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Smart ways to use tech to launch and grow your business, according to a consultant and CEO

Twenty/20

There are exciting aspects to starting any new venture, like picking a business name or defining your strategy. And then there are some not-so-fun parts, like deciding what technology you'll need to get your idea off the ground.

Almost two-thirds, or 64%, of small businesses start with $10,000 or less, according to a 2019 study by Intuit. Depending on the type of business you start, technology can quickly eat up a majority of that amount, even before you start earning any money.

Even something as basic as having a website can cost nearly $500 a year, according to Fundera, a small business marketplace. Meanwhile, the basic version of an Apple MacBook Pro starts at about $1,300, while an Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, is $600 per year.

So where should you prioritize your spending when it comes to technology? It's a question that Kishan Patel says he spent "inordinate amounts of time" researching when he was starting Kunai, a financial services consulting company, in 2015.

As Patel told Grow back in November, he navigated these decisions largely on his own. Now he's offering tips for which tools are worth prioritizing for entrepreneurs getting their businesses up and running.

Project management tools: 'Organize all of that detail'

The early stages of entrepreneurship are all about ideas — how you plan to make money, who your customers will be, how you'll differentiate your business from competitors, and more.

"You're going to have a bunch of ideas scribbled in notebooks, written in your Notes app [on your phone], and in messages to your friends," Patel says. "Embrace the chaos; this is how everyone's journey starts."

At some point, however, you'll need to organize those ideas and make decisions. That's where project management tools can help. The key is to find the tool that works for your needs without being overkill, Patel says.

That's why Patel recommends selecting from the following simple tools to start, all of which help with organizing ideas, managing your calendar for projects, sharing information across the team, and task management:

  • Trello: There's a free version with limited features, or a business class feature that costs $9.99 per user, per month, when billed annually.
  • Monday.com: The basic plan, which is good for up to five users, costs $39 per month, billed annually.
  • Asana: There's a free version for individuals or teams just getting started, while the next-level premium plan costs $10.99 per user, per month when billed annually.

"Use project management tools to unload everything from your brain," Patel says. "Organize all of that detail neatly into to-do lists. And then execute."

Embrace the chaos; this is how everyone's journey starts.
Kishan Patel
CEO, Kunai

A website to show 'how great your products are'

No matter what type of business you are launching, it will probably benefit from a company website. Luckily, there are tools today that make it easy to build a site, no matter your level of tech savvy.

"Gone are the days of needing to be a designer or learning how to code to build a gorgeous website," Patel says. "Pour your brand's identity into this website and show the world how great your products are."

Patel recommends the following tools because they offer "a rich library of templates you can customize to your heart's content," while still catering to people who've never built a website before:

  • Wix: For entrepreneurs and freelancers, Wix offers a plan with unlimited bandwidth that costs $17 per month and includes a free domain for one year. For website options that allow you to accept online payments, plans start at $23 per month.
  • Weebly: The professional plan offers unlimited storage, a free domain, and a shopping cart option, and costs $12 per month when billed annually.
  • Squarespace: The business plan includes a free domain, unlimited bandwidth and storage, marketing, and e-commerce, and it costs $18 per month when billed annually.

Ways to accept payment: 'Give your customers options'

Depending on your business and how much you're selling, you may need a separate e-commerce platform. Patel recommends options like Elliot, Shopify, or Webflow, but adds: "Don't go crazy trying to find the right one." That's because you may need to change platforms when business picks up.

Then there's the question of how to actually receive payments. While most e-commerce platforms have payment options built in, you may want to customize what payment methods you need depending on the products you sell or where your customers are located.

Here are his recommendations for platforms that will allow you to securely accept credit card payments:

  • Stripe: You'll be charged a flat 2.9% fee plus 30 cents for every successful card charge.
  • Braintree: You'll be charged a flat 2.9% fee, plus 30 cents per transaction.

You may also wish to offer additional options, like Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, or PayPal, which make it easier for customers to pay. Don't go overboard, though, Patel cautions. "If you have three different payment methods, you're going to give your customers the options they need to buy."

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