Practical Advice for Prospective Entrepreneurs from “The Small Biz Lady,” Melinda Emerson



Melinda Emerson is on a mission. She is out to help as many entrepreneurs succeed in business as she possibly can. As the author of “Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months” and the force behind, Emerson is currently touring the country outlining her eponymous technique, “The Emerson Planning System,” to small business owners and those aspiring to be ones.

Known as “The Small Biz Lady,” Emerson is one of America’s most influential small business experts. She has been a thriving entrepreneur for nearly 15 years and is also an internationally-known keynote speaker. Her small business advice is widely read, reaching more than three million entrepreneurs each week online. A pioneer in social media marketing, she is the creator and host of #Smallbizchat, the longest running live chat on Twitter for small business owners.

In addition to being a regular blogger for the New York Times, she is frequently quoted by other media organizations including The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, MSNBC and Fox News. Forbes named her the top woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter.

She has recently partnered with Sam’s Club to become its spokesperson to promote the various benefits the bulk buying store offers to small business owners, including lower prices on services such as health insurance, legal advice, and credit card processing.

Emerson said she wrote “Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months” because it is the book she wished she could have read before starting her business, Quintessence Group; an award-winning marketing consulting firm based in Philadelphia, Penn. “It’s a way I can pass on the lessons that I learned along the way,” she said. Her company works with Fortune 500 companies on how to build marketing campaigns and social media strategy to engage small business customers.

Emerson marked out a month-by-month plan targeting the eventual goal of opening a new business that includes key actions to get in place before you make the leap:

  • Develop a life plan so you are clear about what you want out of life.
  • Get a grip on your finances, pay off debt, then determine how much money you’ll need to be happy.
  • Evaluate your current set of skills versus what you’ll need to know to run your new business.
  • Determine who your customer is and what economic niche they occupy.
  • Develop a website—it will become your number one sales tool.
  • Learn about “crowd-funding,” the online money-raising technique.

“You must develop a website. If you’re not online, you don’t exist,” Emerson emphasized. “Then use social media, such as Twitter and blogs, to drive traffic to your website; where you need a way to capture e-mail addresses. You need to regularly re-create content to reemphasize your brand and your message.”

According to Emerson, the reasons that businesses fail include:

  • Not allowing enough time for the business to develop.
  • Not exploiting every networking opportunity and failure to build contacts through a blog and social media
  • Ignoring current customers
  • Ignoring your home life
  • Failure to write a business plan.

“There’s a lot of free software available online to help you write a business plan,” Emerson says, recommending; which was founded by Cynthia K. McCahon. “Your business plan is a living, breathing document that regularly needs adjustment and updating as your business grows.”

Her favorite message to small business owners, “You never lose in business! Either you win or you learn.”

Cynthia Bell of the ABWA’s national team provided reporting for this article. Writer Leigh Elmore operates Elmore Editorial from Kansas City, Mo.