Turning ideas into dollars

Julia Casey, entrepreneur specialist at the Center for Economic Development, leads the discussion during the Ideas to Dollars workshop in Kenai.

I had the opportunity to join two of my coworkers on the Kenai Peninsula at a workshop led by the Center for Economic Development. The free, eight-hour workshop teaches entrepreneurs how to make their idea a reality.

Julia Casey, CED’s entrepreneur specialist, and Santiago Juyo, CED’s rural entrepreneurship VISTA, taught the workshop. The two started the seminar by asking us about our personal, family and community goals. From there, we determined how our goals could align with our entrepreneurial ambitions.

Customer Discovery

Customer discovery questions your business assumptions and identifies potential customers. Who is your service or product for? Why is your product or service important to the buyer? In what ways does your product or service ease a pain point for your customer? These are all important questions to ask yourself.

Next, test your assumptions, observe, ask questions and walk in their shoes to learn more about who your target customer is and how your product will benefit them.

Before you go out asking questions, know the difference between a good and bad one. Instead of asking a potential customer if they think something is a good idea, ask questions that give you more insight, like “what are the implications of that?” or “talk me through the last time that happened.”

Planning and Next Steps

You have an idea — now it’s time to identify the next steps and goals. Who is part of your team? Will you make money? Do you have customers and if so, how can they help your business? What impact do you want your business to have on your community?

Sometimes, the next steps include a business plan, which is a valuable skill to know how to do. It allows you to watch progress, attract talent and understand your business.

There are plenty of examples out there you can duplicate, but be sure to include: an executive summary, overview and history of business, description of product or service, market analysis, marketing plan, operations, management and organization and financial analysis.

Break-Even Analysis

There are plenty of ways in which someone could learn how to do a break-even analysis, but you might ask yourself — what is the point? The inquiry allows you to discover how many units of a product or service you need to sell to make back your investment to then create those units.

If the number of units is unreasonable for the potential market size or your ability to create it, then that business idea in its current form might not work for you. Seeing this realization can allow you to pivot or pursue a different idea.

The workshop was useful in my own entrepreneurial journey — The Spenardian — a hyperlocal magazine about the neighborhood of Spenard. My product’s biggest obstacle is the size of its market, so learning more about customer discovery was useful, but the most practical information I learned was how to conduct a break-even analysis for my business.

Interested in attending the next class hosted by CED? Sign up for our newsletter today to stay up-to-date on seminars and workshops.

Sam Davenport