By Jenn Houser (Founder, Upstart Bootcamp)
Dreaming is easy. Starting? Not so much. Here are five ways to make the first steps easier.

As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve had my share of new business ideas and I find it fun to think about them. Many don’t last longer than it takes me to say, “Hey, it would be cool to (insert idea du jour).” But occasionally an idea sticks with me. I find myself dreaming about turning it into a business. But actually taking the first steps can feel intimidating, even when I’ve done it before.

That’s when I think about something my grandparents used to say to each other. My grandmother would begin happy hour with, “I’m thinking about having a drink,” to which my grandfather would reply, “Stop thinking and start pouring!” That philosophy never fails to inspire me to make an easy move to get going. With the hope of helping others embrace my grandfathers philosophy, I’m excited to announce the launch of a new online crash course I’ve put together on Udemy.

Check out the online course Assess Your Startup Idea: How to Make a Go / No-Go Decision. We’re big fans of Women 2.0, so you can grab it for a limited time at only $49 (that’s 50% off).

Taking this course, you will:

  • Watch 30 minutes of video instruction on how to assess your startup idea
  • Download, print and fill out the workbook to assess your own startup idea
  • Read detailed guides to the 6 assessment topics
  • Get an expert’s opinion on the viability of your idea
  • Make your go/no-go decision

And for those who want to get a taste… here are some pointers to get you building your business now:

Take a step, any step.

One of the things that makes starting so hard is that there’s so much to do. It’s overwhelming. So just pick something—anything—and do it. You’ll feel good getting a task done and then be encouraged to take on another one. Before you know it, you’re on your way. I usually start with something I like to do, and can get done in one sitting. For example, since I’m a product person, I will write a quick description of what the product offering will be. Then I’ll add who will buy it and why. I won’t sweat it if it’s not perfect (see the next point) because I can change it later. Now I feel pretty darn good because I got started.

Keep it simple and forget perfect.

Jason Fried of 37signals, a Chicago web company, says this best: “If you’re opening a hot dog stand, you could worry about the condiments, the cart, the name, the decoration. But the first thing you should worry about is the hot dog. The hot dogs are the epicenter. Everything else is secondary.” Figure out what your hot dog is, hold the (perfect) trimmings for later and you’ll find starting gets much simpler.

Don’t reinvent the wheel.

There is no need to build something from scratch that you can rent, lease, or (better yet) use for no or low cost. For example, when you are building your website, consider using WordPress or Blogger rather than having a custom-coded website built. The “off the shelf” tools are much cheaper, faster, and easier to use while you’re learning what is needed for your business.

Tell people you’re starting.

Some founders assume they shouldn’t tell anyone what they’re doing because someone could steal their idea. But in my experience, the benefits far outweigh the risks. First, nothing makes a business “real” faster for me than telling the people in my life that I’m starting it. Second, a curious thing happens when you tell people about your business. They ask questions and offer ideas. They make introductions and identify the competition. And, by knowing, they can support you (emotionally and otherwise) as you’re doing this incredibly rewarding but hard thing.

Tell people what you need.

Immediately after you share with someone what you’re doing, you should also identify for them what you need right now. This makes their help even more helpful. For example, if you are a technologist who really needs an online marketing expert to help you run the business, tell that to everyone you meet. Your contacts may not know the right person but someone else they know might. You’ll be surprised what a small world it is that way.

Look at that, you’re started. Easy-peasy.


About the guest blogger: Jenn Houser is a serial entrepreneur and start-up advisor. She and David Ronick partnered with Inc. to create Upstart Bootcamp@Inc., a program that guides entrepreneurs to start up smarter through on-demand courses, private coaching, books, articles, videos as well as other tools, resources and services. Jenn has founded five companies and raised more than $40 million from VCs and angel investors. Her last start-up, Motionbox, was acquired by HP’s Snapfish in 2010.