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Nine Tips for Downturn Entrepreneurs

Stocks in this article: AXP AAPL HPQ

What do FedEx (FDX - Get Report), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ - Get Report) and Apple (AAPL - Get Report) have in common? They launched during recessions and became hugely successful.

If you're unemployed and always dreamed of being your own boss, it might seem like a good opportunity to start a business. But before you get started, be sure to do your homework.

Study the market: Look for products and services that more established companies aren't delivering. Big firms are more likely to be distracted by the economy, opening the door for a startup to take market share.

Take the long view: When hunting for opportunities, consider where they might lead you in five to 10 years.

Famed chef Wolfgang Puck and his company decided to go ahead with a new restaurant at the MGM Mirage (MGM) and Infinity World Development's extravagant CityCenter in part because they "didn't want to miss the boat," says Tom Kaplan, senior managing partner of Wolfgang Puck.

A great idea is only half of it: You should have passion for the concept behind your business. But you must also like doing all the things a business owner must do, such as find customers and handle vendors.

"You don't have to love everything you're doing in business, but you have to love the things you do a lot of," says Steven S. Little, author of Duck and Recover: The Embattled Business Owner's Guide to Survival and Growth (Wiley 2009).

Little has a friend who started a surf shop because he adored surfing. He discovered that he spent more time talking to vendors and creditors than customers.

Keep your operation lean: Create a conservative business plan based on the lowest income possible, and then run it by a trusted business contact. While optimism is an entrepreneur's middle name, the recession demands fiscal discipline.

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