First Step: Starting your own business

the-first-step

About 1 month ago, I decided that I would start a business, in addition to my day job. Fortunately, my day job provides me with relatively predictable schedule, a few free evening hours, and a (mostly) clear weekend. Entrepreneurship has always ranked high on my bucket list. Plus, I’m still relatively young and have no major responsibilities, so why not? But the key question was “How?”. How do you take that first step to start a business?

 

Light Bulb Moment #1: You are the average of 5 people you spend the most time with.

 To change yourself, you must change others around you. Outside of my spouse, I spend most of my waking hours with co-workers, who generally seem overworked and / or disgruntled with their cubicle job. As a first step, my environment had to change. If I wanted to be an entrepreneur, then I need to spend time with entrepreneurs. But where do you find these people?

I spent the next few weeks signing up for every single entrepreneur-esque Meetup event you can imagine. I wanted to meet people who would inspire me, mentor me, and maybe even start a business with me.

However, my first meetup event was a complete disaster. I felt like the ugly, pimply, new girl in high school who would eat lunch in toilet stalls. Nobody wanted to talk to me; and nobody remembered me. Upon reflection, it’s no wonder this happened. I would introduce myself as such: “HI. I work at a large company in strategy and marketing. I’m here because I want to start a business, but I’m not sure what kind yet.”…followed up a big, goofy yet quizzical grin.

Shoot…I wouldn’t even want to talk to myself. On top of that, the only business card I had on hand was my corporate name card, so I had to hand out a card from a giant company to people that frown upon the cubicle types. Ouch…

But then it struck me…

 

Light Bulb Moment #2: Re-Brand Yourself

 At these networking events where there are countless entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs, you need to stand out like a peacock in a sea of pigeons. A random corporate cog in the wheel with no idea what she wants to do next is not a good brand to have. For my next entrepreneur networking event, I decided to create a new brand. After floating around a few ideas, I decided to pick one and focus.

New identity: I am the Founder and CEO of an education crowdfunding startup. (How much cooler does that sound?)

At the next networking event, the new personal brand worked wonders. Several people approached me and wanted to talk about potential collaborations. I even had someone offer to design my non-existent website. People volunteered to mentor me. It’s remarkable! Between the first and second networking event, the only change was my introduction, but that made all the difference in the world.

 

Light Bulb Moment #3: Follow-up or FAIL

 One wise entrepreneur said this to me (and a bunch of wannabe / newbie entrepreneurs). It has stuck with me ever since then. After each event, I followed up with almost every single person who I snagged a business card from. I would send them a short (but nice) follow-up email, reminding them of who I am. And then, I would connect with them on LinkedIn. Even if it’s someone with a seemingly unrelated interest, you would be surprised at how useful it is to follow up.

At this point, I was just a self-proclaimed founder of a non-existent startup. I still needed to create an entire business. At one of the events, I met a guy who ran his own dating consulting service. Very unrelated, right? Well, I met him up for coffee on a whim, and he not only walked me through basic steps on how to set up my own company email address but also linked me with a few potential customers. WHAT?!? Crazy…

 

I’m still taking it one step at a time and one day at a time, but it’s AH-MAZING how a small change in self-perception and environment can give you the right push to start your own gig. Stay tuned as the journey continues…

 

 

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Entrepreneurs: Born or Made?

businessman born from an egg

If you’re asking whether you should become an entrepreneur, then probably shouldn’t become one.

This was the view of a serial entrepreneur I was chatting with recently. For her, entrepreneurs are born. They are born with an innate restlessness to create. Even if they are in a big, corporate job, they may have one or several side gigs. In our brief conversation, I realized she not only ran a for-profit consulting business, but she also started a non-profit organization and was trying to start a restaurant. When does she get time to sleep (and put on make-up)?

She makes a valid case. If you don’t have an incessant internal drive to start and own your own business, an undeterred sense of optimism, and rock solid persistence, then it’s very difficult to succeed. Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey filled with countless naysayers and unforeseen obstacles.

In this BBC article, a British entrepreneur and business coach even presents a subjective pie chart of entrepreneurship that it’s “70% born, 10% nurture, and 20% trainable.”

I find that a bit hard to swallow. How does entrepreneurship belong to a chosen group of people with special genes? Working with smallholder farmers and small businesses in emerging markets, entrepreneurship is often the result of circumstance. If a large employer is not present in your town / village, then you create your own jobs. If you’re frustrated with how things operate in your life, then you can create your own solution.

Professor / Entrepreneurship Expert Shane Scott shows that it’s not as clear cut. His team of researchers conducted studies on the entrepreneurial activities of 870 pairs of identical twins and concluded that entrepreneurs are 40% born and 60% made.

What does that even mean? Does that mean if you don’t have all the “entrepreneurship genes”, then you can train yourself on the deficient qualities? Does that mean some people may have a higher propensity to succeed at entrepreneurship, but others can achieve the same results with some hard work and training?

Whatever the magic formula is on whether entrepreneurs are born and made, I do think all successful entrepreneurs share a few qualities, which some you may be born with, some you can learn, and some you should just force yourself to have.

Work on your passionJeff Bezos, CEO of AMAZON, introduces new Kindle Fire HD Family and Kindle Paper white during the AMAZON press conference on September 06, 2012 in Santa Monica, California.  AFP PHOTO/JOE KLAMAR        (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/GettyImages)

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Never give upquote-i-m-convinced-that-about-half-of-what-separates-the-successful-entrepreneurs-from-the-steve-jobs-283988

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