Allentown Economic Development Corporation

Business Incubation 101 – Stage 1: Pre-incubation: Business Evaluation

Maybe the idea for your manufacturing company has been rattling around inside your brain for awhile now, or maybe you’ve taken the leap and already started it.

But before your company can really take off, these are the things you will need to consider and make happen if you want to compete and succeed.

  • Business plans are NOT dead – Evaluating the market, competition, etc. takes time and energy, and you may not like what you discover. But doing so will make you that much more prepared for taking your idea to market and being ready to tackle the challenges that lay ahead.
  • Talk to your customers early on – Many great ideas fall apart the first time it makes contact with the customer. It’s the scariest thing to do, but you will learn volumes by taking early iterations of your product or service to your intended customer for feedback.
  • Despite what you may think, you DO have competition – You’re either making something better, faster, or cheaper than someone else, or you do have some novel technology and you’re looking to displace an existing product or service. All of those similar companies are your competition, and they’re not just going to let you come in and take their business away. So be prepared to differentiate yourself in order to compete.
  • Be ready to market and sell you product or service sooner rather than later. The “build it and they will come” strategy is practically guaranteed to fail. Yes, social media marketing is cheap (or even free), but without an audience and strategy, you’re basically shouting into an empty void. Or worse, you’re just the crazy person on the street corner preaching about the coming end of the world that people ignore as they walk by. You need to know who the customer is, who is making the buying decision, and what is important to each of those people.
  • Know how to pitch your company – Whether it’s 1-minute, 10-minutes, 30-minutes, or an hour, you need to craft your story for the audience and have a goal. Are you trying to get into an incubation program? Or looking for someone to invest in your business? Or simply trying to get to the next meeting? Practice, edit, practice some more… rinse and repeat. And again, know your audience and what’s important to them.
  • Be ready to carry the company financially – Just like building a new house, a new venture is always going to take more money to start than you think it is, and the launch process is always going to take longer than you planned for. Plus, you WILL NOT have sales the day you open the doors. Be prepared for this because it’s going to eat into the finances that you have set aside to start the venture.
  • There are NO grants to start your average company – Unless you are working on some novel technology (probably in the life sciences, energy, or defense industries), grants to assist with starting companies are nearly nonexistent. There are a lot of loan programs out there, but you need to be ready to back those loans with collateral and personal guarantees. Plus most loan programs will not cover 100 percent of your startup costs. Be ready to put your own money into the venture so you will have skin in the game.
  • Pick your cofounders wisely – So many partnerships fall apart in the early days of a startup. Whether someone gets cold feet or has been less than honest in their business dealings, there is always something that pops up that stresses the relationship between partners. Make sure corporate formation agreements cover every possible scenario, including sickness and death of a partner. It’s not something that anyone wants to think about, but life has a funny way of throwing curveballs at the least opportune times.
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