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(Family Features) - An upside of a down economy is that it inspires entrepreneurial creativity. Many well-known companies, such as Microsoft and The Walt Disney Company, were founded during economic recessions.
"It's the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention," says Amy Cosper, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine. "Oftentimes, a layoff or other economic challenges are the nudge budding entrepreneurs need to take that initial step toward turning their dreams into reality."
It's something former high-tech worker Karen Singer knows first hand. When the dot-com bubble popped in 2002, Singer began to rethink her career path and decided to go into business for herself. Today, as a The UPS Store owner, Singer finds herself providing real-world advice to both experienced small-business owners and budding entrepreneurs.
"That entrepreneurial spirit creates a strong bond," says Singer. "While we're taking care of business, we're also sharing thoughts and ideas and discussing challenges and opportunities."
Some experts anticipate the next few years will produce some of the most innovative thinking since the dot-com era. A driving force could be outsourcing, which typically increases during a recession and provides new small-business opportunities.
"Entrepreneurial thinking is a key component of the American Dream," says Cosper. "There are a lot of people who think they have the idea for the next big business breakthrough."
So, if you think you could be the next Bill Gates or Richard Branson, where do you start?
"You must have a solid business plan to begin," says Ken Yancey, CEO of SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to offering free advice and education to entrepreneurs.
In addition to its national network of business counselors, SCORE provides numerous online tools and workshops for novice and experienced owners alike. At SCORE.org, there is an online assessment tool to help you determine if you're truly ready.
Yancey also encourages small-business owners to take advantage of small businesses near their homes and offices, where they can find many of the services they'll need as well as the opportunity to network and to build a support system.
"Small-business owners understand the entrepreneurial perspective," says Yancey. "They thrive on the exchange of ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. They see a niche and they're eager to fill it."
Yancey cautions budding entrepreneurs not to bite off more than they can chew. "Early on there's that tendency to want to be a one-person-show and save money," he says. "It's usually not long before they become completely overwhelmed and throw in the towel."
That's where people like Singer come in.
"Start-up owners are thrilled when they discover that they can outsource a lot of their day-to-day activities to us, above and beyond shipping," Singer says. "When we show them how we can handle their printing, document services, shipping and receiving, and mail services, there's always a look of relief."
That's when the connection is really made.
"It's wonderful to witness that moment when an idea moves beyond
the dream stage to one within reach," says Singer. "From that point
on the relationship takes on a new dimension. Before long they're
networking and making other local connections that will help turn
their dream into reality."
Cosper adds that the small-business world is a dynamic community of people with tenacity and determination.
"Spend five minutes with an entrepreneur and you'll understand why small businesses are a key driver of our economic health," she says. "If history is any indication, it will be small business that jump starts our economic recovery."
Hundreds of thousands of individuals decide to start a home-based business each year. Many succeed. About 70 percent of all home-based businesses are in operation after two years. Before entering this venture, entrepreneurs should consider several key questions:
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