By Tiffany Sappington
Career Coach, GCDF
and Katrice Adams-Mubiru
AMU Alumna, Graduate Certificate in Life Coaching
As a business industry-aligned Career Coach, I encounter many university students and alumni who have an intense passion for solving problems, advocating for social justice, and making a difference in the world through inventions, products, services, and ideas. For many folks, this inherent passion naturally leads them into entrepreneurship. Encounters with ambitious entrepreneurs have prompted me to further explore how to plan for a career where you are your own boss.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Inspired a Rise in Entrepreneurship
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, applications for Employer Identification Numbers (EINs), which identify businesses for federal tax purposes, rose dramatically in the wake of COVID-19. While numerous business owners were negatively impacted by the pandemic, many aspiring entrepreneurs decided it was the perfect time to venture out on their own.
If the pandemic has prompted you to contemplate starting your own business, there are some practical areas to consider as you pursue your venture.
To help me detail some of the nuances of planning and starting an entrepreneurial venture, I reached out to my colleague, fellow coach, and AMU alumna Katrice Adams-Mubiru. One of the most passionate and driven people I know, Katrice is the founding director of an educational and wellness center located in Los Angeles, California. She also recently earned her graduate certificate in life coaching from the University and is now a certified Life Coach.
Know Your Motivation for Starting a Business and Being Your Own Boss
We all have passions, but what drives someone to turn that passion into a business? Why does someone want to become their own boss?
You may say that being your own boss means you are the ultimate decision maker. You determine your own flexibility and decide who will be your employees and clients. While there are appealing pros to being your own boss, you’ll need to dig deeper to understand your motivation for entrepreneurship.
Don’t just ask yourself why you want to start your own business, but also why you should start your own company. What industry knowledge would you bring to your organization? How do you establish your reputation as an expert product or service provider?
Going into business for yourself means that employer-sponsored health insurance, a retirement savings plan and other benefits may no longer be an option. You must define your ‘why’ to accurately assess both the risk of starting a company and the practicality of maintaining it.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when determining your motivation for starting a business:
- What would I be willing to do for a career, even if I was unpaid?
- Am I willing to take the financial and emotional risks of opening my own business, knowing the rate of failure is high?
- Am I prepared for the financial ups and downs that may accompany the entrepreneurial lifestyle?
Ask Yourself What Work You Would Be Willing to do Without Pay
Katrice and I recently had a conversation about knowing your ‘why’ for starting your own entrepreneurial venture. While the motivation directly correlates with the passion behind your pursuit, they’re not the same thing.
Your reason for starting your own business should answer the question, “What would I be willing to do for a career, even if I was unpaid?” For Katrice, her passion for helping others outweighed the risks associated with starting a nonprofit.
Katrice says, “As an educator, wellness specialist, life coach and entrepreneur, I am led by my passion to help others. I believe that this is an essential part of any business because clients know when you care, so that goes a long way toward building client loyalty and confidence. That helps to build your reputation and rapport in the community.”
Passion isn’t the only factor when you’re starting a business. As Katrice explains, part of the reason someone chooses a company is because of its reputation.
While a smart business person can do the research and hire the right individuals for a busines team, that owner should ultimately be an expert in the industry. Katrice notes, “I believe that I have an advantage because I know my industry and I am truly dedicated to serving our clients’ needs.”
Research, Visualize and Make a Detailed Business Plan
It is so easy to fall in love with an idea and neglect to see the intricate practicalities of creating and maintaining the venture. Performing extensive market research, crafting a solid business plan and taking time to visualize every detail are essential steps in the process of setting up a company.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) gives great advice about conducting your own focus groups and surveys. To get started, create a mind map, either manually or virtually. Consider every possible detail surrounding your business: the start-up work, daily tasks and ongoing maintenance.
Some questions you might ask yourself during the research process include:
- Who are my customers?
- Where do I find my customers?
- What work will I complete?
- What tasks will require me to hire employees?
You should also take assessments to determine your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the type of work in which you excel.
Here are a couple of quick options for personality and strength assessments:
The SBA also offers sample business plans and details the different types of plans that may work for you. The lean startup plan may be a great jumping-off point for a quick, high-level analysis of your value proposition and target market.
Research Applicable Laws and Business Structures
According to Katrice, familiarizing yourself with applicable rules and regulations, finding resources for new business owners, and researching various business structures are crucial when you’re developing a business plan. She emphasizes the importance of knowing the law and investing in it, stating, “Investing in the legal side may seem expensive, but it can actually save you from legal fees and fines down the line. There are many rules and regulations to follow and you’ll need to keep up with compliance regulations. For example, annual business filing fees vary from state to state, and there may be penalties for paying late or neglecting to file.”
