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Use Your Imagination

According to this entrepreneur, it's all you really need.

Who needs money? OK, stop yelling . . . I know we all do. And if I told you to forgo money-and think of ways to creatively start your business-you'd stop reading right here. How about if I told you how to creatively make money?

I knew that would get your attention. In our everlasting search to find new and better ways to build a start-up, we happened upon an entrepreneur who has employed the principles of creativity to start her business. Tana March, founder of self-improvement Web site TanasHabitat.com, has created a lifestyle around the philosophy that "creativity, not money, is the key to crafting your own reality." Curious about how this can be applied to all entrepreneurs, I talked with March and got her take on how to turn on your creative brain and cash in.

I admit, I was a bit skeptical about the concept-I was under the impression that to focus on creativity, an entrepreneur would have to take some focus off revenue. Not so, says March: "It's a business. We want to make money! You're just changing the idea that it takes money to make money to the idea that it takes creativity to make money."

Before you spout off your "But how?" questions, note that March built her Web site this very way. Her creative idea was to tell everyone she knew her vision for her lifestyle Web site and companion TV show (and they told everyone they knew, and so on). "If you believe that money is the only way to get what you want and you don't have any, you've already knocked yourself out of the game," she says. "There is always another way. The creativity comes in finding it. Have a clear vision of where you want to go, and ask for help."

Asking for help may not seem like the most novel idea-but it's sometimes the most overlooked. Considering that March got more than $700,000 worth of services contributed from star Web designers, attorneys, photographers and writers to build her Web site, the creativity truly paid off. "Because of their help and ideas, I not only have a growing following, but a concept that has morphed into something so much greater than what I could have come up with on my own," she says.

Still cramped by your too-practical mind? Get that creativity gene moving by fantasizing. Fantasize about where you want to be in your business, then work your way backward from that fantasy. "Ask yourself what you'd do if you could do anything in the world," says March. "Let your imagination go crazy, and get a really clear image of what it might feel like living out your fantasy. If you want to get creative, just forget the rules."

You can do what March did-send out publicity packages with fake fur in them. Write your name on the bathroom walls. Go into chat rooms and talk about your ideas. Sure, some people may think you're crazy. "But," she says, "there is always somebody else out there who wants to be a part of it. There's always somebody that wants to say yes and see you succeed."

If those notions are too newfangled for you, check out an old resource. According to Webster's, "creative" means "creating or able to create; having or showing imagination and artistic or intellectual inventiveness; stimulating the imagination and inventive powers." As an entrepreneur, you are doing that already. Free your mind from the old ways of thinking, and you'll realize that creativity breeds innovation.

Is it scary breaking out of the mold and doing things differently? Absolutely. But to be truly creative, you have to be brave. Get out there and do what entrepreneurs have been doing all along.

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