After researching some of the one million business owners who use Shopify, we discovered that founder-types tend to fall into one of five groups: the growth-minded Mountaineer, the plucky Trailblazer, the always-be-prepared Cartographer, the risk-taking Firestarter, and the steady Outsider. Which one are you? Start with our quiz.
Well, stargazers, we’re months into this reality now, and what else is there to say but: whoa. So what now? As budding or seasoned entrepreneurs, you’re well aware of the impact the global lockdown is having on independent businesses.
If you were already running a business, COVID-19 may have placed you under a tremendous amount of stress. For you, we’re continuing to develop resources and tools to help pivot the focus of your business, adapt to an online-only model, or offer your customers contactless delivery options. Hang in there. 💪
For those still on the edge of the entrepreneurial pool, ready to dip a toe, this post is for you. Let’s talk about catching those dreams, fearless crusaders. Yes, even now. There are opportunities for small businesses to shine in this crisis, and depending on your passions, now might be as good a time as any to plunge. Or maybe this is just the pause you needed to step back, scrutinize your ideas (hey, Cartographer), and be ready for when the world opens up again.
In this month’s Founder’s Zodiac, we’re breaking down business types that jibe with each sign. If you’ve asked yourself, “What kind of business should I start?” you need to first understand your motivations, your goals, and your entrepreneur personality type. (Don’t know your Founder Sign? Start with our quiz and meet us back here.)
Jump to your type:
Featured Founder Sign: The Cartographer
Let me guess: your quarantine personality is the extra-productive, stocked-pantry, sourdough-starter, 12-new-hobbies type. Did I nail it? For you, Cartographer, this extra time and reduced social interaction might be a blessing. You’re already prone to diving really deep on solo pursuits. You might even be just the type to start a new business during a global crisis—and actually make it work. There’s a certain amount of risk associated with launching a business, especially now. Risk is not your jam, but you’re willing to roll up your sleeves to plan for every potential pitfall.
Due to your attention to detail, DIY and maker businesses are ideal for your type. These are businesses that require passion (you have that in spades) and excellent craftsmanship (you wouldn’t have it any other way). Lean into handmade goods that speak to your interests. Are you a parent? Design innovative STEM kits for kids. Pet owner? Make handcrafted dog toys. A green thumb? Convert your backyard bounty into jams and preserves.
Online learning may be another opportunity for Cartographer types. Whatever you’re good at, we know you’re really good at it. Your skills are sharply honed and could be useful to others in this new world. Is it finances? Home organization (watch out, Marie)? Product photography? Sell your expertise via video courses, PDF templates, ebooks, or guides.
Top business ideas for Cartographers:
- Handmade goods in any category
- Books and ebooks
- Digital courses and online learning
- Brands with a social impact mission
Start-up strategy: Slow and steady. Start your business as a side hustle and test its viability before taking the leap.
Funding strategy: Self-funded, low-risk borrowing, Shopify Capital
Recommended read: How Tibetan Monks and Cross-Country Moves Inspired This Artist’s Journey
Cartographer of note 🗺️
Erika Kelly, Portland Apron Company
After college, Erika continued working in the service industry when she couldn’t find a job in her field. When she sewed herself an apron for her work and it garnered many compliments, she started selling her designs on the side. Portland Apron Company grew a loyal following because of Erika’s craftsmanship. “I’m extremely detail oriented, so my products are really well made,” she says.
Erika’s business started via an online marketplace, and in true Cartographer style, she grew it slowly, eventually moving it to its own Shopify store. Her cautious approach—organic growth, no debt—has been both beneficial and limiting. “I feel like I’ve been able to make decisions based on my values and not anything else,” she says. “But it has been a long, slow process.”
The world will tell you to hurry up, to launch yesterday, to grow as quickly as possible. That’s not always the best way to start a business if you’re in it for the long run.
Erika was in the midst of her first production run with an LA manufacturer when everything shut down. Though it was disappointing, her personality made her well-equipped for the changes affecting the whole world. “I am naturally an introvert. I’m happy to be home and enjoy time alone,” she says. But she’s not immune to loneliness. “You have to have constant grit and stay passionate.”
Predict your own future. Start a business on Shopify with a 14-day free trial.
Erika’s advice for fellow Cartographers? “Trust your gut!” she says. “The world will tell you to hurry up, to launch yesterday, to grow as quickly as possible. That’s not always the best way to start a business if you’re in it for the long run.”
