***Originally posted on The Haute Mess.
We met at Harvard Business School at a point in our lives when we each had separately decided to try to start a business. We didn’t have a specific idea in mind, but we knew we wanted to start a company that we believed in and were excited to grow and develop. The result: Spruce & Co, a company making plant-based cleaning wipes for your phones, tablets and computer screens.
1. SHOULD I START A COMPANY ALONE OR WITH OTHERS?
For us, the idea of starting a business alone seemed isolating and intimidating. While some people thrive with the independence of being a solo founder, we each felt strongly that starting a company together would be more fun and interesting, and would give us a much needed support system.
At the end of the day your co-founder has to be someone you can communicate effectively with, has complimentary skill sets and you enjoy being around (all day, every day!). Finding an ideal co-founder takes open and honest conversation, a shared sense of vision and commitment and most importantly a lot of trust and respect—something we were able to build as classmates and friends for two years!
2. WHAT ROLE DO I WANT IN THIS BUSINESS?
Not everyone can be (or wants to be) the CEO and not everyone wants day-to-day involvement. Think about what role you want to play in your new business and what you think you can personally add. Honestly assess your skill set.
Ask your former classmates, co-workers or managers about your greatest strengths and weaknesses. And leverage your strengths to make yourself as valuable as possible. You might thrive at sales, but not so much at operations—and that’s okay!
Self-assessment and self-awareness are incredibly important, and selecting a co-founder or building a team that complements and rounds out your own skill set is a critical part of the founding process.
3. WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT THIS IDEA?
In the early days of Spruce & Co when we starting thinking about developing our screen cleaning wipes, we spent a lot of time understanding the market and researching the competitive landscape.
If you find a space without existing competitors your first question should be why?
If there is an existing or potential market for your product or idea, you need to understand the challenges of getting to market.
What is special about your product or idea that you can actually turn into a business?
Study your target customer demographic. Spend time with your potential customers and immerse yourself in their world. Don’t forget, you may not always be your own customer, so it’s important to check your biases at the door. Your idea doesn’t have to be completely novel, but you need a differentiator — something that consumers will care about enough to impact their purchasing decisions. What will yours be?
4. WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW TO DECIDE IF MY IDEA WILL WORK?
Every business will struggle and it takes time to ramp up. For us, what’s been helpful is setting long term goals, coupled with shorter term goals that we check in on at the end of each month. It’s important to have a long term vision, but it’s equally important to celebrate small wins and constantly re-evaluate your goals and your metrics.
Breaking things down into digestible benchmarks you can hit along the way will keep you motivated and accountable!