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Picture it now: driving down the highway in a sleek car with loads of cash in your pocket, hobnobbing with the rich and famous. Heck, as an entrepreneur with a glamorous business, you're rich and famous yourself. Whether your dream is to launch a killer clothing line, the next big thing in cosmetics or even the hottest restaurant and nightclub around, you can already feel the allure of that high-profile business drawing you in.
But before you go applying for that American Express Black Card, here's a reality check: Launching a glamorous business isn't always so glamorous from the business side. It's a thrill ride for sure, but one of the scariest ones of your life. Just ask Mark Schmitz, founder of The Grid Records, a hip-hop record label based in Phoenix. The Arizona State University graduate launched his business in 2005, the summer before his senior year, after interning at Atlantic Records. He was convinced that the world was missing out on Arizona's untapped hip-hop talent, so he decided to carve out a niche as its ambassador.
What he didn't know was that starting his own record label would take every bit of cash he had and all the willpower he could summon. During one especially tight week, he had his apartment's electricity turned off and put the money toward mixing a song instead of keeping the lights on. "It's a very risky, hit-or-miss industry," says Schmitz, 24. "Regardless of how talented you are or how great your product is, you need that element of [luck] to really break into the business."
Combine that with the typical stresses of starting a business while still in college, and you've got a serious challenge on your hands. Making your glamorous business work means getting into the down-and-dirty aspects of business ownership--back-office duties like financing and marketing--yet presenting only the pristine aspects to clients. The real crux of a high-profile business is making your customers feel glamorous. If you're an artist or designer looking to build a business, says Jeff Sandefer, master teacher at the Acton School of Business, you have to learn to specialize in a particular niche and scale it up to create a market. If you're doing this on a lark, forget about it. "If you're doing it because you're serious about making money and you're a true entrepreneur, then you're going to be hustling, innovating, trying new things, [going through] trial and error and not giving up," he says. "There's not much glamour involved."
Well, there is a bit of glamour--at least for Schmitz when he signs a talented new artist or works with the same Los Angeles producers who've jammed with hip-hop heavyweights like Jay-Z. He's promoting his artists everywhere, including on his website, thegridrecords.com, and projects 2008 sales to hit $150,000.
As hard as it may be to launch your so-called glamorous business, it'll definitely be a rush. Just know what you're getting into. "You'll have to observe the realities that are present in every single business," says Peter Burns, founder of the College of Entrepreneurship at Grand Canyon University. "But you may as well pick something that's fun because you're going to spend a lot of hours doing it."