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Exercise Your Independence! Start a Small Business

“I've always wondered if I would enjoy working for myself,” says Mike Plotnick, owner of Plotlines in St. Louis, MO. “I had seen many others do it and thought the time was right to leave the confines of my traditional corporate job and explore my entrepreneurial side.” Plotnick left an international architectural firm to hang up his own business sign last year.

Dreaming of ditching your day job? Envisioning an emerging enterprise? Consider these insights from experts and small business owners before you pack up your desk and start your own small business.

What Do You Need to Start a Small Business?

“You need to be willing to work hard and take purposeful risks,” says Jean Card, vice president of media and communications for the National Federation of Independent Business in Washington, DC. “Independent business owners work seven days a week and are willing to take on both the risks and the responsibilities for their own finances as well as for the jobs of the people they employ.”

Get Small Business Advice

When you decide to start your own business, cultivating your network is essential. “I met with my best friend — a lifelong entrepreneur — and others who have decided to strike out on their own after a career of traditional office jobs,” Plotnick recalls. “I also met with an attorney, a financial planner and a few accountants until I found one I was comfortable working with. I received lots of advice on everything from billing rates to marketing approaches to clients I should avoid. Looking back, probably the most helpful advice was to cut myself some slack and not expect immediate success.”

Brent Mason of Portland, OR also cast a wide net for small business advice. “Vendors that serve your type of business can be so helpful when it comes to an outsider’s ‘inside’ view,” says Mason, who left a corporate gig to found GoLocalNW?, a business and technology consulting firm serving small enterprises. “I started attending chamber of commerce meetings and found it was a really friendly, family-oriented bunch of folks just like me who all want to help each other succeed.”

Consider the Pros and Cons

The upside of running your own business varies from person to person, but everyone agrees that a huge reward is pursuing their own goals and vision. “I’ve never really liked working for other people,” admits Erik Lars Myers. “Through my entire working career I felt like I was working my tail off to chase other people’s dreams, and not mine.” He quit his university job to open Mystery Brewing Company in Hillsborough, NC, and a recent win on CNBC’s reality business show “Crowd Rules” confirms he made the right decision.

But there are cons. Many people who leave steady jobs to start a small business fear the financial instability. Work with your accountant and family to determine how much you need to cover start-up and ongoing operations on top of living expenses.

“Up until the moment I found my retail space, I second-guessed myself about whether I was taking on too much financial risk, and I was worried about failure,” says Jill DuPont, owner of Out of the Box and Beach Box in Greenwich, CT. In her previous career, DuPont advised start-ups, many of which didn't anticipate the long-term capital required to support a business until it breaks even. “I didn't want to fall in that trap. Not only money was on the line, but my ego was, too.”

Are you ready to start a small business? “It is absolutely the hardest you will ever work,” says Myers. “You will sleep less than you ever have and you will never be more stressed out — and you will never do anything more rewarding and fulfilling.

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