By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
So you want to be an entrepreneur, but have no idea what business to get into. I can name over 50 businesses being killed or hurt by the internet. Are there any businesses that give you a decent chance at success?
Even though the business you choose might not be making lots of profit, it can produce personal benefits. Case in point: my newspaper business — it’s a tough business that’s struggling for survival.
Yet, I have no regrets. In addition to raising my family and many others, it gives me profound satisfaction and happiness every week when the product is finished, be it online or in the readers’ hands. Several people have shared that they are much happier after becoming entrepreneurs, when they can control their own time and schedule. That’s the benefit of being your own boss. You don’t need permission to refuse a task or change direction. Nor do you need to justify why you start work at noon, take days off, or do something you want to do at the spur of the moment. The gift is the freedom to do something simply because you enjoy doing it, without restriction. You are the one to set guidelines, pace, and order. Freedom rewards you with a flexible lifestyle. In my journey, the Northwest Asian Weekly has inspired hundreds, even thousands, of dreams all these years through our stories. That’s the silver lining. I don’t think I could have achieved that if I had worked for someone else.
I also receive lots of credit and recognition, which should go to my staff, simply because I head the organization. (Yes, I get the blame too for things I didn’t do because I am responsible for all the people in our operation. And I have to apologize for other people’s errors, not mine.) But then again, it comes with the territory. And it’s a good one to have.
So what business ventures should you embark on?
- Technology. Not everyone can start a big technology company like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs. What about something like an app, said Nate Miles, vice president of government relations for Lilly.
Emma Yang, now 14, started an app called Timeless, because her grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s, couldn’t recognize friends and relatives, or put a name to a face. Yang’s app helps her to recognize someone’s photo on the phone with a name. The app will be available this summer. Yang said she learned to code when she was 6 years old. If you are interested in inventing apps, begin with coding. You might make a fortune. Another example is my friend’s son in Vancouver, B.C. He started a company by using a remote control panel to direct machines to operate by themselves. His company is expanding fast into other places, including Washington state.
- Real estate can spin off into multiple businesses. Given the hot market in the Greater Seattle area, you can make lots of money. Consider development or owning a brokerage company.
Consider contracting, remodeling, and construction, or starting a property management company. If you have design skills, start an interior design company, landscaping company, or an architectural firm. If you are an engineer, build an engineering firm. Development also gives rise to cleaning and maintenance businesses, as there will be a demand for these types of services resulting from the real estate boom. I have watched some clients who have prospered over the years through real estate. Many buy fixer-uppers, tear down or remodel old houses, and make a fortune after reselling it. Many have gained from buying houses and turning them into rental properties. Those who buy land, and develop them into strip malls, have reaped profits. In both commercial and residential real estate, there is a good amount of money involved. You don’t need a college degree to invest in real estate. In fact, many successful immigrant developers don’t have a college degree. What they have is business smarts. They see opportunities in an empty lot or a tumbling-down shack. I learned first-hand about real estate from my in-laws. They taught us that it is not enough to own your business, you must own the property, too. What if your landlord raises rent or kicks you out? Many successful Asian American developers like Shiao-Yen Woo, Jimmy Tang, Thach Nguyen, and James Wong have proven you can win over time in real estate. The longer you are in the business, the more successful you become. I’d rather be safe, than invest in something like bitcoin. Let the property sit and it will increase in value. Don’t just go for a quick buck. Many start by being an agent to serve others in property transactions, and also look for good properties to invest in themselves.
- Restaurants. With the increasing population in our state, there are always people who want to go out to eat. When your apartment is small (the new trend), renters are more inclined to eat out. Your living quarters are not appealing enough to entertain or meet friends anymore.
Naturally, restaurants have intense competition. But if your product is good, you will still attract customers. What kind of restaurants though? I pick fusion of the East and West. It gives you more opportunities to create new menus. Novelty will excite diners. Sometimes, Asian food that is too authentic might turn customers off. However, it’s challenging to start a restaurant these days due to the high capital and cost of labor. That $15 minimum wage law in Seattle will probably drive potential investors to cities like Bellevue, Redmond, and Renton. Still, there is a market for nice restaurants with good food in Seattle. Chic Asian restaurants are now all over the Greater Seattle area and many are doing well.
- Schools of all kinds. During my recent Hong Kong trip, I saw a cooking school for kids in a shopping mall. What an inspiration! The age group ranges from 8 to 12 years old. While some were chopping vegetables, others were measuring and mixing ingredients. They seemed like they were having fun.
Traditionally, youth attend art, martial arts, music and dance, and academic tutorial lessons. Food is an important part of our lives, and cooking schools are relevant for children. If they can learn about nutrition and prepare their own food while they are young, they would be less likely to be obese. It also educates them about health and disease-preventive approaches through food therapy. If cooking is not your thing, then think of other ideas and skills to train youth. The sky’s the limit.
- Food manufacturing.Have you considered making honey, yogurt, sauces, and bread on a large scale? Baking can be a profitable business. At French bakeries, I often see lines of people.
There is also a demand for organic food. Do you like farming? Making herbal and vegetable pills are also gaining traction. I have seen many organic grocery stores carrying them. Catering meals to working families is filling a market need. The other day, I read about the declining bee population in the United States. That’s bad news for our ecology and environment. If you like to raise bees to harvest honey, you need to have acres and acres of land. The honey business sounds interesting. Even though I have listed five categories of businesses you should consider, there are many subcategories you can develop.
- Coaching. There’s a difference between mentoring and coaching. Mentoring is mostly volunteering. But life coaches get paid. Life coaching is a popular profession today, especially for people who are looking for second careers, who have rich life experiences or skills.
My friend earned her certification as a life coach. You may get influential clients who are looking for an objective person to be their sounding board. Go on the internet and you will find instructions to get certified. These are just some ideas for businesses in today’s world. Talk to friends to brainstorm more and do some soul-searching. One day, you will discover what dreams to pursue.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.