There are some common things you should expect when you first go into business for yourself. On the first day, you create your business plan. That night you go to bed at a regular hour and then wake up to several voicemails from some big time investors wanting to make your dreams come true. That’s when the cool party invites start rolling in and you get to meet some celebrities. After a few months of that, you become like the Instagram guy, sell your company and start sleeping on top of hundred dollar bills.
Actually, the life of a startup is not such a glamorous one so early on. It’s been one year since I started my first venture and I’m very proud of the growth my company has gone through. But it’s been a hard road to get here. My life has gone through some changes.
The dishes in the sink, for example, do themselves a little bit less (ok, sure, we’ll blame the growing business on that one). My dogs have perfected “sad face” to guilt me when I’m sitting at my desk ignoring them for too long. I’ve learned to silence my phone when I’m on a date, (though I still throw glances at my purse wondering what might be happening). I still have to choose between my addiction to Target and the need to pay for a conference in another city (no, I do not need another stupid candle!). And every so often, I show up to an event and my friends don’t recognize me.
But I wouldn’t change the last year. Because despite the hours that I keep and the sacrifices I’ve had to make, I have had an amazing time. And I’ve gained a lot of wisdom. Here are just five things I’ve picked up along the way.
You gotta go fast. You know what happens when you wait too long to execute on an idea? Lots of things. But none of it is good. You sit at happy hours with friends discussing your idea and some mild acquaintance will shout, “Oh, I totally agree! Because I thought of that too!” And then you hear someone on the radio talking about “Wouldn’t it be nice if this was invented?” And then you see it pop up one day on the internets. And there it is. The thing you didn’t create because you were too busy over-analyzing and twiddling your thumbs.
If I can impart any wisdom on you today, it’s…go faster. If you have an idea and you’re passionate about it, don’t wait. As one of the speakers at the Women 2.0 Pitch Conference stated earlier this year, startups must ship constantly (a product, an idea, a service, whatever) to be relevant. If you’re sitting on your idea for years and years, you’re not shipping. And someone else will gladly do it.
The people who most suffer in this department? Perfectionists. If you’re one of those, either change yourself or bring on someone who can push you to go live quickly. Because if you spend all your time tweaking and touching up and making it shiny and pretty, someone else will beat you to it.
Be smart about the money. I probably should have put this as my first bullet point. Money is critical to a startup. Because…uhh…you need it? In this first year of founding and as I’ve started coaching off the side of my desk, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the money part of starting a business. And also about the survival mode to stay afloat (because that’s actually a thing — needing to stay afloat). Where do you get it? What did the business plan look like? Who invests? What’s a VC?
Let me tell you this. Don’t not start something simply because you don’t have the money. My journalism professor would kill me for that last sentence. So here it is again. Don’t miss out on building a great company out of a great idea just because you don’t have the cash.
I didn’t start out searching for a VC, or big investors, although many do and that’s ok. I instead went with a different path and it’s worked out very well for the vision I have for this business. But as I look toward growing my company further, I’m now investigating options like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo because I love the concept of crowdfunding. If you are even remotely thinking of starting your own business and aren’t fiercely connected into the world of startups or rich people, consider going this route. Because you know all the friends, family and even strangers who get excited when you talk about your idea? These sites will let them show you their support by tossing in something as small as $5 (sometimes a lot more) to help you get there. You will be shocked by how many people want to help out with your idea, you simply just need to tell them about it.