5 Tips To Getting Your Business Idea Started With Dawn Nadeau

EPISODE 14

In this episode, with Dawn Nadeau of Two Cents Riot, we touch on 5 practical and important steps for every woman who is thinking about starting a business. In addition to covering the business side, we also discuss the importance of self-awareness and acknowledging your strengths, weaknesses and passions before your launch.

Dawn is a serial founder, an experienced businesswoman and she is super-passionate about helping other women to get started. She is a partner in TwoCents Riot, a company that works with aspiring entrepreneurs, side-hustlers, in-place pioneers and lean teams. They provide company and product naming services, home business and start-up strategy and resume coaching to help founders and individuals move from ideation to execution.


Dawn has been featured in a variety of publications and on television, including NBC, ABC, Fast Company, Advertising Age, Marie Claire, Today.com, Huffington Post, Forbes.com, Slate.com, The Guardian, and the BBC to name a few. She’s also an expert on self defense and children, the first woman in the United States to be certified as a G1-Instructor in Krav Maga and coincidentally her daughter is best friends with Doryn’s daughter.


Resources mentioned in this episode:

https://www.fastcompany.com/section/mentorship

https://www.twocentsriot.com/

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Doryn Wallach:

Welcome to It's Not A Crisis. I am your host Doryn Wallach. I'm an entrepreneur, a mother of two, a wife and a 40 something trying to figure out what is happening in this decade. Why is no one talking about it? I created this podcast to help women in their late 30s and 40s to figure out what is going on in our mind, body, soul, and life. We may laugh, we may cry, we may get frustrated, but most importantly, my goal is to make this next chapter of life positive. I'm also full of my own questions and I'm here to go on this journey with you. So let's do it together.

Hi everyone, welcome to episode 14 of It's Not A Crisis. I cannot believe that I have done 14 already. I love doing this podcast. I don't think I've ever loved doing anything as much as this. So I really hope I can continue to do this. First, I just want to ask you very kindly and I know it's annoying. I don't like doing it either, but if you could please rate and review the podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts, because that helps to reach a greater amount of women that we can all help together. So I would really appreciate it. Even if you hate it, it would mean a lot to me. So, as I've mentioned before, I'm somewhat of a serial entrepreneur. If I listed all of the businesses I've had since I left college, we might be here all day. But in my 20s I would get an idea and I would go with it immediately. And I was really disappointed if it wasn't an instant success.

I was very impulsive and they would do well, but then I would realize I didn't have the funds to continue it, or I didn't have the people that could work for me or even the mindset to keep going. And as I got older, I got a little less impulsive and I spent more time sorting what exactly it was that I wanted to do. I still have a million ideas every day business ideas, but I've learned that I can't implement them all. Then that just won't be success if I'm doing too many things at once. In this current state of our worlds right now, I'm starting to reevaluate everything. I'm not sure about you, but one of the things is the time that I had put into my job and what I was taking out of it. The time away from my family and so many other things. I'm actually reevaluating my career as a fine jewelry designer.

Well, I took classes and I had a mentor and I did as much research as possible. I definitely made a lot of mistakes along the way. And I don't think I realized how much of the industry is not who I am. For example, I absolutely dislike sales. I hate selling things. Yeah, right you might say wrong industry. I don't like mingling order to sell things. I don't like going to the trunk shows or the jewelry shows or small group sales. It all makes me really anxious. I am an artist. I prefer to be behind the scenes, creating the art, just like being behind the microphone, talking to you. It's definitely more of my comfort zone. Although I love people and I can talk to anyone, but there were just so many things about jewelry that felt very uncomfortable to me that it wasn't worth it for me to continue to do those things.

