Do you have a business idea you’ve been sitting on, but want to explore? In this very first episode of Business on the Bright Side, I’m discussing three steps you should take right now to pursue your idea! Listen in as I share how I approached launching Headbands of Hope in college, even before I knew anything about business. Let’s launch your idea!
3 Steps to Pursue Your Business Ideas: (3:24)
- Write it down. (3:25)
- Create a special todo list. (4:22)
- Build a ladder (8:08)
Creating your special to-do list: (4:22)
- Drawn a line down the center of a page.
- On the left side, write down each of the small, manageable tasks.
- On the right side, write down the big tasks that you’re not sure how to do.
- Forget about the right column for now. Start with the small tasks and then work your way up to the big ones.
Building a ladder (8:08)
- On your same piece of paper, draw a ladder.
- In the first step of that ladder, it will be version one of your idea.
- In version one, what is the smallest thing you can do to bring your idea into existence and test it.
- Add your version 2, 3, + ideas on the ladder as well.
- Include indicators of what will allow you to move onto the next step.
The Episode’s One Liner: (10:41)
Don’t worry about winning the Super Bowl, just get the first down.
Review the Transcript:
Hey, everyone. So in this episode, we’re going to talk about three different things that you can do to start pursuing your ideas. So I know that ideas can sometimes feel exciting, but then sometimes they can feel scary. Sometimes they can feel really clunky and messy. You can feel a very wide spectrum of emotions about your ideas, usually in a time span of five minutes. It’s the roller coaster of being an entrepreneur. So I’ve broken it down into three different steps that you can take to really get that clarity that you’re looking for. And just start because the worst thing you can do is talk yourself out of an idea before you even begin, so let’s get to it.
What’s up, everybody? It is Jess Ekstrom, and welcome to Business on the Bright Side, the podcast where you can learn how to make a living and make a difference at the same time. Life is short and so is my attention span, so let’s get started. So let’s talk about ideas. Ideas can be wonderful. Ideas can be daunting. But one of my favorite quotes I guess about ideas was from the founder of Chuck E. Cheese, which not a huge fan of Chuck E. Cheese. When I was a kid, I had a pretty traumatic experience, where I really needed to go to the bathroom at Chuck E. Cheese, but in order to go the bathroom, you had to walk by the big Chuckie, the big mouse, and I didn’t want to do it. So I may have had a little accident and never went back.
But anywho, so the founder of Chuck E. Cheese once said that everyone has had an idea in the shower. I’m sure you have. I have ideas in the shower all the time. But it’s about the people who get out of the shower, dry themselves off, and go do something about it. Those are the people that actually make the difference. So what do you do when you have an idea? How do you know if it’s an idea that should be worth pursuing? What are the steps? So let me talk you through when I had this idea for Headbands of Hope in college. I was interning for Make A Wish, no idea what I was doing. I had this idea to bring headbands to kids with cancer. But actually, not knowing what the heck I was doing was a huge advantage for me. You might think that when you have more experiences and more knowledge, it would make pursuing your ideas easier.
But sometimes I think that having more experience and having more knowledge and data clouds our vision. And then we try to make things more complicated than they actually are. And we start using terms like viable and proven market. And we start saying things like “Q four’s going to be a record breaking year,” well, actually Q four isn’t a year. It’s a quarter. See, this is how much I know. So let’s just take a moment and let go of everything that you think you know about starting a business, or anything that might be in your head that’s clouding your vision. Throw it out the window. We’re not going to worry about what this person is doing, or what the trends are right now. Instead, let’s just focus on the one idea at hand.
So now here are three steps that I took when I started Headbands of Hope, and I want you to do the same thing with your idea today. So that first step seems super simple, but it’s so important, which is just write it down. Take out a piece of paper, or if you have really bad handwriting like me, take our your computer. Write it down. What’s the idea? Don’t make it pretty. Don’t make it a bulleted business plan. Just put the words on paper, what’s been sitting in your head, and just get it out there because when we put it out on paper, it becomes real. It’s no longer just this mystery of a thought in our head. It’s actually something that we can see and feel and look at. And when we write things down, we get that clarity.
So the first step, super simple. Write it down. If you want to do this as you’re listening to this podcast, you can pause and then hit play when you’re ready to go to step two. So step two is we’re going to create a to do list, but this isn’t going to be your average to do list. This is going to be a special one. So in order to get clarity with our ideas, we need to engage with them. Sometimes we think if we can just think about them, just sit in a corner and think about every possibility, that’s when we’ll know. But I have gotten the most clarity with my ideas when I’m actually doing something with them, tinkering with it, rather than thinking about it.
