How to Start Your Own Business (S5E16)

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Striking out on your own to start a business can be intimidating. It feels like it’s all up to you to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and you feel the pressure to succeed.

Nicole SwartzBut guess what? It’s not all on your shoulders alone, because you can draw on the collective wisdom of those who have done it before. Like Nicole Swartz, attorney and founder of The Sprout Society, where she helps women start and grow successful businesses. She is also featured as an expert in publications like the Washington Post (you could say she’s a pretty solid person to learn from).

In today’s episode, Nicole shares her advice on how to start your own business. Listen below!

This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.

Laurence Bradford 0:08
Hey, thanks for tuning in to the Learn to Code With Me podcast. In this episode, you'll find out how to come up with a good idea for a business the most important elements of a business plan, the different company structures you can choose from, and much, much more. That's all coming up after a quick word from a sponsor and how you can support the show.

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Laurence Bradford 1:09
Hey listeners. In today's episode, I talk with Nicole Swartz. Nicole is an attorney and the founder of The Sprout Society where she helps women start and grow successful businesses. And that's exactly what we're going to be talking about today. How you can start your own business? Our conversation looks at some of the behind the scenes operations that go into starting a business. It's practical, inspiring, and useful. If you're curious about working for yourself, this episode is for you. And before I run today's interview, I want to let you know about something special that's coming up with our 101st episode. To celebrate the podcast reaching 100 episodes and Season 5. I'll be releasing a bonus episode where my good friend and former co-worker Jessica Torque is going to be interviewing me. That's right. The tables are turning and I'm going to be the one being interviewed. To make the show even more special, I'm letting listeners submit their questions for just to ask me. So if there's anything you want to know about learning to code, the tech industry, or me in my life, this is your chance to ask. All you have to do to be able to submit a question that will be answered in this special interview is become a patreon over on the show's Patreon page. When you sign up at the first tier, which is just 3.99, you'll be able to ask a question to be answered. And you'll get a bunch of other goodies just for supporting the show. Here's the thing though, the deadline to become a patron and be able to ask your question is Thursday, February 14, 2019, at midnight, Eastern time. So if you're listening to the show when it comes out, you only have two days to sign up on Patreon and submit a question. To sign up as a patron for the show. Head on over to Again the URL is Thanks so much for supporting the show, and I really look forward to hearing your questions and answering them in the special 101st interview. Now, let's get on with today's show with Nicole.

Laurence Bradford 3:18
Hey, Nicole, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Nicole Swartz 3:21
Hey, thanks so much for having me.

Laurence Bradford 3:22
I'm really excited to talk about some of these business related topics we've never talked about. I mean, we've talked about business on the show before in different ways, but not with an attorney. So that's going to be really exciting. I also want to give the listeners some contacts. I've actually been following Nicole and her like, company brand, whatever, you might call it on Instagram for quite some time. I've shared things of yours before. So I'm really excited to get to chat with you. Like, not in real life. But you know, through through phone, not just following you.

Nicole Swartz 3:55
Yeah, basically real life. This is real life now, right? Yeah, everything's online. Yeah.

Laurence Bradford 4:00
Exactly. To get things going, though, could you share a bit about what you do?

Nicole Swartz 4:04
Absolutely. So I'm an attorney and a business consultant for women. And I'm also the founder of the sprout society. So we help women start and grow their business, from business plans to the fun stuff, like branding and marketing and sales to the not so fun stuff like operations and legal and finances and all that stuff. So I'm based in Los Angeles. And I started my career working at the securities exchange commission. So we regulated securities of publicly traded companies, and we generally just make CEOs like Elon Musk angry. And then I started practicing law at a firm downtown. And we worked with a lot of startups who are securing funding at the time. And a lot of my girlfriends were starting companies too. So it was really exciting. And they would come to me for legal advice. And I was like, Oh, just come to my firm like, you can be a client. I'll help you that way. And from was like, No, we don't really want these women to be our clients, because they didn't really take them serious. Or they didn't look like a founder, or they didn't understand their business, like an eight year old partner at a law firm doesn't really understand the importance of a makeup line. It's like inclusive of all skin tone. There's, there's just like not gonna get it. They're like, there's one kind of makeup. Why do you need more? So I decided to leave and start my own law firm. And I started sprout law.

