When you start a small business, your first transactions are not conducted in dollars and cents but in the idea you have for the business: you have to convince people your idea will make money.
Sometimes you even have to convince yourself. So finally, after working to hone the idea of my own business for years, I decided to take in a Denver Idea Cafe, where founder John Wren says people meet to "share start-up experience & ideas, NOT advice!"
Wren has been holding these meetings for years, usually to a group of five to 15 people gathered at 2 pm on Fridays at the Panera Bread shop at 13th and Grant streets, near the Capitol Building and downtown Denver. I took in the session on March 12, and then another session closer to home at the Koelbel Library on March 19.
The second group has been organized by Richard Oppenheim, a business coach, and Ken Wyble, a marketing consultant with the South Metro Chamber of Commerce. It is intended to serve a South Metro clientele of would-be entrepreneurs.
Each group specializes in "brainstorming" ideas that might help attendees get started on the business of their dreams.
As Wren says from the get-go, attendees can take or leave the ideas that cross the table. That way the atmosphere remains informal and encouraging. People come to hear something helpful, not to have their business concept shot down.
Wren enforces a confidentiality rule, too, so I'll limit what I report here to what was said about my own business concept. "Have a story," one entrepreneur suggested, when I asked about raising money to finance my business.
Naturally I took to the idea. My concept for RobertSchwabPoet.com is all about telling stories: stories about other businesses through this blog; other peoples' life stories and family histories written in books or private manuscripts; stories I tell in my poems and short stories I want to sell from my website.
I've already written two books about Denver businessmen whose stories are compelling tales of overcoming adversity. Starting my business on a shoestring is slowly becoming my own story of adversity.
At the second session, I heard suggestions for connecting with other organizations that might help me, but the best idea I came away with from there was a realization that I need to get a lot more help in the technical area of business formation. I already knew the South Metro Chamber's Small Business Development Center is the best place for me to go for that, so I've resolved to take advantage of more of its services for startups.
So the cafes are interesting and valuable if for nothing more than to keep your dream alive. The nicest idea I took from the cafes was that starting a business is a journey where it's possible to meet helpful fellow travelers. The work remains yours to do. But the best time to start is now.