Flying Solo

How to build a profitable enterprise

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RETAIL
Number of U.S. black-owned firms: 86,840
Total revenues: $7 billion
Growth industry: Internet retailer
Growth factors: Ability to reach
customers globally at low cost;
consumers have less time to shop; consumers seek convenient options for purchasing goods.
Start-up costs: $500 to $1,000: computer hardware and software, a digital camera, initial testing, marketing. (A site with full e-commerce capabilities: $5,000 to $39,000.)
Qualifications: Online market research skills; proficiency in maintaining a Website; skill in choosing, marketing, processing and shipping products.
Advantages: In 1997, small businesses garnered about $3.5 billion in e-commerce sales; future sales are predicted to reach $25 billion to $300 billion within this decade. Low sales costs; low overhead; 24-hour accessibility; no fixed hours, so a mail-order business can be started part-time while you’re still employed; you can compete against a company 10 times larger.
Challenges: Attracting the right customers to purchase the right products at the right price, which requires products that are unique or obscure; 24-hour accessibility.

COMMUNICATIONS, PUBLIC UTILITIES, TRANSPORTATION
Number of U.S. black-owned firms: 49,000
Total revenues: $2.5 bi
llion
Growth industry: Webmaster/Website designer
Growth factors: E-mail, Websites and e-commerce are major factors in companies keeping their competitive edge. Web design is a highly specialized field that requires skills and tools most firms don’t have in order to create highly effective Websites.
Start-up costs: $3,850 to $18,450: computer hardware, secondary computer with a different operating platform from the first (to view Websites), color scanner, access to Internet, books, marketing.
Qualifications: Background in graphic design; ability to meet clients’ objectives and create effective Websites; knowledge of programming languages, Web tools, the Internet; good communication, project management, organizational, marketing and promotional skills.
Advantages: No geographic barriers to entry; emerging industry; ability to help firms reach global clients/customers; industry encourages collaboration among professionals.
Challenges: Need client relations and management skills; must keep pace with technological advances; labor-intensive; technology makes results unpredictable.

FINANCE/INSURANCE/REAL ESTATE
Number of U.S. black-owned firms: 41,000
Total revenues: $4 billion
Growth industry: Financial planner/advisor
Growth factors: Shift in retirement funding from defined benefits (pension plans) to defined contributions (401(k) plans), which gives employees more autonomy in making investment choices; changing tax laws; aging population; mounting consumer debt.
Start-up costs: $5,150 to $21,800: computer hardware and software, credentials, annual dues, licensing fees, office furnishings, insurance, marketing.
Qualifications: Client relations and communication skills, technical expertise, trustworthiness.
Advantages: Ability to transfer skills from other professions; lucrative income; moderate overhead.
Challenges: Keeping pace with new/changing information; ability to anticipate trends; potential
liability for financial losses.

MAKING THE TRANSITION TO SELF-EMPLOYMENT
Are you ready to take the plunge? Don’t dive in just yet. First, you should consider the joys and challenges of self-employment.

High on the list of positives are: being your own boss, the opportunity to maximize your income, the thrill of nurturing your venture into a viable business entity and self-fulfillment.

The challenges: Lack of a regular paycheck, the possibility of failure, working in isolation, the difficulty of attaining capital and the burden of governmental paperwork and regulations.

If you’re still undaunted, these decisions are critical before setting up shop:
Choose the right location. The location of your fledgling business is a key factor in controlling costs, according to Rudy Lewis,

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