How Libraries Can Help Entrepreneurs Make (Way) Better Business Decisions
So you want to start a business.
Maybe you want to pursue a storytelling career as a romance novelist, create a VR-driven app that might make our lives a bit easier, buy a food truck to serve up fresh international fare or fill a gap in local construction. Where’s one place you can you go to get valuable info on all that stuff and more?
Whoa. What? ... Yep.
Libraries have way more than just a bounty of books and free Wi-Fi (though they do offer meeting spaces if you’re looking for a no-cost coworking option). In this day and age, libraries have valuable (free) resources to help you learn more about an area of business, get a skill that you’ll need to make your business thrive and make the connections to get your business going.
And lucky for you, Kansas City is where it’s at to do all that.
“We have more opportunity per capita to get your business started and get your business stronger than most cities in the United States,” says Morgan Perry, business outreach specialist within Mid-Continent Public Library’s Square One Small Business Services division, an initiative developed to support local entrepreneurs and is funded in part by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Tools to plan your next important move
So what’s this all look like when you put it in action in the real world? Well, would you make a huge life decision based solely on a gut feeling? Or would you carefully consider your options, planning for different scenarios and using facts to inform your choice to help you make up your mind? You can probably see where we’re going with this.
Because just making the “best cupcakes in Kansas City” won’t guarantee that your business will make it.The library has that in-depth information available for free—like say, when you write that super necessary business plan, which demonstrates to investors and lenders that you’ve crunched the numbers, considered the shortfalls and have plans to address issues that’ll come up so your business has a good chance of surviving. So if you want to open a cupcake shop, is it going in the right place? Are you selling the right kind of cupcakes? Is the brick-and-mortar business making the most profit off of cupcakes or making the most profit from large orders, like deliveries or catering? That’s where information, especially the super expensive databases libraries offer you for free, will help you make the best decisions.
“Get actual info that's been vetted,” Morgan says. “Trusting your gut isn't enough … You have to fact check it. Business research is how you do it. We've got some awesome research you need to make business decisions. You want to make safer bets. Everything's a risk: Make a calculated risk.”
Food trucks? Romance novels? Yep. There’s a course for that
If you’re eyeing a food truck business, know that the library has your back and offers a bevy of courses and resources to help you weigh your options—because KC food trucks don’t run like they do in other cities. And Morgan says people have driven as far as Minnesota to KC for the courses.
Now, if content creation is more of your thing, check out Mid-Continent’s Story Center, which can help you with oral or digital storytelling. And being an entrepreneur or small-business owner, learning how to tell your story is vital for financing, marketing and a plethora of other positives.
And if you fancy yourself an author of the written word, yep, the library has you covered there, too—especially romance novels, which has an enormous community in Kansas City, believe it or not. Morgan says she heard that Avon Publishers said KC was a hotbed for romance novel sales.
But no matter if you’re into food trucks, love stories or something else, you’ll discover you’re all entrepreneurs and are looking to clear similar hurdles: How do you market your products or services online? What should you know about filing your taxes? How do you hire the right employee? How do you write a business plan?
The most important business knowledge at your fingertips
There’s a lot of work that goes into all this because it’d be a nightmare to invest all that time and money into doing or selling something that wasn’t quite right for the market. So that’s why libraries have databases and resources that can help you do that vital market research before you take the plunge.
“We have a lot of resources, not just hard data you can use to analyze the market, but also a database that will help you write that report,” Morgan says.
For example, the MCPL Small Business Builder helps the uninitiated build a business plan using a template (because most humans have never seen a business plan IRL). You can go at your own pace, and it, like many other business plan resources, breaks up the workload so it’s digestible. And not all plans have to be super long. Sometimes they can be one page.
And because most businesses are self-funded, that’s a cue you’ll need a document you can revisit that shows your financial projections. And Morgan says copy-pasting information into your own plan is a no-no and adds that hiring someone else to write it for you can be a misstep. She says you should understand all aspects of your business plan … because it’s your business and you need to know how it works. And you’ll be re-reviewing that document as your business needs, concerns and strategy shift, so it’s good to know how that sausage, or cupcake, is made.
Need help? Libraries have real people
And libraries in the KC metro, like Mid-Continent Public Library, have actual humans, like Morgan and the other Square One Small Business Services specialists who can help guide you and teach you how to use the resources that are right for you … and sometimes even meet you at your business (or at the library, of course). Plus libraries can suggest business coaches, like the fine folks at ScaleUP! Kansas City and the ELEVATIONLAB so they can help you evaluate data and adjust or grow accordingly. You should know what that data looks like so you open the right cupcake shop.
Morgan says all this came full circle while she was giving a lesson in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. As she plugged in her request for data for her presentation, she says that revealed a lot of residents there buy wine. But she says that a new winery there would need the right wine at the right price point.
“Just having page of numbers isn't going to cut it,” Morgan says. “You have to have the right numbers on the page and you have to understand what they mean. People can go wrong with data. You need experts, like Kelly Head at MCPL or those you can find at KC libraries, who can understand not just what the numbers are, but what they mean for your business or idea.”
Ready to start your business journey or get some help along the way? Wondering which libraries have great info to point you in the right direction? Give KCSourceLink a ring at 816-235-6500 or drop us a line here, and we’ll craft your personal action plan with some great resources to help you wherever you are in your business journey.