Founding a dozen successful businesses is laudable for any entrepreneur. Doing so by age 15 makes Cameron Johnson remarkable. At age nine, he sold vegetables door to door, hooking him on entrepreneurship. He netted $50,000 the year he turned 12 by selling Beanie Babies™ online. By age 15, Johnson had joined a Tokyo company’s advisory board. In 2010, Johnson was a finalist on Oprah Winfrey’s “The Big Give” program on ABC. He also hosted the fourth season of “Beat the Boss” on the UK’s BBC. Home Business Magazine® spoke with him about what it takes to start a successful home business.
Home Business Magazine® (HBM): What kind of a business plan is required for a successful home business start-up?
Cameron Johnson (CJ): You have to have a product or service that offers customers a unique advantage over the competition. Some people think it has to be price, but only one person can have the lowest price, and the person with the lowest price isn’t necessarily the most successful. The business plan should address: “How will I get customers? How will I market the product or service? Who will I target?” The principles of a business plan are pretty much the same. But after page one to two, everything is unpredictable, because costs or competition will change and you don’t know how things will be received by the market. You have to be able to continually adapt. Companies that fail to adapt will die. Others are brilliant at adapting.
HBM: What is personally required of an individual to start a successful home business?
CJ: Passion and dedication. You’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing. If it’s just a job, you might as well go get a job. There’s no point in taking on risk if it’s something you don’t enjoy.
HBM: How much financial backing should an entrepreneur have before starting?
CJ: Start with the least amount of money possible. Some people say they need a certain amount to start, and I say you need a half of that or a third of that. That gives you the biggest return. If you put all your eggs in one basket, it’s harder to adapt when you need to. Unless it’s very capital-intensive, you don’t need much money.
HBM: What are the necessary pieces of equipment for a home business start-up?
CJ: It varies by business. The bare minimums are what I always preach. The less you have, the quicker you’re profitable.
HBM: How can entrepreneurs get financial backing?
CJ: It’s a double-edged sword. Right now, the biggest complaint from people wanting to start a business is, “I don’t have capital.” Banks aren’t lending but if they were, it would give you a greater opportunity to screw things up. So it will help you be creative and spend less. If you have a proven business plan, share with friends and family. When I have an idea, I share it with everyone. People say someone will steal my idea, but it’s not like I invented something that will replace the toilet. I tell people to get their feedback. Will they buy it, help me improve it, or tell me it’s already been done? If someone else is excited, he or she might buy into the business.
HBM: How can entrepreneurs get the exposure they need for success?
CJ: It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest product in the world if no one will buy it. Have an idea of where your customers will come from and how to get to them. Partner with blogs and magazines that target that audience. If you partner with them, hopefully you won’t have to spend money on advertising. Google AdWords help with targeting people. Social media makes it easy to find people. A lot of people write blogs as a hobby. Others do it to make money. Instead of advertising on a blog, do a revenue share where you give them a 10-percent share for the business you receive.
HBM: What should entrepreneurs do when they hit roadblocks?
CJ: It’s not always going to be smooth sailing or everyone will do it. If you have something people want, it should be the perfect recipe for success.
HBM: What are the top reasons home business start-ups fail?
CJ: Not knowing their market or they’re creating something no one wants. Try to find if something out there is similar. If it’s already being done, now you need to find out if you can do it better or cheaper. If you have a good product and no one’s buying, improve it and tweak it. HBM
Deborah Jeanne Sergeant writes web content, marketing materials and magazine articles from her home office in Wolcott, N.Y. Visit her online at www.skilledquill.net.