Nicole Swartz 5:19
So we are a law firm for women entrepreneurs. And I started that last year. And it was amazing. We grew really fast. And after the first year, I sent out a client survey and I was like, what else can we help you with? Like our entire mission is to help women entrepreneurs, so how else can we help you? And the results are pretty consistent. People were like, We want to know who did your branding, who does your website? Who does your social media? Like how do you get sales? How do you run your business, how you handle finances, like they just basically want to know how I ran my business. And I was like, Okay, yeah, I can definitely help you with that. So we recently expanded to the business side as well. So now we have the goal and we also have consulting and downloads, courses, workshops, and all different areas to help women start and grow their business.

Laurence Bradford 6:02
That's really awesome. Yeah, so exciting to have you on. And it is really interesting how people wanted beyond legal advice other kind of like logistics and business help in other ways. And of course, you're like an expert on this area. So excited to dive into all these things. I was what I'm kind of like backtracking going to the very beginning like in someone's journey, like if someone wants to start a business, they, they just aren't sure what to build. What advice could you give about choosing a business idea?

Nicole Swartz 6:35
Okay, so I really think that like any idea can be successful. I mean, someone became a millionaire selling pet rocks. So I for me, like the idea isn't as important as execution. But having a good idea certainly helps. So I see this really beautiful thing happen. My my sort of theory is that when you combine your three main interests into a company that never existed before because no one thought To combine these three very specific things, I think that's when the magic happens. So in my business, like my interests were law and business and working with women. And so that's what I created with my company. And it doesn't really exist anywhere else. Like you can see combinations of two things, certainly, but I've never seen anyone who does all three very specific things.

Nicole Swartz 7:19
So that helps a lot from branding and marketing. But it also helps personal satisfaction wise, like I'm working on this idea every day for 10 years. So I want it to be something that I'm really passionate about and excited to do. And one of my favorite clients, like their interests are traveling and connecting people and like luxurious vacations. And so they put together company, a travel company that connects women, specifically mothers and daughters on these luxurious vacation. And that didn't exist before because no one had that exact same combination of interest. So I think taking a look at where your interest in experience is just naturally, and then picking maybe three or four areas and combining those into something that doesn't exist.

Laurence Bradford 8:00
Yeah, that's really good advice. I like that. But I also hear from folks all the time. And so so you know, we're a podcast about learning how to code how to transition into tech. And people will write in asking about, like, just building side projects or side hustles, whether that's to make extra money, or whether it's to use that to land like a job offer. So they can like add experience to their portfolio. And oftentimes, people are like, I have no idea what to build. I have no idea what to work on. And, you know, maybe I'll give kind of advice like, oh, follow your interest were you interested in and they're like, I'm not sure what I'm interested in. So what do you what do you say to someone who kind of isn't really sure, maybe they have so many interests, they have like 20 interest, they're not sure what to hone in on.

Nicole Swartz 8:42
I think maybe going to your experience, too. So it's like, what things have you done in the past that you're just naturally good at? Um, because yeah, we all have so many interests. I could probably name like, 100 of them right now. But, but going back to maybe what your jobs have been in the past, I think to um, to Something that you just naturally feel like you have a talent to. And another thing that I've, that I've seen people do successfully is thinking about all of your past jobs and kind of finding the patterns within those. So maybe they're not all in the same industry. But maybe you had a similar role or similar things that you did every day. That, that you can find a pattern there. And that can sort of help you figure out where your natural talents lie.

Laurence Bradford 9:23
Oh, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. like looking at your interests, looking at your talents, looking at like the combination of the things, those things, the things that you're good at that you're also interested in, and kind of like deciding from there. I'm going to move ahead a little bit now. So past the idea phase, and I noticed a lot of what you talk about, like on Instagram and on your site and in other areas has to do with like the like the business planning, I guess you could say the business planning and the logistics and the operations and goal setting and all that. So looking at business plan specifically what important elements make up a business plan?

