The world needs new entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs create jobs, lift the standard of living, usher new technology into society, and keep competition alive in the marketplace. Starting a business is difficult, and it’s crucial that the next generation has as much ammunition as possible. We are all relying on you to carry on the proud tradition of innovation.
As the CEO of a successful startup myself, with decades of experience launching prosperous companies, I know what it takes to make it. If I could go back and give my 20-something self a bit of advice about starting out as an entrepreneur, these are the seven tips I’d start with:
1. Passion. You will fail. That is part of the game. Your failures are most likely to lead to success if you get involved with something you believe in. Starting a business just for its own sake will leave you directionless, burned out and ultimately, back where you started. Choose an interest that you can be passionate about. Marrying charity to traditional business models may be a great way to combine the things you – and potential consumers – care most about.
Related: Why Young Entrepreneurs Fail
2. Define your market. You’ve heard this before. It’s one of the most common mistakes that entrepreneurs make. Go with something that makes sense for your scope. If you’re a small startup and still a student, staying local or targeting fellow students might be the best direction. The Internet gives us almost infinite reach, but it’s vital to narrow your market down to what is realistic, and stick with those who have a reason to be interested.
3. Price point. Risk taking is important in any new business venture, provided that it is sensible. Consider providing your product or service at the most basic level possible (also called minimum viable product). A small investment up front can hook new customers/donations before risking more money. Your target defines the ideal price. Survey your defined market and adjust accordingly. You can always reevaluate your prices as you grow.
Related: 10 Tips for a Strong Start
4. Be honest. This advice applies to yourself, your employees and your customers. Be honest about what you can commit to your business. It doesn’t do any good to over-extend yourself when in truth; you don’t have the cash or the hours to commit to a project. Be honest about what your partners can expect from, and what you expect in return. And be honest with clients. At PilmerPR, our #1 rule is “First be good, then talk about it.”
5. Utilize, but don’t over-use, social media. Young people are always eager to jump online, and that’s not a bad thing. But it is important to think carefully before plastering marketing materials on the Internet. Social media is obviously a powerful tool. Focusing it on your business can get word out quickly and cheaply. That said, be careful not to put all of your eggs in the online basket. Experiment and measure results, then constantly evaluate and decide what is working, and what you are wasting resources on.
6. Don’t forget PR. Traditional and online press relations can yield coverage that has longer shelf life and costs less than advertising. Think about what makes your product new, interesting, and relevant. Then, talk to the media about it. You might get great reviews, mentions on blogs, or even appear on news segments. Many media outlets have sections dedicated to people in the community doing outstanding things. Even an article in your campus newspaper can be a valuable source of publicity.
7. Look for mentors. The beginning of any venture can be exhilarating, frustrating, liberating and terrifying all at once. Remember, although younger generations can be more tech-savvy than those who have been in business for years, there are still basic principles that are refined by experience. Many communities offer networking opportunities for entrepreneurs young and old. Take advantage of this, and you may be surprised at the wealth of knowledge your colleagues have to offer.
These tips won’t earn you certain success, but every bit of knowledge you can gather before you begin your entrepreneurial career can help you avoid serious mistakes.