Look Before You Leep

Ready to take your first entrepreneurial steps? Consider these tips to find the right venture for you.

Do you have an idea for a business that you’ve always wanted to explore? Perhaps a series of cultural toys, a dessert delivery service, or a clothing line for pedigree pooches? Starting a business based on your own idea is one of the most gratifying things you could ever do. If the business is a success, you will earn hefty revenues, as well as win praise from your peers and the consumers you serve.

But what type of business should you start? Most people who want to open their own shop have a specific business idea. Others have only a general idea, or no idea at all. Business experts often suggest choosing something that you love. For example, if you like to cook, you may want to consider opening a catering business. If you love children, you may want to try your hand at a day-care center or a toy store. Frank Mercado-Valdes turned his love and passion for old black movies into a film production and syndication company. You’ve probably heard of it-the African Heritage Movie Network.

“I loved watching old black movies, but I could never find any of them on local television,” says Mercado-Valdes of his reasons for starting the company. With a $25,000 investment and $350,000 loan from the Pro-Line Corp., Mercados-Valdes launched the New York-based business in 1993. The company has purchased 30-day syndication rights to many black classics, including Cotton Comes to Harlem, Car Wash, Coffy and Shaft, and more recent pictures such as Glory and Crooklyn. The films are distributed and aired through the company’s “Movie of the Month” series, hosted by film legends Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, and “Primetime Presentations,” a quarterly special. Both appear in 125
markets nationwide.

Choose a business idea that you know you will enjoy developing. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars and work night and day building a business that you don’t like. But liking it should not be your sole criterion for selecting a venture. You should also consider several other factors that will impact your chances for success, such as the competition and market saturation.

FACTORS FOR FINDING A BUSINESS THAT FITS
When deciding what type of product or service you are going to offer, there are several things you should consider. Never assume that just because you have a novel idea and a bubbly “Go get ‘em!” attitude, you will automatically find success. Give careful thought to the following factors before you take the plunge.

Market potential. Most successful business ideas have found a market niche. Part of choosing a good business is defining what consumers need and what they want. In 1992, a mere stone’s throw from the famous Apollo Theater in New York, many people wanted Sylvia Woods’ homemade barbecue sauce. Since 1962, Woods and her husband, Herbert, have operated Sylvia’s Restaurant, a famous Harlem soul food eatery. For more than three decades, customers have enjoyed fried chicken, candied yams, black-eyed peas and other southern dishes. But patrons have been particularly taken with Sylvia’s homemade

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