Starting a business without a spouse

When people discuss spouses and small businesses, it seems they're always talking about starting a business with the help of your spouse. What I don't often hear talk of is starting a business without a spouse. And I don't mean being married and excluding your spouse from the process. I mean not having a spouse at all.

Why on earth would that be something that we need to talk about? Well I'm happily single and don't intend to change that... ever. I love living alone. But when I decided to start my own business, not having a husband was an important consideration. And it was about the only time that I thought having a husband sounded like a good deal!

Like it or not, it's more common for professionals to be married than not. And when you've got a spouse with a steady income, it helps make the leap to entrepreneurship a whole lot easier. I didn't have the income of a spouse to fall back on, and I didn't have paid health insurance through a husband's job either.

It definitely made starting a business much riskier. Often, a married couple is able to come up with a budget that works with one income while one person is in start-up mode and can't plan on a paycheck. On my own, I'd have to make sure that I had money to pay the rent and put food on the table, even when I didn't think my business would be profitable for a while.

Of course, my ideal situation as a service provider was cultivating enough business to pay the bills from the start. I started with my office in my home to save money, and that was an excellent choice. But in case I didn't make a living wage for a while, I had a few plans in place to keep food on the table.

When I started my company, I picked up a temporary job through an agency that placed accountants. It worked out well because I had flexible hours and used downtime to prospect for new business. Within a few months, though, I found that it wasn't as flexible as I needed and that I'd have to devote myself full-time to business development if I wanted to grow my business.

I had access to some credit via credit cards and a small line of credit from a local bank. But those would only carry me so far, and there came a time about eight months into my business venture when I knew I was at a crossroads. Find a source of cash or close the business and start a hunt for a real job.

For me, closing the business wasn't an option. I had a taste of entrepreneurship, and even though business wasn't rolling in as fast as I'd hoped, I knew I could be successful. I decided that I'd do whatever it took to make it work. If that meant working at a bookstore or waiting tables on nights and weekends, I was going to do it.

But a better option came along. I got the opportunity to teach evening accounting courses at a local college. I immediately started teaching two nights a week, and soon I was teaching three or four nights a week and an occasional daytime class. This couldn't have worked out better. I had the best of both worlds: A steady (although modest) paycheck plus the flexibility to do business development during normal working hours. I taught a lot of classes for a few years and it not only paid my bills, it also helped enhance my resume.

What's the moral of the story? If you're single with little savings (like me when I started) you may have to go above and beyond to make it financially. But I am living proof that when you are willing to do whatever it takes, you can make it and live your entrepreneurial dream.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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