So I'm still trying to figure it out. I'm working on that at the moment. I will be doing something to keep my foot in the industry. This was not a segue to sell jewelry by the way because again, I don't like doing that. But if you do like jewelry, my entire collection is 50% off through the holidays on dorynwallach.com. See, how did I do? But no pressure. Just take a look if you like it and you want to tell friends and do you want to buy someone a gift? There are some really, really good prices for fine jewelry. So this brings me to today's guest. This is going to be a great show because I know that many of you are reevaluating your current job situations. You're probably getting inspired by the pandemic for a new business idea, or you just want to start a business after many years of staying at home with kids.

And actually that's a topic that I'm going to cover in a completely different podcast. So keep checking in for that one. So today we're going to tackle five tips to getting your business idea started. And my guest today is not only a genius, but she is a female powerhouse. My daughter's best friend's mom and has become my friend as well. As a partner in TwoCents Riot, Dawn Nadeau, thrives in the messy area where ideas first spark. TwoCents Riot works with aspiring entrepreneurs, side hustlers, in place pioneers, and lean teams. They provide company and product naming services, home business, and startup strategy and resume coaching to help founders and individuals move from ideation to execution. Dawn has extensive experience in new product development from inside the startup landscape and innovating within the structure of big corporations from the chairman's office of Goldman Sachs to Time Magazine, best invention winner.

She understands the challenges of getting things done regardless of the scale. Dawn also loves to hit things and as a former Krav Maga instructor, mostly inside the court tennis player and a beginning banjo player, although not all at the same time. I should also mention that she's hilarious and she's as real as can be. Dawn, welcome to the show. I am so happy to have you here.


Dawn Nadeau:

Thank you. I'm so excited.


Doryn Wallach:

We were having drinks a few weeks ago while our daughters were at a party. And we started talking about this and I said, "Oh my God, we have to make this a podcast. This is so amazing." I knew what you were doing, but like me, you're always doing a bunch of different things. So I didn't know exactly and when you told me about it, I just know that there are a lot of women who are going to find this so incredibly helpful. I think where I want to start with you is I'd love to know what inspired you to start TwoCents Riot with your partner Elizabeth Chapin.


Dawn Nadeau:

It was really an evolution and I have to thank the pandemic for that. We have been consulting together for a while, since we closed our last startup, which was called VONK. And we were part of an incubator at NYU. We closed that in 2018 and then just continued to do some consulting. But over the pandemic, we realized that we consistently get asked to do some of the same things. And we also really wanted to figure out how we could work with more women, more female founders, and more really small businesses. We've done work with bigger companies and I get really excited in this blank space and it's a space I enjoy. And I think there are more people who have great ideas for businesses and they need to share their two cents with the world. That's where the name came from TwoCents Riot. We are both really committed particularly to women, but the odd great men too, for more people to do what they love and figure out how to create work that is meaningful, but that is on their own terms. And I think women especially really need that these days.


Doryn Wallach:

Absolutely. It's actually really sad to me how many women are having to change their careers because of COVID and their careers becoming secondary to their husbands. I keep seeing it over and over again and it's not really fair, but I somehow feel that as women we're going to get around this and come out stronger and that's where you come in. Today we're talking about five tips to getting your business idea started. And I think this is so important because what you're doing is you're starting from wherever level somebody comes to you, but you're starting with almost a psychological component to it that I think is really important. And as a business owner myself looking back on when I started, I wish I had something like this because I think it would have helped me to understand who I am before delving into something without having that idea. So I'd love to start with tip one, which is know yourself.


Dawn Nadeau:

I always thought, and I'm sure you feel this too as a serial entrepreneur, that starting a business is the ultimate journey of self-awareness and self discovery. Because you learn so much about yourself for the good and for the bad sometimes. But it's all information. It's like becoming a mother. I mean, it's very much like becoming a mother. I have started two businesses totally by myself and been part of other startups. But the two I started myself felt like children and I felt very, very personal about them and I learned a lot about it, but I do think that the big tip in know yourself is what is your why behind your motivation to start your own thing. And what do you want to share with the world and why do you want to do this? Because there's a lot of different reasons and it's not always about money. Although there's also opportunity for women, perceived opportunity to have a lot more control over their schedule.

