I Have Big Dreams of Opening a Restaurant… and No Clue Where to Start

a happy woman is seen through a business window holding an open sign.
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Dear Penny,

So I have this dream almost every night about the restaurant I want to open with my significant other. It has evolved into something rather extraordinary and unique in my mind — not to mention specific (location and all) — but I'm not sure the best way to proceed from here.

Do I take a loan if I can get one, look for investors to back me… who can I even trust with my vision?

-American Dreamer

Dear Dreamer,

I love a good dream. But this one sounds like it’s in the early phases of development. The trouble with dreams is that it’s easy to get stuck in the reverie and skip out on actually taking action.

We’ve all had that friend who talks about their business idea they’ve never actually tried to launch, right? Or the guy who swears he’ll be an overnight success one of these days?

As annoying as those people are, there’s an opposite type of dreamer: the type who doesn’t tell anyone about their dream. They dwell on it and think and ponder and muse, but they don’t force those thoughts out of their brains and onto paper.

You have a dream. Do you have a plan?

It’s time to take off those rose-colored glasses and get real about your ambitions and your action steps. If you haven’t already started talking to your partner about your business idea, the time to start is yesterday. Starting a business is stressful on couples: If starting out together, you need immense financial confidence and a solid safety net; if going it alone, you still need substantial emotional buy-in from your partner.

Next, it’s time for research. About half of all small businesses shutter by their fifth anniversary, so it’s up to you to arm yourself with information to help your chances of survival. Check out some library books on business planning. Find low-cost small business classes offered by your local economic development corporation. Consider signing up for a free SCORE mentor. Consider ways to dip your toe in the entrepreneurial pool with a side hustle before cannonballing in.

Once you’ve developed a business plan and identified your goals, you can start thinking about ways to fund your dream. You can find entire classes and plenty of business books about how to obtain the capital you need to start your business. (In the meantime, start saving!)

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Your job right now is to start talking about your dream. Start talking about it like it’s reality. Talk to your partner, your friends, people you trust in your community. Get your dream out of your head, and see how it sounds out loud and looks on paper. Then start making some plans, even if it’ll be five or 10 years before you can actually open the restaurant of your dreams.

Have an awkward money dilemma? Send it to [email protected].

Disclaimer: Chosen questions and featured answers will appear in The Penny Hoarder’s “Dear Penny” column. I won’t be able to answer every single letter (I can only type so fast!). We reserve the right to edit and publish your questions. Don’t worry — your identity will remain anonymous. I don’t have a psychology, accounting, finance or legal degree, so my advice is for informational purposes only. I do, however, promise to give you honest advice based on my own insights and real-life experiences.

Lisa Rowan is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.