You dream of the day you can quit your day job and start your dream business. But you realize that in the real world, mortgages and car payments have to be paid. So, instead of forgoing that day-job paycheck just yet, you start your business part time.
"The biggest benefit of starting a business part time is that it lowers the risk threshold," says Melvin Gravely II, founder of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Thinking in Cincinnati. "It makes business ownership viable to most people." The benefits are many-you can start with the cushion of your full-time job and test the waters to see whether there's actually a market for your product or service.
Still, starting part time is not easy. "It's not a hobby," Gravely says. "If it is a hobby, call it a hobby [and don't try to make money at it]. But if it's a business, call it a business." That means you'll have to work during most of your free time, grow your business more slowly than if you were running it full time and do whatever it takes to get your start-up off the ground, from sending e-mails out to customers at 2 a.m. to making deliveries with your car.
Randy Cohen definitely got used to his car in the early days of Ticketcity.com, his online ticket brokerage. In 1987, this former computer sales associate started by delivering tickets on street corners. "I would work out of the car while going to sales calls [for my day job]," he recalls. "People would call me on my mobile phone, and I'd meet them. I did that part time until it got so busy, it was taking away from my normal job."
Cohen, 37, recalls how difficult it was to present a professional appearance when he was meeting people at fast-food restaurants and on street corners. Still, he found that it was not only the successes, but also the mistakes, that helped grow his company. A few years into running Ticketcity.com, Cohen decided to open satellite offices off-site. He quickly closed them because he didn't have the right controls in place, and his online business was generating more profit.
In 1990, the Austin, Texas, entrepreneur was finally able to quit his computer sales job and take Ticketcity.com full time. With more than $10 million in sales today, the business is still going strong.