Why Young Entrepreneurs Fail
Founder of Under30CEO.com, Matt Wilson, shares tips to avoid failure.
Face it. Nothing will go as planned. Ever.
Failure is inevitable. Your world will be flipped upside-down on a daily basis, and even the best-laid plans--accompanied by the best intentions--can go belly-up.
To make it as a business owner in the real world, you need to learn to fail like a pro, adapt at will and pay attention to detail in order to make informed decisions that will keep your business moving forward. Your ability to plan for the worst-case scenario and maneuver around unforeseen circumstances will be the keys to finding success as your own boss.
Matt Wilson is a young entrepreneur who knows a thing or two about failure. He's hustling it out like the rest of us and created a company, Under30CEO , to provide tools and resources to help aspiring entrepreneurs drop their 9-to-5 and take control of their lives. Under30CEO has helped countless people overcome adversity, avoid catastrophe and survive failure.
What was your biggest failure as a young entrepreneur?
MW: My biggest failure as an entrepreneur came at Under30CEO after wavering from our mission of inspiring young entrepreneurs. We were frustrated because our market wasn't buying what we had to sell, so we took on an enormous re-branding campaign and changed the name of our company to incorporate a larger audience and drop our under-30 demographic. We spent a lot of time and money trying to expand our market. Still, nobody bought.
It doesn't matter how big your market is if nobody likes your product. It wasn't the market's fault. Our product was bad, and we ruined our brand and had to start from scratch. The most embarrassing part was going back to our old brand and apologizing to our old customers we wanted to welcome back.
That being said, now we spend a lot more time getting to know our market instead of trying to sell anything to anyone. We were in a hurry to turn cash-flow-positive when we needed to stay focused and be patient.
Are there specific obstacles young entrepreneurs need to overcome vs. older generations?
The biggest thing for a young entrepreneur to overcome is credibility. Why should someone invest in you? Why should someone trust your advice? What will make people think you will get the job done with no track record? Building credibility is best done with a stepping-stone approach. Do one thing today that will make you more credible tomorrow. If people won't pay you or invest in you, give away your product or service for free, get testimonials from customers and build your track record that way. Show customers what value you can provide them, and if you can quantify that value, even better. The more things you can come to the table to brag about, the better.
What about some typical missteps you've seen young entrepreneurs make?
One of the biggest mistakes young entrepreneurs make is neglecting their revenue model. Today there are so many businesses that haven't figured out how to monetize themselves yet. To me, the word monetize is redundant in business. If you don't have a business model, you aren't really in business--it's just a hobby. Sure, investors are dropping millions of dollars into companies with hopes of being acquired by Google, but without a solid business model behind it, you are just building "castles in the sky."
Seasoned investors and accomplished entrepreneurs can help mentor young people to overcome this hurdle. Show them your financials and focus on how to generate cash flow. There are thousands of people out there who want to see young people succeed--you just need to ask.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who hate their 9-to-5s?
Aspiring entrepreneurs need to surround themselves with others who want more out of life than the typical 9-to-5. There is a great group of motivated people eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every night in your city, scraping by to build their business. Surrounding yourself with these types of people gives you the confidence to know you aren't alone on the road to success. The minute you quit your job, naysayers will come out of the woodwork, but if you have that support group to fall back on, you'll be able to overcome the hard times.
Remember, entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint.
How has Under30CEO.com helped young entrepreneurs avoid failure and launch successful businesses?
More than 100 young entrepreneurs from all over the globe have shared their successes and failures on Under30CEO.com. Hearing insights from young people overcoming the same problems they are experiencing in their businesses allows Gen Y to come together and learn from one another. The community has a culture of reaching out to one another and helping each other with the challenges they are facing.
Scott Gerber is the founder of Sizzle It!, a New York-based sizzle reel production company specializing in promotional videos for PR and marketing professionals, and the Young Entrepreneur Council. He is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, columnist, public speaker and author of Never Get a "Real" Job: How To Dump Your Boss, Build a Business and Not Go Broke (Wiley, 2010).