There couldn't be a more unfavorable time to start a business. Right?

Wrong, says author Ed Hess, a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia.

Despite the recession, company closings, layoffs and the spike in jobless claims, it may just be the right time to take hold of your destiny, says the co-author of So, You Want to Start a Business? 8 Steps to Take Before Making the Leap.

Hess's argument boils down to this: "People need certain products and services regardless of what the economy looks like." And you could succeed, he says, if your product is better, faster or cheaper than that of your rivals.

He believes new business failures aren't necessarily linked to economic conditions but often reflect an owner's shortcomings. Many of the talented people out of work now have entrepreneurial instincts and skills, he says.

But before making the plunge, he cautions, think a few things out.

Forget the idea that you're giving up security because there is no such thing. Start small without risking a lot of money, to test the market and build a customer base. (He offers, as examples, working as a Web site designer from home at night or running a landscaping business on the weekends.)

Find out what your customers want. Seek advice of experienced entrepreneurs. If possible, finance your business yourself because small-business loans are hard to come by these days. Take advantage of the flooded market to get supplies - or labor - more cheaply. And go the extra mile for customer service.

And if you're really passionate about your business, says Hess, "passion goes a long, long way."


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