1. Know your market.

Knowledge is power. The more you know about something, the further your business will go and grow. For me, one of the biggest keys to my current success isu nderstanding the teen and tween market more than anyone else. Every day I spend time getting to know this market even more. The learning is never done.

2. Create a plan.

My dad always said if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I constantly tell myself this as I begrudgingly write and rewrite business plans. Of course you may deviate from the plan (we all do), but it’s important to at least know where you’re going and what you’re going to do to get there.

3. Create your professional toolkit.

When you’re just starting out, you may not be able to afford a fancy office, assistants, or email marketing campaigns. But companies like Grasshopper.com (a virtual phone service), Regus.com (virtual office space) and Emailstationery.com (email marketing) allow you to build your toolkit on a very small budget.

4. Build your network.

Whether you’re opening up your own online boutique or opening up a store, you need a powerful network of people to support you. Networks take time to build. Join community organizations, networking groups, and local religious centers.

5. Connect with your customers.

You have to do your own research to figure out where your customers are, what their needs are, and how your products or services fit into their lives. Until you can afford to do sophisticated research, sites like SurveyMonkey.com and PollDaddy.com allow you to create questionnaires to send to potential customers. Take advantage of these free services. But once you know what they’re looking for, it will be easier to figure out how to connect with them.

6. Set realistic timelines.

The first step is always building your plan, but the follow up consists of timelines and tactics. What are you going to accomplish in three months? Three weeks? Applications like Evernote allow you to creatively store ideas – even thoughts scribbled on napkins!

7. Always be innovating.

We’re living in one of the most technologically innovative times in history. We can see how quickly our lives have changed because of Facebook, Twitter, and so many other platforms. Your products and services need to quickly adapt as well.

8. Develop your Fab Five.

Your Fab Five is a group of entrepreneurs or thought leaders you rely on personally for advice. It should be a group of people who are personally invested in you – not people you email, looking for mentorship. These are the people who will tell you the truth at all times.

9. Set realistic expectations.

My good friend and fellow writer Johnica Reed has the best quote: “You can’t make withdrawals where you haven’t made deposits.” This is true on so many levels. Too often, in our entrepreneurial excitement, we email people asking for things. But what are you offering? If you’re looking for a mentor, invite them out to lunch at a place of their choice before even asking for anything. Just because you have access to someone’s email address doesn’t make it appropriate to email them for favors with nothing to offer. We all have something to offer in return, so keep in mind that the relationship must go both ways.

10. Create balance in your life.

This is something I’m still working towards. I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 16 years old, and only in recent years have I started to understand what true balance means. I have a very big family (5 siblings, 60+ cousins…) and spending time with them is very important to me. The concerts, recitals, graduations, impromptu card games…all of these moments are important to me, and there’s no business success that can replace these moments. Besides spending time with your family, find special things to help you balance yourself. For me it’s definitely prayer and journaling. When we quiet ourselves, sometimes we’re blessed with brilliant ideas.

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