(and all of this assumes you want to own a real business which makes actual money.)
- A decent website. (not to be confused with a facebook page. They are not the same thing.) In this day and age you have no excuse to not have an online presence, even if the website is a single page with a montage of gorgeous photos of your product and details on how to get in touch with you. Your customers might all be online, but they’re not all on facebook.
- Insurance. For your business and it’s premises, yourself, your clients. You do not want to be caught without it. Spend real money on it, get things well covered, then hope like hell you never need to use it.
- Financial advice and/or support. I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again: numbers do not lie (the jerks. If they would it *might* make me feel better some months.) You must have the numbers right if you are going to survive in the long term and there are people who are better and smarter at this than you are. Hire them or engage their services.
- Legal advice and/or support. Like insurance, you never want to have to use these guys, but you never want to be caught without them, either. Free legal advice is not free if it’s crap.
- Education. I don’t just mean courses in how to make amazingly awesome cakes. I mean business courses, webinars, e-books, business coaches, whatever. You cannot afford to stop learning how to operate in the business arena and this is true for you most importantly in your role as business owner.
- Staff. Pay bananas, you get monkeys. If you are successful enough to need people to help you, invest time and money in them as best you can. Loyal, capable staff can make a good business into a great one. The same is true if YOU are the only employee you’ve got (see #5 above.)
- Equipment. Just don’t be stupid about it.
- Advertising – and not just via social media.You might make the BEST *insert product here* but if nobody knows your product exists, you’re wasting your time. Word of mouth is wonderful but there are very few businesses who can rely entirely on that one method of generating business. Think long and hard about this one (and where to spend the money) but if your final cake design is bigger than just a few cakes a week, you’ve got to advertise somewhere eventually.
- Irritating but necessary fees – registering your kitchen with local council, registering your business name in your state or elsewhere, securing your domain name, registering for taxes, the relevant licences needed to serve food and so on. Don’t get cheap when it comes to the “boring but important” stuff which makes you able to operate legally.
- Business cards – this one is simple and old school but wonderfully effective and is part of your advertising as a whole. Those cards are for the people who you meet when you’re out and about, clients who want to refer you to a friend, local school notice boards…business cards are a really, really useful (and fairly inexpensive) way of getting your business known beyond it’s four walls. Invest in getting some decent quality ones, and in having them professionally designed (no, Vista Print’s free templates will not cut it.) This might count under the banner of advertising, but I’ve kept it separate because it applies to every size of business, from micro to massive.
There are plenty of places in business where you can afford to scrimp a few pennies, use less expensive options until you can afford better, utilise free resources and (especially in the beginning) make use of standard available items. The above do NOT fall into that category – use the money wisely in those places, but USE THE MONEY. You can start a business virtually for free, but if it’s to have any future at all you’re going to need to spend some money on it.
The gist is this: you will have to spend money (whatever little you’ve got) at some point – the above is to help you work out where to invest it best.