Carolyn Creswell

Carolyn Creswell is the founder and managing director of Carman's Fine Foods and mother of four. At the age of 18, with just $1,000 in savings Carolyn began hand-making her delicious muesli and selling to local delis. Today, Carman's is now stocked at Coles, Woolworths, Franklins, Qantas and Virgin airlines and is exported to over 26 countries.

Check out her top starter business tips below.

1. Give your idea the "person off the street test"

  • You have an idea. You think it's great and so does your family. But, the trick is to get into an objective mindset and ask yourself - "would any random person off the street think this is a good idea" Would he or she buy this product??
  • Let's say, for example, my Grandma makes a great Christmas cake and I believe it could be a great product to bring to market so that many people may enjoy it. But, if my Grandma hand-made each cake and sells it in a supermarket, we'd have to price each one at $25. Would others buy it at that price?
  • Further, no one has ever heard of my Grandma, so are they really going to buy the cake just by seeing it on store shelves? How can I make them aware of our cake? What makes us different from other cakes already available?
  • Don't let these questions overwhelm you, but do take them seriously as the help you create a solid business plan which is the foundation for being successful.

2. Play "This is Your Life"

  • Imagine your ideal lifestyle. How does work fit into it? Do you want a job that allows you to take weekends off? Or, would you like to work at Sunday markets?
  • Asking and honestly answering these questions will help you set boundaries, and give you a good sense of how much time you want to commit to work. Then, you need to match that up to your business idea and make sure you can dedicate the time needed to make that idea successful.
  • Again, be truthful with yourself. It will truly help guide the decision-making process.

3. Look the part

  • You may be peddling like a duck under water, but remain calm and collected on the surface. As they say, first impressions are lasting, so even in moments of stress look as professional as possible.
  • And, that goes beyond your personal appearance. You start building your brand the moment you put pen to paper, so think about creating a consistent look - from email signatures to how you talk about your company on its website.
  • Personally, I've found doing something as simple as selecting one color - e.g. black - can create a consistent look and feel and help you appear polished.

4. Write "make a list" on your to do list

  • While you need a long-term plan, help yourself stay in control with daily and weekly task lists. It will help you stay focused and on the path to achieving the ultimate goal a little bit at a time.
  • For example, don't get overwhelmed that you have to make 25 calls this week - think of it as 5 per day. Consistent, steady progress is the key.

5. Never leave the scene of a decision

  • As the owner of a business you are often faced with decisions - some more difficult than others. I have always believed in meeting a tough choice head on, and making a thoughtful yet swift decision. And, I stick with it and try not to worry once a course of action has been decided. Second guessing won't help you.
  • And, repeat after me - sometimes, perfect enough is good enough.

6. Go with your gut

  • At the end of the day, rely on your instincts. We mums are naturally great at this! We have them for a reason, and if a bad feeling sets in, then listen to it.
  • And, remember that figures or financial statements won't make you happy. You need to do what best suits you - even if it means saying no to something that might be financially rewarding but leaves you feeling uneasy.

To read more about Carolyn and Carman's Fine Foods visit their website