And it's true when you work for yourself, you definitely have more control over how you spend your time. But as a founder, I'm sure you yourself have experienced, it doesn't necessarily mean you have more time. You actually sometimes end up working more, but it's a little more on your own terms. And so I think a lot of people think they're going to have a lot more time if they do their own thing and I do think that's a bit of a misconception.


Doryn Wallach:

To side note that, that my husband, Ty is starting a business right now. And I was talking a little bit about what we're going to be talking about. And he's like, "Why didn't you tell me that I'd have less time?" And I said, "You know many times I've told you that. I mean, have you not watched me over the past few years?"


Dawn Nadeau:

It's so true because you're putting all your energy into this and you're thinking about it much like a newborn and it requires a lot of time and care and feeding and support. So understanding why you want to do your own thing. Is it the content of what you're working on that you're super excited and passionate about? Is it the ability to have more control or you're being driven by compensation. And then also really know yourself. What is your capacity, your realistic capacity? How much time can you spend to this? What kind of money are you willing to put into it? What kind of support network do you have both professional and personal? And then this is another really big personal know yourself one. What are your goals? What will success feel like to you? And coming up with a definition or a set of goals and a definition of success that is something that is realistic.

Everybody would like to make millions of dollars and be like, Sara Blakely, the Spanx founder. I mean, that woman is genius, but we're not all going to get right there, but maybe it will feel really successful to you if you see something you created on a shelf. Maybe you would feel really good if you could have a little bit of side income and have five or six clients for whatever service offering you're going to offer. Or maybe it's something you want to start small and grow over a period of time. Maybe you're trying to change behavior. We worked with one founder and her goal was to really just reduce plastic bag use in her own community. She'd been a stay at home mom for years and had never really thought about herself as an activist or founder or entrepreneur, and just had no idea, "How do I go about impacting this one change in my community?"

And so we worked with her around that, but having a set of goals that are meaningful to you, I think is important. And then a timeframe that is significant to you so that you can begin to plan. And the timeframe can be huge. We've also worked with another founder who has a 9:00 to 5:00 job, and she's been creating a product for a pet company for a couple of years, and she has been working on it very slowly, but she's really getting there. And where she is now is very different than where she was two years ago and she's given herself a nice long time horizon because it is a true side hustle. It's something she has to do while she's supporting herself at her 9:00 to 5:00 job. I think those are all parts of the knowing yourself.


Doryn Wallach:

I feel like as we get older, success means something different. I think that when I was younger, it was about making money. And by the way, even seven years ago with my business, it was like, I want to win awards. I want to be in a great retailer. I want to be in Vogue. And I achieved all of those things and while I'm proud of those things, I still don't know if that's what I was looking for success wise. So it's interesting. I don't think it was financially either, but I feel with every few years we change and I think that I talk about this all the time with women, our age know what does success feel like to you? So I think that's such an important question.


Dawn Nadeau:

It is. It's also, you shouldn't feel bad and this is again, back to that in really knowing yourself. If you want to be featured in a magazine, you want to be part of the Inc 500, or you want to have somebody write a profile and you want to see your picture in the pages of magazine, or you want to be on TV. That is a perfectly fabulous and wonderful goal, and my suggestion would be to acknowledge that to yourself so that you can backtrack from what that is. Because when nowadays I think women are afraid to even admit to themselves some of the secret desires of your ego, because you've already achieved those things for you, Doryn, it's easier to say, "I realized once I got them that maybe I wanted something different."

I've also been in magazines and been on TV and it was easier for me to walk away from that in my next job because I had already gotten that. Do you know what I mean? And so sometimes maybe people want that or need that for themselves. And I would encourage everyone to dream as big as they want, but to let the dreams suit their inner most desires of their heart.


Doryn Wallach:

Absolutely. And I also didn't mean that I'm not grateful for having all of those things.


