keep learning, I guarantee you’re going to find a way to make this successful.
But the biggest thing is to find a place to start. Sounds like it might be real estate, and that, again, we’re just treating that like the case study. If you take a step back and go, “Okay. I don’t really want to work with real estate, I want to try something else,” you could do the same thing in any kind of niche. Find out who is killing it, who to learn from, who might be willing to experiment with you.
As you do that, then you can come back and say, “How much value did that bring?”
I’m always thinking about, “How can you have a bigger impact? How can you sell faster? How can you provide more value?” all those things and you would be helping that niche do that. You know what I mean?
So if you get five realtors that are killing it in an area, and you land on a fee that works for you and for them, you probably only need five realtors to have a really good and consistent income, because they’re just constantly cranking out deals. I think it could be a great, great experiment.
Plus, to be able to say, “All right. Who could I collaborate with? Who’s a buddy that’s also thinking entrepreneurially that would be willing to go in, provide good value, work with you, maybe split the fee?
So the big questions to ask yourself: Who can I collaborate with? Who can I be learning from, and where can we test it?”
Yes. That’s what I’m looking at right now, is just what I can get into, which right now looks like real estate.
You were talking about money to brand and market. With this approach, you’re putting in sweat equity, but I think it could be very effective. We’re talking about going and finding a couple of realtors who will work with you to be able to experiment. Because they’re not out anything. Let’s say they get a new listing for 500 grand. It’s a beautiful listing, big space, high rooftop, maybe a half acre, an acre, or more, and oh my gosh, they’re thinking, “A drone would be incredible.”
You go and create something for them that then you could throw up on a really simple website later on saying, “All of this for 500 bucks.” So you sell property faster, keep more money, all that.
Again, it wouldn’t cost anything except for the time it takes to find somebody to collaborate with and to make some phone calls.
Yeah. That’s a good place to start. I’ve done some promo videos for people, but as far as personally calling people, I’ve not tried that yet. So I have to do that.
Another potential market might be For Sale by Owner. I’m thinking about Zillow. Zillow is the app or website that people can post for sale by owner too. You might find a couple of for sale by owners that are really nice homes and just say you know, “Let me create something for you,” But that would be another way to build a portfolio. They’re probably going to be even more receptive to allowing you to create something for them. I just think it’s awesome and again, I’m guessing people listen to this are envious for your tenacity and stick-to-it-ness to just go after it.
Yeah, it’s just something you got to do and actually a week before I spoke with you, my business teacher actually said, “Well, what you need to do to be successful is just reach out to anyone you can. These presenters that you have that come to our school, you need to stay afterward and talk to them because you never know when they’ll be able to help you out and what you can learn from them.”
Good for you. Hey, go back and tell your professor thanks, right?
Yeah, I did actually.
I’ve got a buddy, Jon Vroman, who’s got a great podcast, is just an incredible speaker. He started something called The Front Row Foundation, it’s just an incredible nonprofit, all that, but he’s got this front row mentality; That’s the only way to live life. Go sit in the front row, whether it’s a classroom, whether it’s a concert, try to get in that front row because there’s nothing like being in the front row. He said it’s so easy to sit in the back row, easy to get out, easy to not be in the fray, but he’s like, “You miss out on so much by not being in the front row,” and man, you’re living that life. You’re right there in the fray of it with the big dream gathering by coming right up afterward and talking with me. That’s the way to live man, and again, my money’s on Jake I can tell you, because I can guarantee you’re going to be a successful.
Thanks. It’s a work in progress but we all have to start somewhere.
Well, that’s the thing; most people keep telling themselves that but never start. You’ve already beat one of the hardest aspects of that, is that you started. You didn’t wait till everything was perfect, you didn’t wait till you had $10,000 to put towards this thing, you just figured out a way to get started, and that’s where the magic happens.
Yeah, that’s my advice to anyone who wants to start out, you’ve just got to do it.
Yep. Exactly right. Allow yourself to learn as you go. Don’t wait until you know everything. I love it, Jake. Well keep up the good work man and keep us in the loop on where you take this.
Sounds good Mitch. Thanks for having me.
Absolutely. All right. I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. My hope is that those questions that we talked through with Jake could inspire you to go deeper on your idea. Maybe get started, whether you’ve got just cash coming out your earholes or you need to do this thing on a budget. I hope you’re encouraged by that conversation to go out and start some experiments.
