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How to gear up for a successful startup.

Millennials today are showing a significant interest in entrepreneurship, despite challenges presented by a volatile economy over the past few years. These young workers have ideas and interests motivating them to pave their own way to career success.

In fact, half to two-thirds of millennials are interested in entrepreneurship, and more than a quarter (27 percent) are already self-employed, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

If you’re among those eager to build a business of your own, you first need to take a few key steps to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. Here are five must-dos as you gear up for a startup:

  1. Draft a plan: A business plan is the cornerstone of your enterprise. It outlines the essential makeup of your company, serving as a roadmap for investors, lenders and, more importantly, you. As highlighted in our guide to business plans, you should include 6 key elements:
     
    • The nature of your business
    • Management and ownership details
    • The market you’re trying to reach
    • Information about your products and services
    • Operations
    • Historical and projected financial information (basically, your budget)
       

For more tips on planning, check out Harvard Business School’s resources page.

  1. Seek advice from a mentor: Never be afraid to ask for advice. Running a business is no easy task, but you can avoid making the same mistakes as many first-time entrepreneurs. Find an experienced business executive or a college professor who believes in you and your startup, then set up regular meetings to talk about your business goals. Make sure your mentor shares your passion, matches your personality and understands your needs and expectations.Looking for someone to be your business elder? Check out MicroMentor, the Small Business Association’s online tool Local Assistance.
     
  1. Obtain funding: According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, one of the biggest hurdles millennials say they face is getting funding for their startup. As you research your financing options, check out bank lending options (including loans and lines of credit), and 5 sources of capital (which covers crowdfunding, government lending programs, third-party investors, business partners, and family and friends).
     
  2. Get the word out: Engineer and businessman Lee Iacocca said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you cannot get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” How will people buy from you if they don’t know you exist? One word: marketing. Write a press release and send out the news. Place an ad in the local paper. Post flyers in the community. These are the old-school tactics.Then you have social media, one of the most powerful marketing tools to reach millions of people. Just look at the numbers: Twitter has 284 million users, Instagram has 300 million and Facebook has a whopping 1.3 billion. If you don’t have a website, make sure your social media profiles tell your story well. You can even place targeted ads on social networks in order to reach your key audience.
     

Want to add more items to your toolbox? Inc.com and Entrepreneur list a bunch of handy tech tools related to marketing that every entrepreneur should check out.

  1. Do the math: To calculate potential business expenses, access a free trial of the online resource Startup Financial Planner. This easy-to-use online program can help you figure out your finances before you strike out on your own. Another option? Once you’ve kick-started your business, hire an accountant to regularly balance the books. While it can be expensive, an accountant can save you money and handle any unexpected calls from Uncle Sam should you mishandle your business taxes.

 

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