Starting a Christian business is like starting any other business. You have an idea, and you want to share it. That's terrific! This is the perfect time to sketch out your ideas and identify opportunities for partnership, investment, and research.
Share your ideas with friends and family and get their feedback. Be prepared for criticism and doubts. It's a good idea to write them all down, so you aren't tempted to be defensive. Being positive helps, but so does being practical. If you have other friends who are small business owners, they may be able to help you or save you costly lessons by relating their experiences. Before you get too far along, you will want to consider the following.
Preliminary business planning
- Who are your target customers?
- What services and products will you offer?
- What is your cost of goods? Is there a minimum order?
- How much should you charge?
- How much money can you start with, either out of savings or a loan?
- Will you sell the product yourself? In person or on the web? Will you ask local stores to sell it for a part of the profit?
- How will customers pay? One easy device is to set up a PayPal account. If your service will be offered online, you might set up a shopping account through Yahoo! or Etsy.com, which provide showcase pages and other services for vendors.
- Be sure to conduct research online and in person. See what other products are out there so that you know the best combination of features to offer and what to charge for them. If you're providing a craft, visit a store that might sell your product, or go to a gift store and talk with the manager about her needs.
- Register your business name and business income. You may want to consult an accountant who specializes in small businesses.
- You can find quite a bit of relevant information on the website for the Internal Revenue Service.
Remember that your church is a great resource for customers and expertise. People who know you are more likely to try your products and services, especially people who share your values.
- Tell your friends and family and members of your parish that you've begun to offer this service. Get their feedback, and ask them to patronize you and recommend you.
- Consider using a networking website like LinkedIn (linkedin.com) to connect to other business people and people you may know from school and past companies.
Refining Your Business Statement
What is your vision? How will you know if you're successful? How do your religious or personal values feed into your business?
Generally it's as important to define what business you don't want to be in as to focus on the business opportunity you want to pursue. You may want to have a statement of purpose or values on your website or marketing materials.
Christian Small Business Ideas
- Jewelry or crafts (knitting, stitching, quilting) with a Christian message or symbol on them.
- Greeting cards or art.
- A Church cookbook as a fundraiser. There are lots of fun, easy-to-use services that allow you to produce and market photobooks including KodakGallery.com and Blurb.com. For more information, please see Cookbook Fundraising.
More Small Business Resources
The Small Business Administration is composed of retired former executives who are available to help you. Your town or city will also have guidelines for starting a business including basics like collecting tax and employee wages. Be sure to do all your research up front!
Nolo press has excellent resources for small businesses, including the legal aspects. Their books are designed as workbooks to make it easy to get started.