Cat Cora:  When starting a restaurant, 'test the waters and protect your idea'

Yahoo! Small Business hosted a live Twitter chat Thursday afternoon starring Iron Chef and restaurateur Cat Cora. The purpose of the chat was to provide small business owners with tips on how to grow their concepts.

In 2003, Cora left a steady paycheck to start her own company. She admitted this was her biggest risk, but also worth it.

Cora's business tips include:

  • To ensure your passion won't diminish for your business, she says it's important to stay innovative and keep things fresh.
  • Those who want to start their own business should expect many hours of hard work and time away from family. But once you become successful, Cora says you have independence.
  • There are unique obstacles for women who start their own business, but Cora said she overcame them by working hard and "being fearless, even when in doubt." "Take a deep breath, pray, go for it," she said.
  • To differentiate herself from millions of other chefs, Cora said she had to find a niche (hers is healthy, gourmet cooking with Mediterranean influence), adding that now it's also important to be innovative.
  • Businesses with a strong online presence should focus heavily on marketing and social media, including the creation of giveaways for customers.
  • For those who want to test the waters to see if owning a business is realistic, Cora suggests doing online research to find out if anyone is doing the same thing or something similar. And, most importantly, "protect your idea," she said.
  • Finally, Cora said it's important to stay focused and build your career first, and then branch out with different things/concepts.

YSB also recently launched Yahoo! Localworks, a directory listings tool that helps restaurants and other small businesses easily update their profiles and contact information by pushing updates to more than 40 online directories across the web.

Read more about social media initiatives.

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