Emily Fitzgerald is thrilled that summer is finally here. A seventh grade teacher in Casselberry, Fla., she’s been dreaming of starting a special events business for a long time and decided to take the plunge last month.
“I usually teach a heavy load of summer classes, but this year I decided to cut down to just one day per week,” she says. “I incorporated my business, Emily’s Events, and put up my site on June 1st. I’m so excited.”
So far, Fitzgerald has a handful of weddings and birthday parties on the books and is hoping for more business as the season moves on. When she goes back to school in the fall, she plans to keep the business running by working nights and weekends.
Here are a few steps to starting your own seasonal company.
1. Survey the market. Fitzgerald is a newlywed who found it somewhat difficult to plan her wedding, largely because of a lack of vendors in her area. This experience gave her insight into a need in her community, and fueled her idea to start an events business.
In addition to surveying the market as a consumer, she also enlisted the advice of professionals at networking events and at her chamber of commerce. To find events in your area, check out Business Networking International and your local chamber of commerce chapter. Also worth checking out is SCORE chapters, which are staffed with volunteer businesspersons on hand to give free help to entrepreneurs.
Michael Scotto is one such volunteer in Ventura County, Calif., and says it is vitally important to talk with small-business owners in your area before launching something new.
2. Make a detailed plan. David Marker was just a freshman in college when he started a summer painting company. When school wrapped the following year, he made the decision to turn his seasonal startup into something more long lasting. Today, Marker is a college graduate and owner of The Student Development Company, an umbrella organization that manages Textbook Painting, a company with 30 branches nationwide and a staff of 150 people.
“My company would not have amounted to anything if I hadn’t treated it as a serious business and made a plan,” he says. “It was never just a way to make a few bucks.”
Not sure how to draft your own business plan? Scotto recommends considering your products and services, pricing strategy and how you will turn a profit.
“What are your revenue and profit goals for the season? Once you know that, work backwards to see how you will get there,” Scotto says. “You have to figure out, for example, if you are selling a service at $50 per hour, how many hours you'll need to put in on a weekly basis.”
Consider specific marketing and advertising strategies to get customers in the door. How much will those activities cost? Will they be worth it? If you aren’t sure, it may be time to visit a SCORE location. Just make sure you aren’t turning a hobby into a business without a well-thought-out plan of action.
“You must have focus and do a feasibility analysis on how your business will generate income,” Scotto says. “Everything is a mistake without a plan.”
Do you run a seasonal business? What are your secrets to success?
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