Hi Annie! Entrepreneurship is both an amazingly rewarding and challenging career path. I am currently running my third start-up (all in the tech space) so I have a lot of experience with getting started. Obviously there are big differences between starting a retail storefront, an internet company and a manufacturing company so if you have an idea which direction you are interested in that will help drive your research and get you industry relevant knowledge on the challenges and opportunities that exist.
In general there are a bunch of things that you need to think about:
1) How will you fund the company? Do you plan to bootstrap it (fund it out of your own pocket), raise angel investments (money from rich individuals) or go the venture capital route? Alternatively if you are starting certain types of businesses you may be eligible for grants or bank loans as well. A high-level understanding of how much money you need to get started is a must - build a simple plan of your costs to get to market.
2) What is the market opportunity and who are your customers? Are you entering with a new product or is there an existing player in the space? How will you compete and how will you differentiate?
3) Where will you locate the company. If you are a retail establishment you need to map out the competition and understand the foot traffic, rent costs, parking options, etc. If you are non-retail business location is less important for getting people in the door but may be important for hiring or partners and customers coming to visit.
4) What type of legal entity to you need to create - LLC, C Corp, S Corp, etc. A good lawyer will guide you in the right direction. This obviously is something that you don't need to think through today but is one of the first steps when you decide to start.
5) Do you have a partner in crime? Meaning a co-founder. I highly recommend finding a strong co-founder. Someone who balances out your strengths and weaknesses. For instance - if you are technically strong you may want a business person as a co-founder or vice versa. This also helps in sharing the load. It is tough to build a company all by yourself - although not impossible.
There are a ton of other things. To start I would recommend looking at schools that are good in entrepreneurship or finding a business program that caters towards whatever industry you are excited about. For instance if you want to go into the hospitality industry (e.g. a restaurant) Cornell has an excellent program for that.
Either way - starting a company is fun, challenging and personally rewarding. Good luck!
Identifying your business model is really important and is a great place to start. And, it can be fun. Business Model Generation has a really great tool called the Business Model Canvas that is simple and visual. It's also free to download online: http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/canvas/bmc
Great questions to ask yourself are:
What kind of business do I want to start?
Why does this business / idea appeal to me?
What excites me the most about this idea?
Good luck and have fun with it!
While there are many paths out there, don't force yourself into something that you may not well or that you may not enjoy. Your success will come from your core skills and talents, which you can enhance through education, real-world work experience, and finding mentors and teachers to help you progress. An entrepreneur paves his or her own path by going after a passion inside of them. Take some time to think about and inventory the list of great things about you - your strengths, things you enjoy, things you are good at. From there, look at businesses and careers that align to your personal inventory. Then you may consider schools or training that provide development or support, or even find a job in the industry that you are looking to enter and gain valuable first-hand experience of the industry, company or job position.
I would first say, good for you!
Not sure what type of business you want to open but before you invest too much of your time or money in it, you should validate that there is demand for your product or service and that people are willing to pay for it (not just SAY they want it). There are multiple ways to gage demand, if it's a service that doesn't cost you anything to provide, try signing up a few customers - sweeten the deal for them by offering them a discount on the price (or something else they would value) in return for being your first customers. If it's a product that you have to build, produce a cheaper prototype or even a brochure explaining how it would work.
Once you have a few paying customers, you want to think about how you could scale your business and what your business model should be - refer to Caleb's answer above :)
Some other things to think about are office management, hiring / firing, legal contracts, etc. I always dreamed about starting my own business as well, but having been an employee at a startup, I saw a lot of things that I most definitely didn't want to do. I didn't want to have to fire people, or stress about people being able to collect a paycheck if the money ran low. I didn't want to deal with the paperwork involved with paying people, signing deals with other parties, etc. I also didn't want to have to handle making sure the place was clean.
You can hire people to handle all this stuff, but if you're just starting out, a lot of times these duties fall on you. And they can be non-glorious. You have to have steel resolve in your vision to push through all the boring stuff!