On October 22nd, 2018, I published a blog post entitled 10 Steps to Nurse Entrepreneurship. This episode of the Nurse Keith Show riffs and expands upon that previously published material. This show note for episode 179 features those ten steps for you to read and peruse. Also, please check out the Multinix tool that I mention in this episode — find out more and meet Dawn and Wayne Nix at RNvention.com

Tip #1: What’s your idea? 

A business almost always begins with an idea or a story. Perhaps you’ve invented a physical tool like Dawn and Wayne Nix, or maybe you’d like to start a home health agency targeting homebound seniors whose adult children would like a private duty nurse like you to manage their care. And maybe you have a gripping story that explains your motivations for starting this new venture — those stories can communicate so much about your passion for your project.

  • Identify your idea
  • Ascertain if there’s a compelling story behind your idea
  • Solidify and sharpen your idea and story

Tip #2: Do your research

Most people do a fair amount of research before they go to the trouble of launching a business venture. You need to be fairly certain that there’s a viable market for your product or service; this includes making sure that the people for whom you’re solving a problem are actually seeking a solution for that problem. A great product or service without a target audience is a product that may never see the light of day.

If you plan to manufacture a physical product, you’ll need to do deep research regarding:

  • Developing a prototype
  • Finding a trustworthy manufacturer
  • Understanding how distribution will take place
  • Applying for a patent or trademark
  • And so much more

Tip #3: Identify your target market/niche

Your research will reveal who your target market or niche is, and your mentors and other advisors may have helpful information for you in that regard. The general idea has always been that “the riches are in the niches”, meaning that a narrower niche will often be more successful than a business that tries to serve anyone and everyone.

For me, the niche that I’ve identified for my career coaching services is registered nurses, and that’s a pretty big niche! I even work with some APRNs and nurse practitioners. As other coaches and counselors begin to enter this same market, I may choose to narrow my niche to, for instance, mid-career nurses who need career counseling and support; so I watch the market, see who’s coming to me, and continue to monitor if my target audience needs to change in some way. Being willing to pivot and flex is certainly the order of the day.

Tip #4: Seek support in setting up your business

Starting a business can be a complex undertaking, so getting support is essential. You can seek out a mentor, hire a business coach, or discover if your local municipality provides any services for new business owners.

I cannot recommend the National Nurses in Business Association highly enough. The NNBA provides access to a national community of like-minded nurse entrepreneurs, and the annual conference in Las Vegas is the flagship event that any business-minded nurse would be prudent to attend.

There are plenty of business coaches out there, including some who are nurses associated (or not) with the NNBA.

If you need to find out if there’s a small business support center in your local area, try Score.org, and they’ll pair you with a local mentor who will often be a retired businessperson who volunteers their time to help people like you.

Finally, just talk to people who run businesses and pick their brains!

Tip #5: Choose a name for your business

Your business will certainly need a name, so think carefully about this. The name of your company will be on your website, social media platforms, business cards, letterhead, checks, credit cards, etc. It also

Tip #6: Create a structure

An important part of your business startup is creating a business structure. This is an important decision in the process. Your business will generally be an LLC, S-Corp, J-Corp, or sole proprietorship. Seek out advice from legal counsel, your local Score office, or other reliable sources.

Tip #7: Set up your finances

Once you’ve decided on a structure, you’ll probably want and need to separate your personal and business finances. In my own experience, this was simple: after forming my LLC, I went to my favorite local credit union where I do my banking and I opened a business checking account, a business savings account, and applied for a business credit card. For my own peace of mind, I keep track of transfers I make between my personal and business accounts, but you should definitely check with your accountant or bookkeeper about what data they would like you to make note of.

Tip #8: Create your web presence

Every business needs a web presence, even if that business is a “brick and mortar” entity. Designing and building a website isn’t rocket science, but it’s admittedly complicated. I chose to hire a web designer to build my site, and I’m happy I did. If you have the wherewithal to build your own, go for it but be sure you ask for help when you need it!

Your business will also need to be on social media — it’s just the way that 21st-century businesses operate and it’s what consumers expect. Don’t feel you have to set up an account on every platform known to humans — choose the places where it seems your target audience hangs out. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, LinkedIn — these are the main social media sites that average Americans use regularly, so see what makes sense for you.

Tip #9: Hire reliable help

Aside from your mentors and other helpers in #4 above, you will also likely hire contractors or employees at some point in the course of running your business. I currently have a podcasting coach, a social media coordinator, a web designer, a tax preparer, and a podcast producer. In the past, I’ve also hired a graphic designer and a business coach. I actually did almost all of these things on my own at first, but quickly realized that I couldn’t do it all and needed to focus on earning money, not learning a thousand new skills all at once.

Being able to hire people takes cash flow, so having some reserves is helpful, or you may need to take out a small business loan. Or you may simply do it all until there’s enough money coming in to cover expenses.

Tip #10: Be nimble and willing to pivot

My final piece of advice is to be willing to pivot as you move along in the life of your business. In this economic climate, businesses need to be nimble — markets shift, consumers change, and your needs or goals may also evolve over time.

Nimbleness is paramount — can you be a flexible business owner ready to roll with the changes and punches? Good luck and go forth and conquer!


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Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BCIn case you didn’t already know, Nurse Keith is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, keynote and motivational speaker, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses.

From 2012 until its sunset in 2017, Keith co-hosted RNFMRadio, a groundbreaking nursing podcast.

As of May of 2018, Keith is the host of Mastering Nursing, an interview-style podcast showcasing inspiring, forward-thinking nurse thought leaders and innovators.

Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram—as well as at NurseKeith.com.