For many people, starting a business is a long-held dream made into a necessity by the economic downturn. The number of new business start-ups has grown steadily throughout the decade, averaging more than 600,000 in each of the past nine years.

Unfortunately, many of those businesses fail. According to the Small Business Administration, business closings and failures are almost as high each year as start-ups. In 2008, the last year for which statistics are available, there were 627,200 business start-ups, 595,600 business closures, and 43,546 bankruptcies in the U.S.

Seven out of ten new employer firms survive at least two years, but only about half survive five.

#b#Donna DiDomenico#/b# and #b#Cheryl Patnick#/b#, who recently opened their own separate businesses, hope to reduce that failure rate when they present “DREAM: Five Steps to Start a Business” at SCORE Princceton on Tuesday, March 9, at 6:45 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library. The presentation is free.

Call 609-393-0505 or visit www.scoreprinceton.org.

Patnick is president of Capella Consultants in Pennington, a human resources and management consulting group “dedicated to harnessing the potential and maximizing the performance of employees,” according to the company’s website.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Richmond.

DiDomenico realized her long-held dream of opening her own business last January. Development Specialists, based in Hamilton, is a consulting firm that helps business with employee training and performance development.

She has spent more than 25 years designing custom training systems and employee development programs for corporations and is a trainer of trainers.

DiDomenico received her bachelor’s in marketing education and her master’s in business education from Rider University in the early 1980s. She now teaches courses in business there also.

While she was drawn to teaching, DiDomenico always knew that someday she would own her own business. “My parents were business owners and I wanted to be a CEO back when CEOs were still the good guys,” she says.

She and Patnick have developed their five-step process to help other business owners speed through some of the bumps they’ve experienced along the road. “There are so many people out there who want to start a business but just don’t know how,” she says. “There are many resources out there, but we didn’t find anything that covered the whole process from start to finish.”

Their “DREAM” acronym stands for “Develop, Refine, Execute, Assess and Make it Happen.” Patnick describes it as “a creative-step process that simplifies starting a business by developing an entrepreneur’s idea.”

#b#Develop.#/b# The first step in the process for every person who is thinking of opening a business is to take a look at their core idea and develop it. “Write it down, put it in a format that you can share, and then go network,” says DiDomenico. After writing down all of the ideas, she suggests the fledgling business owner make a list of everyone they know who may be able to help them.

“Where do you go and who do you know there?” she asks. Church, work, family, and social groups are all possibilities. “Don’t forget those second level connections,” she says. Who do you know who knows someone who could help you?

#b#Refine#/b#. Once you have received as much feedback as possible on your idea, it is time to go back to develop your plans based on that information. “Think about who would buy your product or service. Think about what you need to take your idea and bring it to the marketplace,” says DiDomenico.

#b#Execute#/b#. “We have an outline to work through that will help the business owner develop their business plan,” says DiDomenico. “Now is the time to think about a budget. What will you need to buy in order to start your business? What are your goals? How much money will you need to accomplish them?”

DiDomenico suggests developing major milestones, setting up goals to accomplish in one month, three months, a year, and so on. “You need to prioritize your action steps and test your goal statement,” she says. “Compare your goals with your action plan and make sure that it can work.”

#b#Assess#/b#. Have you achieved your goals? In what areas do you need to improve? DiDomenico suggests that this is the time to look at your competition and do a competitive analysis. “What is your competition doing that you can do?” she asks. It is important for business owners to continually look at their original plan, see where they can move forward, and keep improving on the plan.

#b#Make it happen#/b#. “This is the motivational section of DREAM,” says DiDomenico. “If you have really done your work on the first four steps you will make your dream of a successful business happen.”

DiDomenico says the process “will really help the new business owner work through a lot of the planning they need to do in a very short period of time. A lot of people have great ideas for a business but they just never make it happen. This process makes it easy.”

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