Nicole Swartz 9:57
So yeah, I think the business plan is brilliant. I talk about it all the time because I operated, I started my business without one. And I really saw how much of a mess it became because I was just having a really hard time making decisions in my business. Like, I was saying yes to things I shouldn't have been saying. I've said yes to everything. And then it was also like, it didn't make sense. But I was actively going after opportunities that made no sense for my business. And so after I was sort of sat down, I was like, why am I spending my time my money on these things that like, didn't work out? And it was like, Oh, yeah, because you're not you don't have a plan, you're just sort of winging it. So um, so that's why that's how I sort of came up with the the groundbreaking concept that a business plan is a good idea. Um, but for me, the three key parts are the the company, the marketing and the finances. So the first one is the company and that's just the big idea that you're building. So are you going with this in a year in five years and 10 years, and I think this is the most important part because when you're making so many decisions a day like as an entrepreneur, we just have so many decisions so it's like a choose your own adventure that you can go 1000 different directions.

Nicole Swartz 11:01
And for me, I have my business plan sitting on my desk. And every decision that I make I look at it just quickly. I mean, now I can do it, you know, in a second, I just think about it. But in the beginning, I was really looking at it every time and thinking, is this decision actually getting me closer to this company goal? And if it's Yes, then I can do it. And if it's not, then I feel more comfortable saying notice something. So I think the company is, is a big part of it. And so and then sort of fleshing out, you know, what is the company? What does it look like? What are our values, our mission? Where are we located, you know, just the basics about what your company is actually going to be. And then the second piece is the marketing and this is more about like your dream clients. So a big mistake that people make with their business plan with their marketing is thinking that your dream client is everybody and that's just not true at all. So you have a very specific customer profile of people that you are speaking to with your company that you're that you're helping, so figuring out who those people are, where you can find them and the best Way to talk to them like what what would you say to these people in a very specific and targeted way.

Nicole Swartz 12:06
And then the last piece is the finances. So I'm not gonna lie, these pieces are scary for a lot of people, for me included. And the first time that I wrote an actual number down, I was like, This is never gonna happen, like, I will never be able to make this much money on my own. And I felt really silly, just even writing it down on the finances page. And that number was actually pretty small. It was $40,000. So I made that pretty quickly. But it's just something in your mind, it just feels very uncomfortable to even write down a number, but you just have to do it anyways, because there's no other way that you're going to get there unless you know where you're going. So for me, the pieces are the company marketing and the finances.

Laurence Bradford 12:46
So a few follow up questions about that. Do you have this in a like physical doc or in a Google Doc?

Nicole Swartz 12:52
Yeah, so I have a physical doc. I actually took the one that I created and then I sort of honed for a year and I turned it into a Download. So we have a downloadable PDF where you can like fill it in. It has all the same things that I used. And it's on our website and actually took my, my husband through the process like a couple days ago cuz he's starting his own little side hustle. So we sort of worked through it together. But yeah, it's the same one that I use, and it's, it's on our website.

Laurence Bradford 13:17
Oh, nice. And another question, how often do you update your business plan?

Nicole Swartz 13:22
So I did it quite a lot. I think like, not the big pieces, those pieces generally stay the same. But I think so much of what we do in business is just having to adapt and like be flexible. So a lot of times, I'm just constantly learning new stuff about my business is about my clients and what they want. And so I feel like I probably update it every couple of months just tweaking it here and there.

Laurence Bradford 13:46
Oh, that doesn't sound that often. I thought you're about to say like couple times a week, a couple times a month, or every few months. Okay, that definitely makes sense. And then lastly, how long is it because you mentioned right these three different pillars like pretty high level, like how detailed do you get for each one?

Nicole Swartz 14:04
So I kind of keep it somewhere in between, I think the business plan itself is maybe 10 pages, maybe, maybe less. Um, but it's not. It's not like 10 dense pages, it's 10 like pretty minimal pages that are not overwhelming. The whole point of it is that I want you to like flesh out your ideas, and really work through this company in your mind and challenge yourself, but not feel like you're spending all of your time on this stupid business plan. You just want to start your business already. So somewhere in the middle.

Laurence Bradford 14:35
Perfect. I feel like and myself included, I can get really caught up in the details sometimes and then it'll prevent me from executing or I feel like I'm not executing fast enough and it's really hard to like find that balance and that that goes beyond a business plan. That could be like any kind of project you're starting like the the research and the planning and you know, the outlet, whatever else goes into it versus Like the execution,

Nicole Swartz 15:01
Absolutely, I do this all the time. Like I just want to sit and play with my to do list and like move things around instead of actually just like getting stuff done on my to do list. So I think with the business plan, I think there's definitely a period of time where you need to sit down and really think about it. And but once you've sat down, you've worked through it in a really considered way. Like you've researched it, you've looked at it with a critical eye and sort of pointed out your weaknesses or challenges, things that you have to learn in order to to make this business successful. And challenge yourself on these pieces. Once you've done that, then you're ready to get started.

