Stacy Tuschl got started as a successful business owner because she followed her passion. Though a dancer in high school, Tuschl took the practical route in college and studied business. However, because she was so passionate about dance, she decided to give free dance lessons to children in her parents' backyard during the summers. Not long after, she found herself turning her hobby into a business.
In just three years, she went from having 17 students to over a hundred. Turning her hobby into a business, Tuschl opened the Academy of Performing Arts (APA) in Milwaukee in 2005 when she was only 21. Twelve years later, she has two APA locations and a business consulting career on the side. Here is her advice for anyone who wants to open his or her own business.
1. You can start small before opening a business
What if you have a hobby that you’ve been thinking about monetizing but don’t know what to do next? Money can be a huge factor in holding you back. Still, even the biggest ambitions have small beginnings when it comes to opening a business.
“The best thing you can do now is start small, bootstrap, and then open a business,” Tuschl says. “You don’t have to go big at first. I started out in my parents' backyard giving free lessons and built it up from there.”
2. Provide value and cultivate word-of-mouth advertising
Opening a business is about giving value. A strong value proposition — as a product or service — establishes your business as an asset in the community and can often generate a vital component to success: word-of-mouth advertising.
For Tuschl, word-of-mouth advertising transformed her summer hobby into APA. Word spread and her reputation grew organically because of her involvement in the community and the value that APA provided.
3. Treat your hobby like a business
“My business really began when I actually started treating it like a business and took a more professional attitude,” Tuschl says.
Small changes can add up. Answer your phone with the name of your business instead of a casual “hello.” Make business cards to spread the word. Develop a business plan, even if it is informal at first. Write down goals and ambitions — and ideas on how to achieve them in a step-by-step progression.
4. Work with others who have more experience
Would-be entrepreneurs need to reach out to others in the community to build a solid team. This means finding people who have more experience than you in certain areas of the business. Be honest about your strengths, and find experts to help you with your weaknesses. The vast majority of successful business owners don’t go at it alone.
“Make sure you are not the smartest person in the room!” Tuschl says. “You should have a working knowledge of each facet of the business, but you should also surround yourself with experts to help you reach that next level of success.”
5. Build a leadership team
Tuschl created and implemented a full leadership team of people who know and understand the vision of APA. Many of APA’s leaders are former students and teachers who feel like they're growing the business together.
“I really encourage my staff to come to us with ideas, and we actually implement them,” Tuschl says. “I think it’s important to let other people be creative in the business. We truly have a leadership team and we’re growing this business together.”
Tuschl cautions that business owners can feel they need to control every aspect of the business.
“If you want your business to grow,” she said, “you have to learn to let others lead with you.”
Continue reading and learn about how to successfully manage your business.