I took BA 101 during my sophomore year of college (one of the two business courses I’ve taken).
The class was centered around an online program: we created a fake business, then we experimented with various metrics to see how the business succeeded in the market. Or at least that’s what we were supposed to be doing — I entered random numbers into the online system, worked on the Wild Friends website on my laptop during lectures and ended up scraping by a passing grade in the class (which speaks much more to my guessing skills than anything else). Whatever it was I was supposed to be doing in that class still remains a mystery to me.
Over the past couple years though, I’ve learned some basic things that I think of as my own personal “BA 101” — lessons that I either stumbled upon accidentally or learned the hard way. Here’s the first:
LESSON #1: Starting Out
I get asked all the time: “What would you tell someone who wants to start their own business, but doesn’t know what to do first?”
This is an easy one: Start now, start small. As small as your business idea allows. We made a dozen jars of peanut butter and brought them over to our friends. If the response had been lackluster, Wild Friends might have ended as soon as it began.
Not to say you should take the first bad feedback to mean your idea is a total failure. Rather, just begin gathering as much data and feedback as you can, on a small scale. This will help hone in on what about your product is amazing and what about your product might be unnecessary.
When we wanted to start making peanut butter, we just started making peanut butter — that afternoon, in our apartment. You can iron out details later (website, brand name, flavor offerings, etc). But the best way to test something out is just to start with what you have.
Recommended Reading: The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries
Eric talks about this concept at length, recommending start-ups aim to spend minimal time time on product development and maximum time on gathering feedback. I also love how Eric addresses the concerns lots of start-ups have with wanting to maintain secrecy about their product pre-launch: he essentially dares founders to email their ideas directly to companies they think would steal the idea, just to prove that an idea alone is rarely worth stealing. It’s all about the execution.
So, go ahead — start something small now. There’s nothing to lose.