Laurence Bradford 15:36
I haven't I have a lot follow up questions on this, I guess. But I was I was also wondering, do you have like a set schedule that you review it like a calendar reminder or something every couple months to go back and make those updates?

Nicole Swartz 15:49
I don't but I should it's just something that because I have it literally sitting on my desk, so I just naturally see it. And as I'm going through it, I'm like, Oh, you know, I don't know that this sentence is right anymore. Like I've learned a little bit more about my clients. I don't know that I'm like, so a great example would be, um, last year, I thought my clients were mostly on Instagram. And I was like, you know, I don't think that Pinterest is the right fit for my clients. I thought it was maybe an older demographic, and my clients are generally like, like 20s to 40s.

Nicole Swartz 16:17
But for some reason, I was thinking Pinterest was like 60 year olds. And now I'm like, that's not true at all. I didn't I didn't understand the Pinterest audience. So, you know, now I'm doing more stuff on Pinterest. Now I'm doing more stuff on YouTube. And whereas before, you know, I just didn't know enough about my people to know that they were actually there. So because it's on my desk, I think I just naturally see it. And as I'm sort of messing around with stuff in the office, I'll just cross cross some things off and edit it.

Laurence Bradford 16:43
Yeah, I feel like I wasn't even thinking about asking this question, but it feels like so natural and it's really important, I think for anyone who wants to start their own business and even if it's just a side hustle you keep mentioning your audience and your ideal audience and where your audience you know, is Instagram, Pinterest, you Tim, how are you figuring this out? Like, are you sending out surveys? Like, what are you doing to get this information?

Nicole Swartz 17:07
Yeah, so I think the big piece and I talked about a little bit earlier, but it's that your dream audiences and everybody, so even like apple, or like Starbucks, these companies that we think like everyone shops that not everyone goes to them, they have very specific customer profiles that they target. So they'll say like, you know, maybe one of their profiles is like a woman who's in her 20s. And she's like a single mom, and she's going to get coffee because she needs energy. And then like, maybe they have like a 40 year old executive, like they just have all these different demographic profiles. And so that's something that I think small businesses can and should use to make their marketing more effective as well.

Nicole Swartz 17:42
And so, what I've done in my business to find this information is I sent out a survey before I had started my business at all when I didn't even have an audience. I think I had like 200 Instagram followers, and I just sent out a survey. I made like a Google doc or a Google form. I just sent out a survey that was like, Where do you get your business information? Like? What kind of stuff do you want to learn about in business? What are you struggling with? I'm just sort of everything I wanted to know about them. And then they answered it. And that gave me some information. And then as my audience grew, and I felt like things had changed a little bit like I was just getting a bigger sample size and maybe more demographics. And I just wanted to know more about them. I sent out a survey again, a couple months ago, and so that's sort of how we expanded the business as well.

Laurence Bradford 18:30
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Laurence Bradford 20:49
Gotcha. So I'm going to switch gears now a bit and talk about some of these other things I really want to get into moving past business plans however, I feel like I could ask you 1000 more questions about it. So another thing that and I know like nothing about this, but the types of businesses that people can register. And I'm thinking, you know, LLC S Corp. I know, there's probably like several others. Could you talk just a bit about, like, what these different structures are? And does everyone need to set it up? Or is there like a certain point where you should start thinking about this for like tax reasons or whatever.

Nicole Swartz 21:28
Okay. So if you're, if this is what you're wondering, like, we're about to get into it, so let's do it. Okay, so there are a few different companies structures that you can choose from. So there's the first one is like a sole proprietorship if you're operating your business by yourself or a partnership if you're operating it with someone else. And that happens as soon as you start operating. So as soon as you're like, I want to have a business. You're a sole proprietor, so you get a company structure kind of by default. And with the structure. It's great because you don't have to do anything with it. Like you're No paperwork, there's no fees. But the downside is that you're personally liable for anything that happens in your business.

