How to start a business


Tempted to start your own business but just not sure if it's a smart move? Career consultant Maggie Mistal from Martha Stewart Radio has great advice to help you through the decision making process.

How to start a business

Here are Maggie Mistal's insights and tips to help make the decision about starting your own business a little easier:

How to decide whether you're too old to start a business:

No matter what your age, if starting your own business is something you want to do you can do it. Once you have an idea you can do a couple of things to get started. You can tap into your friends to see if they want to get involved or have ideas for starting a business. You can also access local resources like your chamber of commerce where you can actually go to some meetings and see other entrepreneurs making it happen and begin to network.

Resources to help you decide what kind of business to start:

If you want to start a business but you aren’t sure what kind of business to start there is a great web site you can access called Once on the site, you can test out lots of entrepreneurial adventures and really see what kind of jobs suit you best. You can try being a bed and breakfast owner, a spa owner, or a wine bar owner. You can even test out being a private investigator. Before starting your own business you can “try it on”.

Determining whether you're suited to be an entrepreneur:

It’s important to assess your skills and lifestyle to determine whether you are cut out to be an entrepreneur; to be your own boss. You need to think about whether you are a quick learner and if you like to learn, because when starting your own business you’ll be learning a lot of new things almost every day. Ask yourself if your lifestyle allows you the time on weeknights and weekends to devote to starting/owning your own business. Another good “how to start a business” resource you can access is the Small Business Administration’s web site Their web site provides lots of examples where you can see what it really takes to be an entrepreneur.

How to know whether the business you're considering is a good fit for you:

There are a few really great ways to investigate if a business idea or a new career is right for you. One way to learn about a business is to job shadow someone, where you can physically follow someone around and work side by side with them. The great thing about a job shadow is that you can actually see if doing that kind of work or owning that kind of business suits you. If you can’t participate in a job shadow you can do an informational interview, in which you talk to someone to learn about the business. This talk can take place on the phone or in person and can provide excellent insight into how to start your own business. Throughout the interview you can ask them questions like: What do you love about your job? What do you hate about your job? If you were going to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Keep in mind you don’t need to recreate the wheel, especially in the age of the Internet. Everybody is doing interesting and creative things. If you just do a little bit of research you can get a lot of insights and avoid the pitfalls yourself.

How to match passion with career:

Some people are at a point in their lives when they don’t have to work to support their family and instead can create a business or find a new career that they are passionate about. For many the biggest question around how to start a business is figuring out what to do. To help yourself figure out what kind of business to start or what kind of career to get involved in, you should ask yourself this question: What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail? Or, think back to what you enjoyed doing as a child. Often those childhood activities that were fun for you (that you weren’t paid to do) such as conducting science experiments or doing arts and crafts will inspire you to find a new career that’s right for you.

Additional Resources:

Vocation Vacations

Small Business Administration





ROBYN:  I’m Robyn Moreno for Have you ever contemplated starting your own business? It can be just what your work life needs – if you go into it properly prepared. To guide us through what we need to consider is career consultant Maggie Mistal. Welcome Maggie.

MAGGIE:  Thanks, Robyn.

ROBYN:  What do you say to people who say, you know what, ‘I want to start my own business but I’m too old’?

MAGGIE: What I would say is, how can you get inspired? Can you join up with a few of your, your best friends and start a business together? Can you also tap into some resources such as local chamber of commerce meetings and other opportunities to see other entrepreneurs making it happen? You know, if this is something you’ve wanted to do, other people are doing it too and you can absolutely, no matter what your age, start a business that works for you.

ROBYN:  What strategies do you suggest for older or downsized workers?

MAGGIE:  Well most people say, ‘well I want to start a business but I don’t know in what.’ So if you’re not quite sure, one thing that you can do is, it’s one of my favorite websites, is You can test out lots of different businesses there. From being a bed and breakfast owner, to being a wine bar owner, or a spa owner, or even, you know, figuring out how to be a private investigator. So you can test out different types of entrepreneurial adventures and really see which one’s a good fit for you.

ROBYN:  What are the resources you recommend for becoming your own boss?

MAGGIE:  Well, first and foremost, I think it’s assessing and taking certain tests about, are you cut out to be an entrepreneur. And if you go to the small business administration website at, they have a lot of different entrepreneurial examples and ideas to really see what it takes. Because think about it this way: if you’re going to be a business owner, there’s a whole lot of things that you’ve got to learn. The question is, are you a quick learner? Do you like to learn? Is that something you want to do, is learn and grow. And it also might take up your nights and weekends. And is that something you’re really interested in, life-style wise? And if you’re not, how might you design that business so that you have that time and energy?

ROBYN:  Is there any way to tell whether something is a hobby or a viable career?

MAGGIE:  Oh, absolutely. And that’s why I recommend trying it out. Another great way to test it out, outside of vocationvacation, is to create your own experience. You can job shadow someone; that’s a phrase a lot of people haven’t heard before. You can actually follow someone around at work and see if doing that kind of business, or owning that kind of operating would be of interest to you. If you can’t get to the job shadowing, you can also do an informational interview, which is another great tool if you’re looking to investigate a business idea or a new idea. The informational interview, Robyn, is actually where you talk to folks during that kind of work. You find out, well what do you love about it? What’s challenging about this type of business? If you were going to do it all over again, what would you do differently? You know, we don’t need to recreate the wheel, especially in the age of the Internet. I mean, everybody’s doing, you know, interesting and creative things. So if you just do a little bit of research, you can actually get a lot of insight and avoid the pitfalls yourself.

ROBYN: What if I’ve been laid off, or I’m an older worker ready for a change. I’ve been working for 20 years, and it was for money, stability for my family. You know what? Now I want to do something for passion. Any tips for helping me match my passion with my career and actually make some money?

MAGGIE: Absolutely. I mean, especially if you’ve been working at a job for stability, it may not be the most exciting. You may feel a bit numb, or that you’ve lost touch with what really is fun for you. And I’ll ask people the question: what would you love to do? Or one of my favorite questions is, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? And they look at me like a deer in headlights, like, ‘uhh, I don’t know! What would I do?’ So that is a great question to consider: what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

ROBYN: Thank you so much, Maggie Mistal, really inspiring advice.

MAGGIE: Thanks, Robyn.

ROBYN: I’m Robyn Moreno for

meet theexpert
  • Maggie Mistal

    Maggie Mistal Career Coach, Martha Stewart Living Radio Maggie Mistal is a certified life purpose and career coach. Her passion is her career consulting practice, working with individuals to identify their ideal careers and helping them make career changes. more about this expert »

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