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Six Indy Pros Share How to Start a Business
From a tech company to a restaurant, a boutique to a bar, learn how to begin here.
How to Start a Tech Company
“First, you either need to know how to sell or how to code. Preferably both. And having partners is nice if they’re the right people—why not share the risk? But the cost of starting a tech business has gone way down. Twenty years ago, you needed a million dollars in servers from Oracle to get going. Now you can start a business with an $8 domain and a free WordPress site. I started my app company with $5,000 of my own savings, and we didn’t actually get our first customer until about six months into it. Perseverance is the most essential entrepreneurial trait. I mean, Angry Birds was Rovio’s 52nd game, and the first 51 had flopped. The best description of tech entrepreneurship I’ve heard is that it’s like jumping off a cliff and figuring out how to build an airplane on the way down. You have to take the leap—buy that domain that you’ve been looking at registering for two years—and develop a business plan. You’ll never be more ready than you are right now.”
How to Start a Franchise
“Want to open a turnkey business? Franchises are easier than starting from scratch, but they’re not as simple as you might think. With an overwhelming number of choices in the market, from yogurt shops to blow-dry bars, my husband and I made sure we were completely in love with European Wax Center’s brand before opening our center in Carmel. You must believe in what you’re selling. And even if you consider yourself business-savvy, you’re going to need accessible corporate support. Be prepared for a lot of structure and policies, and don’t make the first-time–franchisee mistake of ‘tweaking’ things your way. You’ve paid for a proven business model. Use it!”
—Jennifer Payton, franchisee of European Wax Center
How to Start a Bar
“Well, first you’ll need a liquor license. I don’t want to discourage you, but you missed out on a golden opportunity a few years ago when the city sold them for $1,000 each. Before that, I think they were in the $50,000 to $60,000 range. So that’s probably the biggest stumbling block for most people. You could start with just a beer-and-wine license, which goes for about $1,000. And with the craft-beer boom, 60 to 70 percent of our business is beer anyway. The bar business is a lot harder than it seems. It’s not quite as hard as a restaurant, but it’s stressful. When people drink, they’re messy and stupid. So you’re paying a larger staff. But if I had to give just one piece of advice, it’s buy your building. You don’t want to spend all that money if you don’t have a vested interest in the location. And if you need to get out of it 20 years later, that can be your retirement plan.”
—David “Tufty” Clough, founder of Radio Radio
How to Start a Food Truck
“After nailing down a business plan, your first priority is obviously to find a truck. The optimum place to do this is the Internet—eBay, Craigslist, wherever. A truck could run you $10,000 or 10 times that much, but I would say you need at least $30,000 to $40,000 to get your business going. You also need to think about what kind of truck you are qualified to start. Three years ago, there were six food trucks in Indianapolis. Today there are probably 70. If there are 10 taco trucks, think long and hard about starting the 11th. And trust me, if you’re using the word ‘fun’ to describe why you’re starting a food truck in the first place, don’t bother. While this business can be fun, it’s nothing close to that in the beginning. It’s hard work in its purest form.”
How to Start a Boutique
“In retail, everything starts with location. But even once you have one, you’re going to spend a lot on design. You’re going to have to buy furniture and displays—and you must custom-build the displays. When you finally get around to acquiring merchandise, you have to find wholesalers and distributors. So opening a boutique can cost anywhere from $80,000 to $300,000, depending on how large it is and how you want it to look. The way I learned all this was just by jumping into it. It took some time to determine what worked for the customers, what sizes to buy, which products sell and which don’t. That’s why it’s five years later and I’m just now opening a new location in Carmel.”
How to Start a Restaurant
“In some ways, restaurants are different than any other kind of business—after all, the product is perishable. But I think all successful businesses have to operate using the same principles. I opened my first Cafe Patachou in 1989. There was a remarkable lack of neighborhood and independent restaurants in Indy then. A restaurant that checked off both of those boxes was considered risky. No one cared about the fact that our corn was from a farm 20 miles away. Today, those attributes are positives, as there has been a total market shift. Local restaurants are actually valued here today.”
This article appeared in the March 2014 issue.