So with this to do list, what I’m going to have you do is I want you to draw a line down the center of a page. And on the left column, you’re going to have the small tasks. So small tasks that seem super manageable, things that you could do today. Maybe it’s researching your idea and see if anything is out there. Or maybe it’s talking to a friend that is in a similar lane or has started a business. And I want you to write down all of the small things that seem manageable, that don’t really scare you, on the left side of the column.
And then on the right side of the column, I want you to write down the big tasks, the ones that are like, Oh, shit. I have no idea how to do this. I don’t know what LLC stands for. How to I structure my company? How to I monetize this? How do I make money? Do I need a trademark? Do I need a patent? All those things that might keep you up at night, you’re going to put them in the right column, and then I want you to forget about them. Don’t worry about the big tasks because sometimes when we’re so focused on the things we don’t know, we don’t take that first step.
So for example, when I wanted to start Headbands of Hope, I needed to get a logo. And I thought getting a logo was going to be a pretty small task. And one of the bigger tasks that was in my right hand column was building a website. I had no idea what I was doing. But I decided, let’s start with the small task and get a logo. So I went over to the graphic design school. I was in college at NC State. And I talked to the graphic design professor and said, “You know what would be a great idea, is if for your next class assignment, everyone had to make me a logo, and I pick the best one. Doesn’t that sound like fun?” And believe it or not, the professor went for it, and that’s how I got my first logo with Headbands of Hope. But then there’s the crazy thing that happened, was by going to that class, I also met this other student who builds websites. She was a computer designer.
So in the process of doing the small task, I actually started to complete one of the bigger tasks. And I met with this computer designer every day for lunch for her to teach me Shopify and Photoshop. And I paid her in Chipotle burritos. I was burrito strapping my business. So to just recap this to do list that you’re going to do, you’re going to have the small tasks on the left side. And you’re going to have the bigger tasks on the right side. And here’s what happens when we just focus on the small tasks. It gives us the confidence to then go do the bigger tasks. Have you ever thought about, okay, I need to clean my house, everything’s a mess? And the thought of cleaning your house seems so daunting, so instead you’re like, “You know what, I’m just going to do the dishes, or I’m just going to clean the kitchen.”
And then once you start doing that, might as well do the living room, might as well do the bathroom. But by giving yourself permission to do the small things, you’ll get closer and closer to doing the big things. And also, the small stuff adds up. I think Headbands of Hope is what it is today not because of one or two big things I did, but because of all the small things. Okay, so moving on to step three, I want you to build a ladder. And I’m not talking about a ladder that you would put on the side of your house, but it’ll look like that. So if you still have a piece of paper out, you can draw a ladder. And in that first step of that ladder is going to be version one of this idea.
And so with version one, I want you to think about: What is the smallest thing you can do to bring your idea into existence and test it? So let me give you an example of my friend, Leslie. She wanted to start this juice company and have a brick and mortar juice store. Well, having your own juice store is a lot of expenses upfront, lot of overhead, real estate, all that jazz. But she wanted to start making juices, so she was making juices and she was selling them on the back of her bike. And by doing that, she got enough money to eventually buy a vending machine. And so then she started putting her juices in these vending machines and putting them around downtown Raleigh. And then by doing the vending machines, she eventually got enough money and capital to get a store.
But she started with that version one of selling juice on the back of her bike. So what is the smallest thing you can do to bring your idea into existence? What can you do to just test it, put it out there? A lot of people call this minimum viable product, MVP, which I know said at the beginning episode viable is a snooty word, but we’re going to use it right here. So you’re going to have version one. And then if you have ideas for version two, version three, put them on the ladder. But with each version you create, you can also have an indicator of when to move on to the next version. Or you might be doing version one and you might be like, “This is great. But it’s not what I thought it was, and now it’s great research for my new idea that I have.”
Creating a ladder is a great way to test a product without pouring everything into it because it allows you to not just think about your idea, but do it in the smallest way possible, so you’re not wasting time and money trying to do something huge that you don’t even know is going to work because no one knows if their ideas are going to work. So to recap, the three things I want you to do when you have an idea, step one, write it down. Step two, create a to do list with small tasks on the left side, big tasks on the right side. Start with the small tasks. And step three, build a ladder. Start with the smallest thing you can do to bring your idea into existence.
So at the end of each episode, I like to leave you with a one liner to chew on for the rest of the day. And eventually, we’ll have these one liners as graphics in the show notes at businessonthebrightside.com. But that’s version two, and we’re still on version one. See what I did there? Okay, so I’ll leave you with this. Don’t worry about winning the Super Bowl, just get the first down. Thanks for listening to Business on the Bright Side. I’m your host, Jess Ekstrom. For all the show notes, head to businessonthebrightside.com, and be sure to tell me what you thought of this episode on Instagram. And if you’re picking up what I’m putting down, subscribe and write a review wherever you consumer podcasts. See you next time, and keep chasing the bright side.