By Greg Prestemon, CEO
Fifteen years ago, a friend of mine had an entrepreneurial vision while he sat waiting in a McDonald’s drive-thru. Because that he was around 20 years old at the time, he began a lot of his meals by shouting his order into a speaker, and he understood the system of ordering a Big Mac from a car was flawed.
(To quote a character from The West Wing, a 20-year-old male could eat and digest Tupperware and still be okay. About five years later things start to change.)
Given the tendency of drive-thru orders to be inaccurate, my friend had an idea to replace the hard-to-understand microphone with touch screens that allowed customers to enter exactly the order they wanted. My friend thought the whole process of ordering food would be more efficient, and customers would be happier.
The thing is, my friend wasn’t ready to be an entrepreneur. He was no engineer and didn’t know anything about the fast food industry. He also had no money, and he had exceptionally bad credit.
Still, he had an idea.
And that just shows that the idea is the easy part.
I’ve spent most of my life working around and with entrepreneurs. In that time, I’ve learned that ideas are never the hard part. I’ve heard hundreds—if not thousands—of ideas that had merit. The hard part isn’t thinking of something people would want but isn’t currently on the market.
The hard part is knowing how to turn that idea into reality.
And one of the first barriers is usually money.
Assuming you aren’t sitting on giant reserves of cash, how do you get funding to start building your dream? Many would-be entrepreneurs get confused about the term “investment” and think it means “my friends and family will be excited to throw cash at me so I can make my dreams come true.” That is not typically what happens. Your friends and family may invest, but doing that in a professional and fair (to both the entrepreneur and the investor) manner requires specialized knowledge the average person just doesn’t have.
Don’t take it personally if your friends and family don’t open their wallet. Getting investors—even ones who literally love you—is a long shot. Chances are, if you need more cash than you currently have, you’re going to need to explore getting a loan. In that instance, the bank will look at your personal creditworthiness.
Which means my friend’s idea to build drive-thru touchscreens wasn’t going to happen as long as he had a credit score that looked more like a bowling score.
But getting money to build your idea is just the beginning. Many a well-funded entrepreneur has squandered an investment or gone bankrupt because they failed to turn their idea into a profitable business.
How does that happen?
Maybe they don’t know how to market and sell their product or services.
Maybe they don’t understand what their balance sheet is telling them, and they get themselves into financial trouble.
Maybe they underestimate their competitors, or overestimate their ability to thrive in a crowded market.
The reality is that the journey from “good idea” to “successful business” is really, really hard.
Thankfully, there is an easy way to increase your odds of success. In St. Charles County, you can come visit us at the EDC Business and Community Partners. Our Small Business Development Center, 504 loan program, free counseling, and startup incubator are here to give entrepreneurs the support they need to help turn their idea into a successful company.
That’s not just talk.
Our team has done it time and again.
And, if you’re not in St. Charles County, Missouri (and I have no idea why wouldn’t be; it’s the best place in the country to live, work, and play), you can find these programs in your area. You can start by contacting your local economic development officials.
Having an idea is the easy part. Fortunately, there is a team of people waiting to help you turn that idea into reality.
Come see us today.