The first step in launching a business: having an idea. Daunting? Maybe. But the idea doesn’t have to be a game changer. “In 2010 my college roommate told me about going out to a place in Atlanta to paint and drink wine with her girlfriends,” says Jill Kerner Schon, who started off as a graphic designer. “A week later, my daughter and I were on a plane to see it for ourselves.” Soon after, they started a similar business in Boston. “Our experience opening the Paint Bar proves that you don’t have to have a unique idea,” she says.
All advice is not created equal. “Half the people I talked to said, ‘You have all this education, and you’re going to open a gym?’ ” says Kate Arnold, who stopped being a lawyer and opened an exercise studio. “So I relied on the other half to look at my business plan and let me know that I wasn’t crazy.”
“When I decided to try a career in landscaping, it wasn’t an option to say to my husband, ‘Honey, while I learn a new job, can you pay all our bills?’ ” says Ellen Covner, who kept her job as a consultant while she worked weekends for a landscaping company. “Even after I started my own business, Custom Gardens, I kept my job for a year and a half until I felt financially ready to do the landscaping full time.”
Every reinventor needs to figure out how to sell her new idea. And she has to do it confidently, concisely and clearly. But mastering the spiel takes practice. “During a cold call to a modeling agency, I hesitated when an agent asked me a question,” says Arlene Moskowitz, a teacher who became a model. “The agent said, ‘If you can’t talk for yourself, call me when you can.’ I thought, Wow, I just got really good advice.”
Nope, You’ve Never Done It Before. But That Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Do It Now
You may be outof the habit of trying new things—but don’t be quick to assume you’re going to fail. “When we started the YouTube cooking show ShowMetheCurry.com in 2007, I had never been in front of a camera, never taught anyone to cook, never worked with any lighting equipment, never worked with any editing software,” says Hetal Jannu, who had been a stay-at-home mom. “But I knew I wanted this, so I set out to do it.” The show has now had more than 63 million views.
You will live for your new brand—but you will need boundaries. “I started my fashion line [elizabethroberts.us] in my dining room when my kids were nine, 11 and 13,” says former fund raiser Elizabeth Roberts. “At one point we looked at the chaos in the room and agreed it would be better to move my office outside our home. Moving became a wonderful way to find balance.”
“For two years, I didn’t wear anything but a StinkyKids T-shirt,” says Britt Menzies, a former stay-at-home mom who launched a brand based on the adventures of 10 imaginary kids. “One day when I was shopping at Nordstrom, a sales associate noticed my T-shirt and brought over the manager of the children’s section, who brought over the store manager, who decided to recommend my T-shirts to the national buyer. I immediately jumped in and asked for the buyer’s number. Within two weeks, my T-shirts were in Nordstroms across the U.S.”
“Making jewelry was my hobby when I worked as a secretary at my kids’ school,” says jewelry designer Marybeth Johnson. “After they went off to college, I borrowed $5,000 from my husband to buy materials and tried selling my pieces at boutiques, but the customers weren’t interested. So I applied for a job in the gift shop of a luxury spa. People went there to change their lives, and they inspired me to make jewelry with prayer beads that symbolized courage, healing and joy. Within two years, I felt ready to go out on my own [mialena.com], and when I returned to the resort for my first show, I sold $13,000 worth of jewelry. High-end destination resorts are still my top clients.”
“A year after I launched my website, Flourish over 50, I didn’t know why I was doing it,” says Susan Tolles, who transitioned from stay-at-home mom to life coach. “I started reading about success and learned about the importance of defining one’s life purpose. Mine is to inspire women and help them flourish. This changed my life. Whenever an opportunity comes my way now, I ask myself whether it advances my purpose.”