Life Lessons: Starting a Business

Tips to help you navigate the waters
Text by Allen Bunting

Study your market. It's important to consider your business' effect on the community. Respect the mechanisms already in place that allow the community to function.

Grow slowly. Take small steps so that you don't get in over your head.

Talk to local officials. Ask about necessary permits, applications, fees, and any laws relevant to your new venture.

Plan for the dream. Develop a business and marketing plan to help sharpen your focus, anticipate your customers' needs, and find your suppliers.

Make friends with banks. Approach banks with plans to employ locals and give back to the area. Your loan officer might become your biggest fan.

Find a niche market. Offer goods and services that are in short supply.

Invest in goodwill. Donate some of your wares to a local cause or fund-raiser. This approach will encourage positive word-of-mouth.

Learn from others. Speak with those who have made similar moves. The more you learn about what to expect from coastal life, the better prepared you'll be to start your business.

Think broadly. Consider a business that caters to local interests but has strong market potential beyond a single area.

Stay organized. Buy a computer program to manage invoices, customer lists, tax records, and expenses. Update this information on a regular basis.

Promote yourself. Print newsletters announcing new stock, host gatherings for loyal customers, and make use of e-mail and Web site opportunities.

Develop alternate sources of income. Most coastal towns have off-seasons. To ensure a constant stream of revenue, think creatively―invest in rental property, or ask about rebates or refunds from vendors.

Network. Involve yourself in local political or civic groups. Create relationships with other business owners.

Get your hands dirty. When starting a business, you have to be willing to perform any task, no matter how menial.

Make contacts. If working from an island, locate mainland suppliers and determine the most efficient way (by boat or plane, for example) to get deliveries.

Stay focused. With the water beckoning, it can be hard to pull yourself away from your setting. If you need to accomplish something on a given day, follow through.

Find balance. Conversely, a business you love can turn you into a workaholic. Make sure to take time off and enjoy a good book on the beach, go sailing, or sign up for surfing lessons.