Are you ready for this? Of course you are. You were born ready. Even in the middle of a crisis, your glass-half-full approach to life lets you easily find the silver linings. If you’re looking to start a business, lean into ideas that make sense right now, but also have potential for growth in the aftermath of the pandemic. Growth motivates you, so beware of anything too trendy. The world changes in an instant, as we have all discovered.
According to our research into Mountaineer-types, you’re a natural at creative businesses: fashion, music, innovative new products. The sky’s the limit for you, Mountaineer, and you could even find yourself becoming an influencer in whatever industry you take on. As an idealist, you may also find success in businesses focused on making the world a better place. Can you put a sustainable spin on one of your million ideas?
Top business ideas for Mountaineers:
- Apparel and accessories
- Music, performance, and pop culture
- Influencer brands
- Sustainable products and social causes
- Easy-to-scale print on demand
Start-up strategy: All in, all the way
Funding strategy: Crowdfunding, Shopify Capital
If we know you, Trailblazer (and I think we do), you’ve already seized this moment. There’s dust on your boots. You’re noodling this global problem and trying to pitch in and carve out your niche at the same time. Maybe you’re sewing masks or working on innovative solutions to our new social distancing reality or running Zoom reading groups for fellow parents. Whatever it is: we salute you.
Still unsure of your path? An extrovert like you won’t sit still long, lockdown or no lockdown. Now may be the time to apply that overflowing energy into a new project. You’re motivated by passion—so what are you passionate about? Is it health, beauty, cats, sports, antiques? Go all in on that. And find ways to connect with people, even if it’s not face to face. If you’re selling home decor products, for example, add a video consulting feature to help your customers design their spaces.
Top business types for Trailblazers:
- Niche fashion and beauty
- Gifts and collectibles
- Health, fitness, and sports
- Curated products from other brands
- Subscription boxes
- Lifestyle and entertaining
- Services, coaching, and consulting
Selling strategy: Omnichannel and experiential (when you’re allowed to go out again), online marketplaces for now
Funding strategy: Crowdfunding, Shopify Capital
Recommended listen: Selling to Generation Z: Why This Company Launched a Sister Brand
It’s a high-stakes world out there, Firestarter, and you’re never one to shy away from a gamble. Put your chips in—this is your time. You probably have your hand in a few pots right now, so spinning up something new is going to require some automation. Consider low-touch businesses like print on demand or dropshipping, or partner with an influencer who has a built-in audience.
Unlike the Mountaineer, you’re not concerned with the long term. Quick-win businesses let you move on to the next big thing. “It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” said Neil Young, and you couldn’t agree more. For that reason, you should get intimate with trends: product trends, pop culture trends, tech trends, Google search trends. What’s hot right now? We’re not saying you should capitalize on a crisis, but, Firestarter, you may be just the one to act quickly to meet the needs of this brave new world.
Top business types for Firestarters:
- Trending and viral products
- Cutting-edge tech
- Toys, games, and collectibles
- Fitness trends and health supplements
Selling strategy: Multiple channels, social selling, influencer marketing
Funding strategy: VC funding, investors, partners
Recommended listen: How a $100 Bottle of Hot Sauce Brings the Heat and Virality
Well, well, Outsider, all of this turmoil really isn’t doing you any favors, is it? As a person who values consistency and security, this is a tough time for you. Perhaps, though, the upside is all of the extra time you have to deep-dive into honing your craft. Plus, you’re already a pro at being solo. Use this pause to plan your next move when things resume to normal-ish—we understand if launching a business right now is just way out of your wheelhouse.
When thinking about the business you’d like to start, consider what you’ll need out of that business: steady income, full control, keeping your hands busy. What kind of business meets those needs? What’s your top skill? How can you spin that into something to sell? You’re adept at focus, at giving your all to that one thing. Maybe it’s woodworking or shoe repair, backyard gardening or traditional bookbinding. Your expertise and attention to detail will draw a niche, passionate, and loyal customer base.
Top business types for Outsiders:
- Skilled trades and services
- Craftsmanship (handmade home furnishings, wood toys)
- Paper goods
- Farmed foods and family recipes
- Arts and crafts, photography
Selling strategy: For now, local sales (online store with curbside pick-up and local delivery), online marketplaces; in the future, farmer’s markets, artisan markets, retail partners (boutiques, local shops)
Funding strategy: Bootstrapped, personal savings
If you’ve yet to determine your Founder Sign, take our quiz here then sign up for our newsletter. The Founder’s Zodiac runs every month and offers up advice and relevant content curated just for your type.
Illustrations by Alice Mollon