As a college student, I was on a tight budget when I wasn't totally broke. I brainstormed creative ideas to earn money until, when a senior at Kent State, I decided to sell my statistics study guides to classmates for $10 apiece.
There was a real demand among my peers for course-specific study materials. I realized my idea for student-to-student learning idea could grow beyond just my statistics class and just my school because it addressed two real needs among college students everywhere – more money and better grades.
My college idea has grown well beyond my alma mater into a venture-backed company that has raised more than $6 million to date. Here are five lessons I learned on the journey.
1. Stop talking -- just do it! Millions of people have a great idea, but few have the drive and passion to put their ideas into action. You have to go “all in.” Put all your fears of failure aside and take a leap of faith. Rather than thinking about the "what-ifs,” just go for it and take those first steps to bringing your idea to life. You don’t need to have all the details and decisions 100% vetted to get your idea off the ground. Kinks can be worked out along the way. Make the best choice you can with the facts you have. Take a risk rather than missing the opportunity to create something great.
2. Don’t talk about version 2.0. You can’t sell what you don't have. You will always want a newer, faster, sleeker but touting unfinished features diminishes your current product. Don't distract people from the great product that you already have and need to sell to investors, customers and potential employees.
3. Do not confuse great people with people who are great at their job. Find people who are well-rounded and share your passions. They will push you and your business in the right direction, through the good, the bad, and the ugly. A startup needs every employee to do whatever is needed. That may not be listed in the job description but must to be understood by all. Be careful when hiring a close friend, however. I've learned the hard way not to just hire a friend because I enjoyed their company. Be honest with yourself about your friend's skils and drive to work hard.
4. Make tough decisions. Erica Jong wrote “Advice is something you ask for when you already know the answer but wish you didn’t.” Success can only come from taking risks and making difficult decisions. There's no easy route. Trust your gut. Have confidence that you know what’s best for the business you created. There’s no time for second guessing yourself when you’re building something great.
5. Celebrate the small things. You're always striving toward the next big "win" for your business but don't think only about the future. Don’t get me wrong. Those monumental victories are what all entrepreneurs work toward but you can't forget to live in the present. Recognize your smaller achievements along the way.Taking the time to reflect on the small things will have a boost morale and help build a strong company culture.