Nicole Swartz 22:05
So any debts or lawsuits that your company incurs, you'll be responsible for paying that out of your personal bank account, your house, your car, like anything that you own. So that's pretty risky. And it's really unnecessary because the second form an LLC is really, really simple, really cheap, and you get that limited liability. So it's a company structure where there's just typically one form that you have to fill out online, and then you're not personally liable for anything that happens in your business. So that's usually the most popular and the one that I recommend to most people. The third form is a corporation or what we call a C Corp. These are a little bit more expensive, and there's more regulation that goes into them. So you have to have like annual meetings and bylaws and sometimes you have to do certificates, that kind of stuff. And this is typically what you choose if you're looking for funding. That's not always the case anymore. But traditionally, this is what investors preferred because it's the only company where you can issue preferred stock, which is the equity that you give to investors. So that's definitely a benefit. But the downside here is that you're actually taxed twice on your profits.

Nicole Swartz 23:11
So the company is taxed on them at first. And then when you take money from the company to pay yourself, you're taxed on that money again. So that's not always ideal. And that's why there's something called an S Corp. So a common misconception here is that an S corp is actually its own structure. And it's not it's just a tax designation with the IRS. So if you're an LLC or C Corp, you can elect to be taxed as an S corp instead. And it's just a more favorable tax rate. But you do have some limitations on investors. So you can only have 100 investors. They all have to be US citizens. So, okay, that's a lot on company structure, but it's actually really simple. And we have a download on the website. It's called the Small Business checklist. So if you want to learn more about it, that's where you can find it, but just know that there's not really a right structure for everyone. It just kind of depends on where you're at in your company right now and where you're looking to go? And then,

Laurence Bradford 24:05
Yeah. Yeah, I was gonna say we're also, um, add all these links in the show notes, but go on with it, you're gonna say,

Nicole Swartz 24:11
Yeah, I was gonna say to answer your second question, um, registering your company, generally, it just means like completing the government paperwork. So I don't think that ever, everyone has to do that from day one. But there is a critical point where you need to register, because your business is growing. And I think that's just when you really start taking when your business really starts taking off, like when you start getting serious about it. And because you're signing contracts, you're hiring, you're bringing in a good amount of money. And you're if you're looking for funding, like I think these are all key points when you want to have that registration because you want to have that protection. Another key piece is if you're working with a co founder, then I think you need to be registered from day one. Because there's no limited liability in that partnership that we were talking about before. So You're going to be personally liable for anything that your partner does. So if they're just like making it rain out there, then that's on you too. So you definitely need that protection with a co-founder.

Laurence Bradford 25:09
Oh, yeah, that's a good tip. I never even really considered that honestly. I really that knowledgeable in a lot of this kind of different structures and tax and funding and data, but I I just learned a ton so thank you for Yeah, thank you for sharing all that. So and you did mention you know, if a person is just starting out I was just then maybe they're making some money from like YouTube monetization because your videos, I feel like you don't need to run out and like get an LLC, but once you or you know, S corp, or what have you, but feel like yeah, as you say, once you're taking off it, it makes sense.

Nicole Swartz 25:43
Yeah, I think like once if, if you're like an influencer, once you're signing endorsement deals and like, as soon as you sign that first contract, I would say that's the point. I mean, ideally, the point is, like, a few days before you signed the first contract, but like that's, that's the tipping point, I think.

Laurence Bradford 25:58
Gotcha. So You've now been in business. So how long have you actually had your business for now?

Nicole Swartz 26:04
So I think it's been a little bit over a year. I think it was a year in October.

Laurence Bradford 26:08
Oh, awesome. Well, congratulations. And I was going to ask, what do you know now that you didn't know when you first started it that you wish you did?

Nicole Swartz 26:17
Okay. I feel like I have three things. Is that okay?

Laurence Bradford 26:21
Oh, yeah, totally.

Nicole Swartz 26:22
Okay, perfect. Okay, so the first one is that things are gonna change, like, all the time, like, we already talked about this when I was talking about my business plan, but, and how often I adapt it, but, but, um, I think that's okay, like that's supposed to happen, because you just need to change and stay relevant in business and starting out with a good plan and then being flexible enough to adapt, because sometimes I will sort of be hard on myself, like, you know, you need to stick to one thing, like you shouldn't be changing it and I just, I just don't think that that's sustainable to just never change. So, I mean, that and that's one of the reasons why my law firm I think has been successful is because I am and adapting the legal market. And there's not that many lawyers who do things or talk like me or dress like me or look like me. So I think that, that innovation and changing things and adapting is a really great thing. The second one is that mistakes are totally fine.

