This month we finish our two-part series with three of the 13 member companies of Starve Ups, a Portland, Oregon-based organization designed to assist young entrepreneurs with common start-up problems and get their new businesses off the ground. (To read part one, click here.) As we wrap up this two-part roundtable with Leif Youngberg, Mark Hutchinson and Ryan Buchanan, keep in mind at least one important lesson embraced by the Starve Ups community: You're not in this entrepreneurial gig alone.
Entrepreneur.com: How are each of you doing, given the current economy?
Leif Youngberg: I think a lot of the companies have boiled down their employee base to the very entrepreneurial-minded and the true believers, you could say. It's scrappy, but it's encouraging when you make huge progress on the sales front. You know you're doing it with everything you've got, even when you don't have much. I think you just get more creative.
Mark Hutchinson: Oh, yes. Building on what Leif was saying, another effect of the downturn has been that the big boys, so to speak, in each of our competitive industries have been affected as much as or more than the small companies because they've had a harder time adjusting quickly. On the bright side of that, our smaller Starve Ups-type companies can also take advantage of the upturn much more quickly. I, for one, am looking forward to that and am already starting to see some improvement in new clients. This is just my opinion-a lot of people are just sick and tired of this "OK, we're down." So I think there's a lot of pressure for people to get back into their consumer mode. And my company, for one, is starting to see some increase in our client traffic.
Ryan Buchanan: My personal belief is that we still have a little ways to go before the upturn is going to come about. It's just about perseverance and weathering the storm. When the upturn is there, we all have products that increase efficiency and save money. I wouldn't say we're recession-proof, but we have products that help out in recession.
Entrepreneur.com: As young business owners, what do you feel are the most pressing issues facing entrepreneurs today?
Hutchinson: I would say that the commitment required personally and financially is enormous to become an entrepreneur. Especially now, when public opinion is down on starting new things. And even venture capital firms are getting washed away. That kind of commitment and confidence in what you can do in this very dicey environment is going to be the biggest challenge. You've really got to have a lot of confidence and be 100 percent into it to even have a chance.
Buchanan: I think what I'd add [is that] it may even be a better time [for young entrepreneurs to start], because the expectation is that you're not going to get investment money from angels or venture capitalists immediately, so the business models that are coming out now are more of the "start in the basement and really keep your overhead low until you have product you can come out with." It's back to the basics if you are going to start a company. Just recognize that it's not going to have explosive growth overnight, and plan for that. But when this upturn comes and you've built the base, then you can grow off of that base.
Entrepreneur.com: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Hutchinson: Talk to everyone you know about your idea. Don't hold back...your idea is not new. So really the best thing you can do for yourself is not to keep it a secret, but really work to explore the idea, and use people around you who have background, experience and creativity, whatever it is-because that's really how you can develop the plan quickly.
We saw this at Starve Ups Square, too. People would want to tell you their idea, but they'd be nervous. And all I can do is laugh, because even if I heard the best idea in the world, one that I could take and turn into a billion-dollar company overnight, I don't have the time! I've got too much on my plate already. I don't think people realize that everyone's doing stuff. As an entrepreneur, you're the one taking the risk for your good idea. And other people may not be willing to do that. So really develop it on your own. The execution is really what's going to make you succeed. The idea is out there; other people have it. You just have to be the best at implementing it.
Youngberg: I agree with that assessment. I might also add, just with the technology available today, to think big. There's no reason why someone who's going to make the jump, even if they're focused on a particular niche, can't become the leader relatively quickly. Don't underestimate your abilities. Go for it all. Basically, go big or go home.