Many of the questions I asked Jake were “ideal client” kind of questions. Also, are you fired up about this? Are you excited about this? Because that is an important question to ask. If you’re not excited about it, I would really encourage you to think about doing something differently, or doing something different.
Now here’s the thing is, sometimes people will push back and say, “Well, yeah. But what about the numbers? What about the data?” You certainly can and should do market research. You should give a thought to the market viability. Is there a group of people to serve there? Is there a population that is needing what I’m thinking about? All of those things and the numbers, they do matter, but it’s got to start with you being passionate, excited about the idea, that people group, that population, that customer, whoever it is.
Once we started to get some clarity on that with Jake, I wanted to encourage him, and I hope you heard that, to start experimenting. You can get wrapped up in the analysis and then move into paralysis as you’ve probably heard 1,000 times. So to be able to say, “All right. How do I experiment?” So some of those questions that I started to ask him was to be able to say, “All right. Who could you partner with? Who’s doing something similar, maybe something complimentary, how could you partner with them to try some experiments? Who could you be learning from?”
If he was thinking that real estate agents might be his ideal customer, or at least for the first season of his business, hey, go and learn their world. Go spend some time with them. Let them know you’re not going to be a competitor, but let them know that you want to learn from them and potentially serve them as well.
I’m not sure what your idea is, but to be able to say, “All right. Who might be that ideal customer, that ideal client? How could I be learning about the world and what are some experiments we could do where I would serve them, where I could help them?” You are looking to learn as much as possible, help them, and then build your business from there.
The other crucial question when you are learning from these experts: “All right. Who else should I be talking to? Who would you recommend I talk with?” It’s amazing the number of people that the first couple of phone calls that they make, to be able to try to learn more about an industry or try to learn more about someone’s world, all of that.
Then that last point: how can I be providing value? How could I be providing value right now? You may not be making a ton of cash from this business but to be able to say, “All right. How can I be providing value?” I’ll give you an example from my own world. For me, a big part of what I do is speaking. I love storytelling, I go out now with audiences of hundreds sometimes thousands and it’s just an amazing thing. But when I was getting started, you guys know my story, I was not doing this full-time. I was in a position that had been a good fit but had become a bad fit. It was a bad fit job, not a bad job but a bad fit job, and it was killing my soul, and I knew I wanted to start speaking.
So I started to ask some of my own questions, some of these same questions of myself. I started to ask them and say, “All right. Who can I be providing value to?” One of the things I realized was I needed to start experimenting. I’d done some speaking, I did a little speaking in high school, I got so nervous I’d throw up, but I still did it. I did some speaking in college and had done a little bit, but I knew that if I was going to start to turn this into a full-time job, I was going to need to get out and to do it a whole lot more. So I started to look around saying, “Where can I provide value?”
One of the places that I realized was at my church. I realized that there were groups of people that needed help, encouragement, ideas. I’m not necessarily a theologian, but I realized, “Hey, a lot of the things that I’ve been learning about coaching, a lot of the things I’ve been learning about setting goals, a lot of the things I’ve been learning about getting clear and creating a vision for your life, that could be applied in the church.” I knew I probably wasn’t going to get paid at all, but I thought, “You know what? This is my chance to experiment. This is my chance to try it out, to bring some value.”
So I started to go to some of the groups to say, “Hey, could you use a speaker? Could I help you out?” That allowed me to build up some material. Interestingly enough, my first presentation, I was going to call it a professional presentation but I don’t know that I’d go that far, my first real presentation, a group took me up on my offer. So I created this content, we thought we marketed it really well. I show up and there are literally four people in the room. The church had just had a little bit of flooding, so the room kind of smelled like mold, awesome. It was in the basement, it wasn’t on the main stage by any means, all of that, but it still mattered.
I was able to connect with those four people and really learn some things. Some of the stuff that I did worked, some of the stuff I could tell didn’t. But I learned a lot. It built from there and built from there, and some different groups had me come in, which led up to me actually getting to kind of headline at a weekend conference at my church. I was still not getting paid anything, but I was experimenting, I was learning, I was doing those exact same things that I was encouraging Jake to do, but doing them at my church.
Interestingly enough I got to speak at this weekend retreat. Somebody in that audience wound up being an HR for a Fortune 500 company, came up to me afterward and said, “Hey, do you do this for businesses?” I said, “Well, yeah.” I had to be really careful with my yeah to say, “Yeah I do. I will if you say yes,” right? And that led to my first paying client.
So these concepts can work for people like Jake… people like me… and most importantly… people like YOU!
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