From people who have been there and done that
By: Laura Garzón, Staff Writer
Arbitrage Magazine tells you what you need to do to start your own business.
- Try out your business before formalizing it: Sean Moore, founder and director of Advocacy School, a social enterprise aimed at improving the capacity of organizations to engage in public-policy advocacy, said,” incorporate if necessary, but not necessarily incorporate.”
According to Moore, 63, new business owners do not need to go through the trouble of formally organizing a legal entity at first, since it can be very expensive to do. He said, “That is ultimately what you want to do, but sometimes it’s better to start more informally.”
… if you want to become profitable… it is important to have an accurate, clear sense of where the money is going.
Jose Sandoval, 23, creator and owner of a salsa school called Salsa Force, knows about that rule all too well. When he first thought of teaching salsa in the summer of 2010, he did not even have a name in mind for his company.
“I joined some salsa schools in Ottawa, but I felt they weren’t on my level,” he said. “I decided to open my own school to teach my own moves and techniques.
“At the beginning it was hard. I had to give many free salsa classes to build-up a good reputation,” he explained.
Two years later, Sandoval not only has his own company name, which was recently filed for registration, but he also teaches salsa at intermediate and advanced levels on Wednesdays nights at The Ottawa Arts Court Foundation.
Recently, Sandoval started a new project. He teaches how to dance Latin rhythms, right in front of a restaurant called L’Ange Cafe.
In front of people on the street , he sings the one, two, three beat of the music, his body moving with it. His project, Latin dancing on the street, started on May 24. So far, about 115 people show up every Thursday after work to learn how to dance.
Sandoval teaches basic salsa steps for an hour. Then the dancing floor, which is specially brought to the street for the event, is open to people who want to practice new moves, socialize and have fun.
The cost of the event is $4 per person and music plays until 10:30 p.m. Every week Sandoval teaches different rhythms that range from merengue to bachata, salsa and cha cha.
2. Keep your overhead low: Moore says to limit your expenses to what you need, and not what you want. “Use a cell phone rather than incurring the cost of a landline. Don’t hire employees full-time, but instead have people work for you on a contract basis.”
Sandoval agreed with the rule. He said it is necessary to make a budget and “filter out what you don’t need.”
To maintain a clear mind, Arbitrage Magazine recommends you to have written records of expenses.
“Keep careful records of how you spend money because if you want to become profitable, and you hope to be profitable, it is important to have an accurate, clear sense of where the money is going,” Moore added.
- Be concise: Learn to give an “elevator message,” which basically means that you have approximately four or five floors (in an elevator time) to say what you do, and what your specialization is in a very strategic way.
As a new seller, you have to keep in mind that “every person you talk to is a potential client,” Moore said. This is why it is very important to have a clear message in your mind of what exactly it is you want to do.
Sandoval said, “Sometimes it does not really matter what product you sell. What is important is how you sell it.
“I go to clubs, I go to salsa events with my flyers and I talk about my classes,” Sandoval explained. “The people I talk to don’t feel pushed. I feel very comfortable speaking to them, and everything goes very smoothly, because I am confident in what I have to offer. I love what I do.”
- Publicity: Sandoval said publicity is probably the most important tool to use in order to sell your product successfully. Upon first starting, he spent a lot of time and money to distribute posters on the street. In time, he realized they did not work as much as expected, but also noticed that social media was helping him advertise his business effectively. Currently, Salsa Force has a Facebook page in which Sandoval consistently posts about upcoming salsa events and classes. He also uploads pictures, and encourages people to share their thoughts about the classes.
Sandoval uses Facebook invites as a marketing strategy. When people click on “participate,” they immediately enter a raffle. “I have found that when you create an event and many people click on “going,” it builds up credibility,” he said.
Moore said you need to be very creative in how you do marketing and networking. “Make sure you thought through strategically who your market is, and how they are going to know what business you are in.”
When Sandoval first started thinking about teaching salsa, he decided to go and dance on a crowded street and distribute flyers.
“One day, as a publicity strategy, I told my partner to come with me to a crowded street to start dancing. To be honest, not many people supported us. We handed out a few flyers, but nothing big,” Sandoval said.
Once they decided to leave, a girl from a restaurant came to him, telling them her manager wanted to meet them because they were really good dancers. “The manager asked if I wanted to teach salsa on the street, and I thought it was a good idea. We did it once or twice and it didn’t really work. But I kept the contact,” he said.
Two years later, Sandoval called the manager again. “This time I showed her videos of what I was doing. I showed her the people from Ottawa University who were dancing with Salsa Force,” he explained.
Now, the event is a success. For the future, Sandoval wants to create a performing team. “I used to perform; it is something that I enjoy doing. I love training people, but you never know,” he said. Sandoval was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, and came to Canada six years ago. He is currently doing a double major at the University of Ottawa, where he studies electric and computer engineering. While creating a performing team is still a maybe, Sandoval says he will definitely be teaching during his remaining three years of school.
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