Venita Walker never intended to run a business. In fact, when she signed on as a part-time Avon salesperson in 2010, her full-time job was managing a Cincinnati law firm. After coming up short on her monthly bills, Walker, a single mother of a 4-year-old son, decided to augment her income with a sideline gig.
“I looked at Mary Kay, Avon, and other options, but Avon really stood out as a business I wanted to get involved with,” says Walker, who paid out a $10 startup fee and began selling the $10 billion global brand’s beauty, household, and personal care items to friends, relatives, and neighbors.
Her goal was to earn $100 per month to help pay her bills. But it wasn’t long before she was bringing in $300 a month–more than enough to cover her expenses and to afford daycare for her young son. Over the next two years, she even managed to accumulate more money in her savings account. In 2012, Walker leveraged her savings for closing costs to purchase her own home.
This past April, the 32-year-old entrepreneur left the law firm to make the jump to full-time Avon rep. “It was at the point where I’d saved enough money to be able to leave my job,” says Walker, who is also able to use upfront cash payments from customers to manage her own cash flow (a portion of those payments are then paid to Avon for the products). Walker’s official title is “unit leader” and she has more than 14 active team members whose own sales efforts boost her bottom line.
Walker puts 10% of her profits back into her business and is on track to hit the $100,000 mark in sales within the next 12 months (during which time she’d like to add 10 more team members).
To find new customers, Walker relies on friends-and-family networking, making new acquaintances in places like coffee shops and convenience stores, and via online prospecting through sites like Twitter and Facebook. On the latter, she posts information about new products and services, invites people to parties and gatherings, and adds new online “friends” through her offline networking efforts.
For anyone who wants to break free of a 9-5 job and run a full-time venture, Walker says, “Look to those who came before you for help and guidance and ignore those who aren’t where you want to be.”
Ready to move from part-time to full-time entrepreneur; here are five more tips:
1. Ask yourself “why” you want to make the move. Look at the real reasons behind the move. Walker, for example, wanted to be able to dictate her income levels in a way that her full-time job didn’t allow for. If you can find the real motivations for making a change, your chances for success will be much higher.
2. Find something you’re passionate about. This goes without saying. If you aren’t working in an arena where you can truly apply yourself and be successful, then you’ll probably want to rethink your strategy before handing in that two weeks’ notice.
3. Talk to other business owners in your industry. You’re not the first person in the world to jump ship and start his or her own business. Speak with others who have made similar moves. Ask them what were the trials and tribulations, how long it took for them to break-even or turn a profit, and what finances and other resources they had going into the business.
4. Conduct some industry research. Is there demand for your type of business? Some businesses are meant to be sideline hobbies while others can definitely be parlayed into full-time gigs. It takes customers to get to the latter, so make sure there is a true market for what you’re selling.
5. Do you have the discipline it takes to run a business? If you’re accustomed to punching a clock and taking home a weekly paycheck, transitioning to an entrepreneurial lifestyle could be a shock to the system. Make sure you have the discipline it takes to get up every day and prospect for clients or customers, sell your goods or services, and work without a boss looking over your shoulder.