Katrice also notes that there are ways to receive affordable legal help if you’re on a tight budget. There are various online resources available for new businesses; you can find some on the SBA website.
As a business owner of over 20 years, Katrice has experience with multiple types of business structures. She recommends that entrepreneurs who are just getting started pursue a sole proprietorship, as you don’t need much to get started.
Katrice explains, “That is one of the advantages. It is simplistic. However, it is important to know your state and city laws in regards to the type of business that you form.
“In addition to filing taxes, there may be additional sales taxes that need to be filed semi-annually. There are also various business filing fees. Overall, understand that there are multiple types of business structures, and one of them may be best for your type of business goals and how you want to protect your own assets.”
Hone Your Networking Skills and Advocate for Your Purpose
When you are your own boss, each person you come in contact with could be a potential client, investor, or connection who could open additional doors for you. When you’re starting out with a business, it is invaluable to connect with other business owners, especially by joining your local Chamber of Commerce. Connect with others who understand what it is like to have a true purpose or drive that keeps them moving forward.
Katrice’s drive to advocate for something she believed in led her to the White House. She says, “I actually have a long history in adult and career education as a teacher-activist. Being an advocate for our programs just happens to be part of the job.
“To make a long story short, our career technology and education programs were on the chopping block. Like many other teachers, I wrote to school board members to request that they support these programs because they are a cornerstone of our community. They primarily help underserved individuals in our community find job training and employment.
“I also wrote a moving letter to the White House about how our career technology and education programs help save families. It resulted in me being invited to have lunch at Canter’s Deli with President Obama in 2014.
“Later, I gave President Obama’s introduction before his speech on career training at the Los Angeles Technical Trade College. I was then invited to meet with him again at the Oval Office in 2015, while visiting D.C. as a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama.
“I think that the moral of this story is to think big in life and business, even when the chances seem impossible. Because if you do not try, then you will never know just where your efforts may lead you.”
Continuing Your Education Is Crucial
Continuing your education is essential for any entrepreneur. As Katrice mentioned, knowing the trends within your industry and clientele can make all the difference when it comes to sustaining your business venture.
Katrice earned her life coaching certificate from the University in 2020, which she says helped her as an administrator in her business. It also aided her in further improving her coaching skills and to prepare her team for the programs they provide to their community.
Katrice says, “We are now offering coaching services as a part of our health and wellness services. The coaching services are an essential part of the goals of helping our community recover after the pandemic.
“We are able to provide coaching to those who needed our support during the pandemic, but who couldn’t be reached. We are moving forward by helping these individuals succeed at managing their personal, health and career goals.”
If you are looking for ways to enhance your business and leadership skills, the University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates that focus on different business areas, such as:
- Organizational management
- Executive coaching
- Business administration
If you’re an AMU or APU student or alumni and are unsure about your career goals, reach out to a Career Exploration Specialist or Career Coach. Our team can help you pinpoint the right degree program for your career goals and help you with career planning.
About the Authors
Tiffany Sappington earned an undergraduate degree in paralegal studies from Kent State University in Ohio. Immediately after graduation, she began working in various paralegal and business intake roles at large international corporate law firms. Tiffany is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) and currently serves as a Career Coach helping students interested in business, law, education, and human services-related careers.
Katrice Adams-Mubiru is the founding director of an educational and wellness center. She is also an educator with more than 17 years of experience in adult and career education. As a teacher-activist, Katrice is known by her colleagues as the teacher who met and introduced the 44th president, Barack Obama, before his speech on career training in 2014 at the Los Angeles Technical Trade College. She also met him for lunch at Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles and inside the Oval Office in 2015 as a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama. These inspirational events were all a result of her advocacy during a letter writing campaign in support of adult and career tech education in the public sector.
This experience was also one of the primary motivators that led her to opening a nonprofit organization to better serve marginalized groups of the Los Angeles community. Katrice has always enjoyed helping others. As a kinesiotherapist with a background in health and wellness, she has worked in hospitals, clinics, fitness centers, and with private clients, helping individuals to manage their pain due to chronic conditions. Today as the director, entrepreneur, and certified life coach, she is well prepared to help her community. Right now, Katrice’s focus is on helping to rebuild the economy after the pandemic. She believes that one way to accomplish this goal is by inspiring individuals to build wealth within their communities by becoming their own boss.