When Angelica Cristal of Joliet decided to turn her art collective into an art business, she reached out to Joliet Latino Economic Development Association (LEDA) for guidance.
Cristal said her main challenge was narrowing down the focus for Waywards Art Haus since she’s so multifaceted in her art and goals. But she needed practical help, too, such as how to file for an LLC and if she needed any permits, Cristal said.
She also said getting involved with community events connected her with resources and people who shared common interests.
“You see where the demand [for your product] might be,” Cristal said.
Alex Páramo, president of LEDA, said organizations like LEDA helps prevent people from contacting several agencies to gather information by being a resource for that information.
“I think with Angelica or anyone else looking to start a new venture or new business opportunity, it’s important to have great access to have information,” Páramo said. “When folks are looking to start something new, they might not necessarily know where to turn.”
So before would-be business owners hang up that “open for business” sign, Páramo suggests they do these five things.
1. Write a basic business plan. Páramo said a basic business plan forces people to consider what service or product they want to get into the market and who their potential clients are.
“Thinking through that helps you see whether or not what you have in mind is something that’s viable,” Páramo said.
2. Sit down with a representative from an organization like LEDA to define the entity and its legal structure, what permits (if any) might be needed and even what the tax burden might look like.
“Coming to our office and talking to our staff, getting one of us to know about your business goals and vision, helps us come back with some information that is relevant,” Páramo said.
3. Rethink that stellar marketing plan. Páramo said sometimes a marketing plan works so well and attracts so many customers that a business quickly becomes overwhelmed. It might be better to grow slowly.
“It doesn’t reflect on the business well if they don’t serve them well,” Páramo said.
4. Test a product or service to gauge its viability and your ability to support it before taking out a large loan.
“If you spent 15 years in accounting, you may not want to start your own restaurant,” Páramo said.
5. Have well-defined goals. Do you want your business to be known for its great customer service, for making customers feel right at home? Or do you want everyone to know about your product?
“Some business owners want to be the best on their block; some want to be the best in the country,” Páramo said. “All of them depend on their goals and their motivations.”
Unfortunately, no “magic formula” exists to guarantee business success, Páramo said. But he feels building on one’s strengths, along with plenty of persistence and drive, can help set a good foundation.