Three lessons to learn from New York’s small businesses


Did you know that over 543,000 businesses are started each month! That is a truly amazing number. As we are all starting up, I have found that we constantly face similar feats, but also the same struggles. Because of this, I believe we have a great opportunity to learn from one another.

If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.- Margaret Fuller

That is exactly why I recently took to the streets to visit many small local businesses in NYC. After speaking with them, I found some incredible and inspiring answers. I put together this list of Myth’s when starting a small business, so you can learn as much as I did!

Myth #1: I can create my brand’s identity after I started my company

When most companies think about their businesses, they often forget about creating a message for their brand. Too much time is spent thinking about how we’re going market our brand when more time needs to be focused on establishing our company’s identities. This is exactly what happened to a friend that I met on the train ride home the other day.

I met an entrepreneur named Michael, who happened to have started his own business about four years ago around a cooling system. Michael told me that his product never got to the place where wanted it to go,  and that he was currently only focusing a small amount of energy marketing the product. When I asked him what went wrong, he simply answered that the brand was not defined and it limited his product from ever taking off. He elaborated saying that hispartners couldn’t come to an agreement what the message behind the cooling system was. His partner wanted the cooling system to be just for everyday people, while he wanted it to reach out specifically for medical equipment. Thus, they had no clue who their audience was. Because of this, they never really were able to get to the next level in their business and his company is currently falling apart.

It’s really too bad because these guys seems like they had a great product but because they couldn’t establish their brand’s identity, the company didn’t make it.

Lesson to be learned: Establish your brand from the beginning

Myth#2 : I don’t have enough information, so I can’t get started

Many businesses don’t get started because they believe they don’t have the information & l resources to get started. Entrepreneurs want to have all the answers before they get started so if any problems come across, they’ll be prepared to solve them. While they would be nice, this would never be the case. This is exactly what happened to an accountant I met trying to start his own accountant firm.

Nick was working at a firm for 10 years, and was ready to start his own firm. Nick has been thinking about starting his business for over 6 months now. He has the financial resources to get his business started, so this was not why he has yet to take action. When I asked Nick what he was waiting for to start the business? He simply looked at me and said, “I don’t have the information to get started.”  I then asked how much information would he need to have to get started. Nick looked at me with a blank stare with no legitimate reason to why he has yet to start.

Many like Nick believe they need all the information in the world to get their business started, but that isn’t always true, as you often learn alot from experience.

Lesson to be learned: You don’t need to know it all before you get started. Learn by doing. Take your first action by going out talking to people who have been in your shoes, someone who is in the early stages of starting their own businesses. They will be a good resource to help you get started.

Myth #3: It’s bad to be the little guy

As I was walking around the East Village, I ran into a small pharmacy on  1st ave. Two doors from this pharmacy was a CVS and four doors next to it was a two floor Duane Reade. I happened to stumble into the small time pharmacy. When I asked where I could find band aids, and the pharmacists asked to look at the wound, so of course I showed him. The pharmacist got me a bandaid, and not only put bacteracin on my wound but he also personally placed it on my wound. Now talk about customer service!  He also gave me the band aid for free. Not only did I come back the next week to fill a prescription, but I also recommended my cousin who lived two blocks away from the pharmacy.

Lesson to be learned:  A way you can set yourself apart from the big brands is by forming personal relationships with customers. In turn these relationships will allow us to better understand our customers and ultimately solve their problems.

Hopefully by checking out others’ mistakes and achievements, it will give you a better understanding of what you should/ or shouldn’t be doing.The best thing you can do now is absorb the knowledge, then go out and do something with it!

Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. ~John R. Wooden

*Photo attribution to Angela Raduleschu

By: Carrie Silver