Nicole Swartz 27:17
And I, in the beginning got really scared of making mistakes that I just not really want to do anything like it took me a long time to even start my business because I was just too worried about messing it up. And so I think that just putting yourself out there and being uncomfortable and be constantly learning is such a big part of it, that that I just wasn't expecting, I thought like, Oh, it's gonna be great. And I had no idea how many pieces of it would just be challenging to me personally, and how many times I would mess something up that was like, really, really simple. So I think just as long as you're learning from your mistakes, and making them it's just a part of business for sure. Because honestly, no one really has it locked down. And I think the last piece The biggest one, this is the number one thing that I wish I would have learned is that don't take everyone's advice.

Nicole Swartz 28:07
Because when you start a business, everyone that, you know comes out of the woodwork and they have advice for you. And they probably tell you to go on Shark Tank, no matter what your business is, um, but the biggest mistake that I made was listening to all of these people who meant really well. But they just had no business experience, and they just had no idea what they were doing. So I started to think about it, like, if I'm doing what they're doing, I'm going to get the same results that they're getting. And so if they haven't been successful in business or in life sometimes then, you know, if I'm taking their advice, I'm going to end up in the same place. So I think being more cautious about whose advice you take really does make a difference. And I know I would have saved myself a lot of time and money and mistakes, and I found someone whose business I really wanted to emulate and listen to their advice above everyone else.

Laurence Bradford 28:57
Oh, yeah, that's a really good tip. And you answered a question. I was thinking my head was right when he said that I was like, Oh, I have to ask her what the criteria is for taking someone's advice. And you already answered it. So thank you. And I kind of want to circle back a little bit. Because in the intro, you're mentioning how you were working full time at a law firm at a law firm before going off and starting your own. I was curious, did you start your own business while you're still working full time? Or was there like, Okay, I'm quitting my job, and then I'm starting the business.

Nicole Swartz 29:31
So I actually started as a side hustle. So in that first job that I had, I wasn't able to practice law somewhere else because I was an attorney there. And so I quit that job and I got a different law job where I was a contract attorney. So I was just like reviewing contracts basically and document and that job didn't have a problem with me having my side hustle. So I did that for About, let's see, I think I, I think I got that job maybe six months before I started my firm because I had a period where I was just sort of planning for a while and it wasn't really executing anything I just took, I had a really long like planning period. So I think I had the job for about six months before and then about three months into my firm, I was like, Oh, this is actually taking off and I had like, sort of supplemented that income. And for me the point when I realized I needed to quit my actual job was paying the bills was when my income that I was making from my new side hustle from my own firm was almost to that level. So it was like I was bringing in almost the same amount. I was like, that's, that's it for me.

Laurence Bradford 30:44
Yeah, it's, uh, yeah, it's always it's always interesting like go navigating the, like starting because as someone who was, you know, doing learn to code me and working full time it's like really, really hard to give all of your Attention, or I mean, it's impossible to give all of your attention to two things at once, right? Like, you can't really focus 100% of your business while you're working somewhere else or doing something else. But then it's also like, you don't want to jump into it without some kind of income or revenue stream, some or some kind of savings, at least, to hold you over. So it's, yeah, I just love hearing from people who like start their own businesses, like how they kind of approached it and transitioned.

Nicole Swartz 31:24
Yeah, I think too. Um, I mean, for me, like the tipping point, I feel like in my business was when I went full time with it, because I was able to devote, as you were saying, devote like, all of my time to it, whereas before it was like, I was doing it at night or like, you know, once I had already put in all these hours that my other job so it was like, I was coming into a tired I just didn't feel like I had enough time to devote to it. So then once I actually did is really when it took off.

Laurence Bradford 31:50
Yeah, it's it's really hard to do two things at the same time. Yeah. So final question. Do you have any parting advice to listeners who want to start their own business?

Nicole Swartz 32:01
So I really couldn't really come back to what we're just talking about, which is, I would say, just start it. I think that I've been thinking a lot that it's starting a business is kind of a lot like having a baby in the sense that like, you never really feel ready. I think like, you could sit here and plan for years and you still would, wouldn't feel ready to do it. But I think just go for it. And you will definitely figure it out along the way.