Dawn Nadeau:

Yeah. No I know.


Doryn Wallach:

I really am. The other thing I was thinking that there was one goal I had that I have not achieved is red carpet. Actually most people don't know this. A lot of these actors are paid by the jewelry houses sold and it's a lot. So some of the smaller designers never quite get out there.


Dawn Nadeau:

Yeah, it's getting harder and harder to get that huge recognition. And I think it can also be a ever moving target that can feel, you can find yourself chasing it and never quite achieve what you thought you were going to achieve.


Doryn Wallach:

Okay. So number two, write it, say it, research it.


Dawn Nadeau:

I feel like the very first thing you have to do is start by speaking your idea to more than just your immediate family, but your immediate family is a great place to start it. You have to let the idea have light and air. I feel like ideas are living things and they need to be fed to grow. And I'm surprised how many people haven't written their idea. They might've talked about it. When we work with new people and starting their side hustle starter, which is the like get started thing, we do a survey in advance and you have to write about it. Several people have been like, "Wow, I hadn't had to write the idea down. That's a big part of it." Talking about it, writing it and then researching it. So you really want to be a consumer of your business before your business exists.

So you want to be in the spaces where it might be, whether it's shopping in those stores or online in the communities where you might find it. Be familiar with the space that you will be playing in and be your best first customer. And then also do research and try and understand the big levers of the business. Is it a product business or a consumer business? How much cash might it require upfront and begin to sketch it out. But you don't have to get hung up in spreadsheets early on because I think that can also be daunting and intimidating and there's a lot of steps to take to getting down the path of starting your idea before you have to create a business plan or a huge robust business model in Excel.

A lot of people get intimidated by this idea of a business plan while I think it's really important to sketch out and understand the financial aspects of your business. It doesn't always have to be the first thing you do in the first beginning months of starting something, because for a lot of people who've never started something, it's some of these other elements of really doing some research and thinking about and getting to know all the aspects of your business and the money piece falls into that as you're beginning to compile your research.


Doryn Wallach:

I love that you're saying this because when I started out, I did this really intense business plan. I hired somebody to help me project sales goals and then next three years, five years, 10 years. And not only did I never refer back to that, but because it was almost overwhelming. There was so much information, but I definitely didn't meet those goals. It just like one more thing to make you feel like you're not doing it right. So I'm so happy to hear you say that that's not necessarily what you need to do. I never realized that.


Dawn Nadeau:

Business plans are great if you're trying to raise money. You will need a business plan if you need to raise money from an angel investor or obviously a VC or even friends and family where you're going to ask other people for money outside of a crowd sourcing mechanism. But beyond that, the business plan then is a tool for you as the founder to help you guide your business and assess risk and understand all the elements of it. And I don't think it has to be super elaborate and I think you can get to those answers in a very different way. And I just think business plans are a tricky animal that people get really hung up with because they think they're supposed to do it. And I'm like, eh, maybe, maybe not.


Doryn Wallach:

Yeah. Well that's good. It's a different way to approach it. I like that. Number three is define it. What type of business is it? What does that mean?


Dawn Nadeau:

Yeah, I think there's so many kinds of businesses, right? And in writing and researching your idea, writing about it to friends and people when you're first, starting out, you will intuitively know, obviously, is it a product business? Is it a service business? Is it something you're going to sell direct to consumers? Are you going to try and sell it in retail? Are you selling it online? Are you providing what we would call B2B services where you're selling directly to other businesses? Are you going to be sitting behind another service provider and providing services to them? So really understanding what kind of business it is and then this is back to what you were saying. You've mentioned before Doryn, about not loving to do trunk shows and selling. So matching the type of business to your interests and talents. How you want to interact with the business, right?

