Find Your Inspiration
Create your own service department: You don't need a billion-dollar idea—like sneakers with wheels—to start a company. The Small Business Administration (SBA) reports that 55 percent of women business owners are in a service profession, like interior decorator, personal chef, or art buyer. These industries are appealing, says Linda Pinson, co-author of Steps to Small Business Start-Up, "because you don't need a lot of start-up cash and your customers pay right away."
Test-drive your idea: If you want to open a jewelry store, says Victoria Colligan, a founder of Ladies Who Launch, "make a necklace. It costs very little to do that." One choker may be fun, but tying 500 knots by hand at 3 a.m. would require a Zoloft prescription. "It's okay to hate your idea," says Beth Schoenfeldt, co-founder of Ladies Who Launch. "It means you've ruled something out."
Apprentice yourself: For dreams that can't be tried out on a small scale, you might investigate a VocationVacation, which matches you with someone who's happy to help you determine if you, too, are meant to be an alpaca farmer or coffeehouse owner (starting at $549). Volunteering is another option—and free. If you think you want to be an event planner, for instance, help organize your local March of Dimes Walk. (VolunteerMatch.org lists opportunities by zip code.)
Find a mentor: Log on to networking sites like LadiesWhoLaunch.com, MomInventors.com or MakeMineaMillion.org, where you'll find profiles of women entrepreneurs. If a story strikes a chord, send the owner an e-mail. "I've found that people are happy to tell you how they did whatever they did," says Nell Merlino, founder of Make Mine a Million $ Business.