Laurence Bradford 32:23
Yeah, I I love that. I think that could go with a lot of things just bit or any kind of big risk. It's like, you're never going to be 100% ready? You're never going to feel that way. You kind of have to. Yeah, like, like, take the leap, not knowing exactly where you're going to land, but just having faith that you're gonna like land in a better place than where you currently are.

Nicole Swartz 32:43
Yeah. And you just sometimes you just have to like make it up.

Laurence Bradford 32:46
Yeah, yeah, definitely. Well, thank you so much, Nicole, for coming on. I love chatting with you. And as I said, we're definitely going to include links to the resources that you mentioned in the show notes and listeners, you guys can check that out on the website. You know when it goes live, and where can people find you online, Nicole?

Nicole Swartz 33:03
So you can find me at sproutsociety.calm, as you were saying we have business plans, legal checklists, a whole bunch of downloads and courses to help with every aspect of your business.

Laurence Bradford 33:13
Perfect. Thanks again for coming on.

Nicole Swartz 33:15
Thank you guys so much. I had so much fun.

Laurence Bradford 33:23
If you enjoy learning about the tech industry through this podcast and you're wondering how to enter it yourself, you should consider doing some freelancing. If that sounds scary, don't worry. I put together a Freelance Starter Guide for newcomers to the tech field. It will help you work out if freelancing is right for you. How to get your first client, how much to charge and loads more. Oh, and it's 100% free. Request your copy at and thanks for listening to the Learn to Code With Me podcast today. Take care.

Key Takeaways

1. The idea for a business isn’t as important as the execution

Chances are good that if you like your idea, there are other people out there who also will. That means it’s all down to how you go about selling it.


“I really think that any idea can be successful,” Nicole says. “I mean, someone became a millionaire selling pet rocks. So for me, the idea isn’t as important as execution.”

2. Combine your three main interests into a company that never existed before

“My sort-of theory is that when you combine your three main interests into a company that never existed before—because no one thought to combine these three very specific things—I think that’s when the magic happens,” Nicole explains.

With this strategy, you not only create an interesting new business idea; you also get to work with your passions.

What might this look like in practice? “In my business, my interests were law and business and working with women. And that’s what I created with my company,” Nicole says. “One of my favorite clients, their interests are traveling and connecting people and luxurious vacations. And so they put together a travel company that connects women, specifically mothers and daughters, on these luxurious vacations. And that didn’t exist before, because no one had that exact same combination of interest.”

Sign up - simple 4-part framework for landing side gigs

3. The three key parts of a business plan are the company, the marketing, and the finances

When you’re building a business plan, start by answering these three key questions:

a. What is your company and where do you see it in 1, 5 or 10 years?

b. Who are you marketing towards? “A big mistake that people make with their business plan with their marketing is thinking that your dream client is everybody. And that’s just not true at all.”

c. How much money is my target? “It feels very uncomfortable to even write down a number. But you just have to do it anyways. My first number was actually pretty small. But you’re not going to get there unless you know where you’re going.”

business plan

4. Know your legal registration options

Educate yourself on what company structures you can choose from for your business and what they mean, including:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • LLC (Limited Liability Company)
  • C Corporation
  • S Corporation

When it comes to registering your company: “Generally, it just means completing the government paperwork. Not everyone has to do that from day one. But there is a critical point where you need to register because your business is growing.”

5. Have a plan but be flexible

It’s good to have a plan but leave in some wiggle room for adjustments and pivots. “I just don’t think that that’s sustainable to just never change,” Nicole says. “One of the reasons why my law firm I think has been successful is because I’m adapting to the legal market.”


However, don’t go to the other extreme and be so flexible that you make any change someone suggests. “When you start your own business, everyone that you know comes out of the woodwork and they have advice for you. The biggest mistake that I made was listening to all of these people who meant really well, but they just had no business experience. Being more cautious about whose advice you take really does make a difference. I know I would have saved myself a lot of time and money and mistakes that I found someone whose business I really wanted to emulate, and listen to their advice above everyone else.”

In the end, remember that when you’re figuring out how to start your own business, you probably won’t do it perfectly right off the bat. Take the chance anyway. “In the beginning, I was really scared of making mistakes. It took me a long time to even start my business because I was just too worried about messing it up. Putting yourself out there and being uncomfortable and constantly learning is such a big part of it.”

Links and mentions from the episode:

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