Because you need to know yourself and what you like to do, what you're best at and where are you going to be most likely to put most of your time and energy that's going to help tailor a business to suit you. So for example, if you want to create a product, you have an idea for a product, but you really don't want to be on social media, that might require you to think a little bit more about how you're going to sell that product because like it or not right now, social media, Instagram, and Facebook, and even TikTok are ways that people are selling products to get direct to a targeted customer. That doesn't mean that's the only way you can sell a product. And if you have no interest in spending time building a following and a brand, that's fine.

Then you can put that to the side and say, "Well, what type of business might I create that doesn't require me to do that?" And an example would be, if you had an idea for product, you might want to partner with an existing brand and say, "Look, I have this great idea for a product. It really suits your brand. I will deliver it to you. You can co-brand it. It would be white label." And that would be a way for you to see your product out in the world, but you don't necessarily have to have all the energy and time of developing an Instagram following because that's not everybody's cup of tea and that's fine.


So I think it's important to know what you're best at and what you want to do. And that also gets back to knowing yourself. What's your capacity? How much time do you have? What are your resources? Product companies also require upfront cash. I know very few product companies that don't require an outlay initially of cash either create a prototype or molds or something. And so if you don't have that kind of cash and you don't want to fundraise, then maybe there's another avenue to explore to do something that's similar or related to your initial idea.


Doryn Wallach:

And if somebody comes to you and they're not exactly sure how to get this product out, or if they want to go wholesale or whatever they want to do, is that part of what you do to help them to hone in on that somehow?


Dawn Nadeau:

Yeah, definitely. Obviously, always start with the idea. What's the spark? The what that somebody wants to share with the world. What's their two cents? And then figuring out what gets them really excited and then matching the idea to the founder really, and helping them nuance the idea out so that it has the shape and structure that feels doable to them because there's really no point having an idea or a business that doesn't suit you as the founder. And I think that's a shame. We've also worked with people who we start down the path of their idea. They have an idea for something, a business, and we start sketching it out and asking all the questions and digging into it and really getting into the, where are you going to find your customers? How are you going to market to them?

And the idea shifts or changes, or they've decided, "You know what, I actually don't want to do that. What I really want to do is write a blog on this subject, or I'm going to write a book." And sometimes people take left turns. But the good thing about that is the pain of not knowing is a very real pain. So if you always walk around and like, "I had this great idea, I could have been a bajillionaire." It'll sit there on your shoulder and bother you. And I fully believe that if you walk down the path a little bit, the path may veer and take a turn and you get to take that turn as long as you're on the path. But if you never get on the path, you're never going to get the opportunity to choose left or right. I'm sure in your many founding experiences, you yourself have made choices, right? You'll make a choice. You'll say, "I'm going to do this, not that." And all of a sudden that opens up another door to another avenue or opportunity that you wouldn't have gotten if you had gone right instead of left.


Doryn Wallach:

Well, I've also had a lot of ideas that I've seen other people do and then they've been super successful and I'm like, "Ah, I did [crosstalk 00:23:00] it kills me. But at the same time, that person probably had more money behind them to do it or they had the right connections at that time to do it that I probably didn't have. But I've just had so many ideas and when I see it happening, I'm like, "No, that was my idea."


Dawn Nadeau:

I know. It's trade off. I do feel like the thing I've learned over the years and watching ideas come and go into the world is whenever I feel that way, I always come back to my own capacity. And I remember that I have sometimes made choices to go left instead of right, because I didn't have the capacity at the time to do whatever it was that was required to move something forward or to follow a particular opportunity all the way where it was going to go. Because either I didn't want to travel or I wasn't in a position to wanting to work the hours or I just wanted to be home with my kids.

And so sometimes I think women especially have that experience of having had to let things go and it is really hard. You can't have it all, all at the same time. I mean, that's like the oldest cliche of motherhood, but you can have it at different times in your life. And sometimes by the time you get the chance to have it, you find you don't want it anymore. Which is, I think, what you were saying earlier back to some of the experiences that you've had. You've had them and now you can let them go.