Editor's Note: College Treps is a weekly column that puts the spotlight on college and graduate school-based entrepreneurs, as they tackle the tough task of starting up and going to school. Follow their daily struggles and this column on Twitter with the hashtag #CollegeTreps.
Just recently, a friend asked me how I started my educational company, Practice Makes Perfect, Inc. After being unable to readily answer him, I thought it must be a result of one of two things: There were too many possible ways to answer this question, or that starting companies has become so natural that I don’t have to think about it anymore -- it’s like breathing or blinking. A quick moment of reflection proved the former to be true.
I realized that a lot of people try to start companies backwards -- that is, with the final step first. The actual incorporation and documents to register with your state should be that last thing you worry about. I have had friends put really good ideas to the side because they didn’t know how to incorporate a company or were worried about how they would find money to pay lawyers to help them get through the legal recognition phase.
The main reason entrepreneurial ventures fail is because of a lack of execution. I started my first venture at the age of 13. In hindsight, my internet startup failed because I was missing the most important ingredient to running a company: other people. This included customers, co- founders and investors.
Related: How to Start Up from Your Dorm Room
The value of supporters cannot be underestimated. In fact, the most important of all people is your first supporter. Oftentimes, too much credit is given to the original idea generator. Yes, it’s true that they had to persuade the first person to buy-in, but it is the first follower that signals to everyone else that you may be working on something interesting. In regards to investors and venture capitalists, the old adage goes: Everyone wants to be the first one to be second.
Once you have an idea and a support team, you’re well on your way. A business is informally born when a group of people provides a product or service consistently. At this point, the most important thing to do is to figure out your competitive advantage. This phase is all about identifying what it is about your product or service that will ensure its existence. My first venture was a website that sold popular electronics for a 10 to 20 percent discount. At the time, I failed to realize that I needed to galvanize other people before I could get it successfully operating.
The final thing you need to do to make things official is to incorporate. I highly suggest putting this part off until you are certain that you want to pursue the business you are working on. Filing with the state and gathering articles of incorporation can be time consuming, and, if you decide to pay a lawyer, the early expenses could slow your growth. Ultimately, expenses should be kept minimal with any startup venture.
Here are three tips to a speedy launch:
- Don’t wait to test your product. It’s important to get out there as soon as possible and get feedback from as many people as you can. The sooner you test the market, to sooner you’ll know whether your idea is worth pursuing further.
- Build a support team right away. Even if you’re a solopreneur, you still need a network of trustworthy, encouraging people around you. Hit up your family, friends, social media contacts and anyone else you think might know someone who could help you. These initial contacts could lead to some of your very first customers.
- Incorporate last. Don’t focus on the last step first. Let necessities for your product or service drive the need to incorporate. In the early startup phase, your last concern should be the actual incorporation. Remember, you don’t need to legally incorporate to test a market for a product or service.
What helped you quicken your launch? Let us know in the comments section.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.