Start Before You're Ready: Advice From 4 Established Entrepreneurs
Last year, my piece, “Start Before You’re Ready, Really” took off online and was shared over 3,000 times on Twitter by entrepreneurs from all over the world. Tweets came in from Italy, parts of the Middle East and both North and South America. And I noticed that, despite borders and language barriers, the issues I'd addressed -- facing fear, having faith and moving through "analysis paralysis" -- were universal truths for entrepreneurs at all levels.
That bolstered my argument that “ready” is a myth.
Each milestone and level of your business will bring about many starts, stops and detours, rather than one steady level of success. To help us take action toward our goals, whether any of us feel “ready" or not, I’ve collected the advice of and encouragement from four established entrepreneurs in businesses ranging from food and beverage to publishing and podcasting.
On taking a leap of faith
Kirk Wiles, Founder, Paradise Springs Winery
“You never work harder then when you work for yourself. Ask yourself, "How passionate am I about what I'm about to do? Can this idea grow to a scale that it can support me financially and a lifestyle I want to lead? Is this something I am going to continually be passionate about down the line? So many people say they will take the risk and try to calculate every step along the way of how it’s going to play out.
"Just take the leap of faith; you don't know where you're going to land. That said, research is essential. Learn how your industry does it, know the typical norms and understand how other people avoided 'fatal' flaws that may have come up. Visit like-minded businesses, look at brands on the shelves and in restaurants, and immerse yourself into your industry’s culture by joining associations.”
On the need to have “enough” experience, and maintaining confidence in your unique selling proposition.
Freya Estrellar, Cool Haus, Co-Founder
“We have a saying we share with other entrepreneurs -- you can walk through a wall when you don't know it's there. When we started Coolhaus, we were 25 and had zero experience in the food industry. Coolhaus really started off as an art project born out of my co-founder Natasha’s architecture thesis project called Farchitecture (food+architecture) that went viral. We could have dropped the whole architecture angle when we started selling our packaged ice cream sandwiches, pints and bars in grocery stores (now in 3,500 stores nationwide), but we feel that the design aspect is a huge part of our heritage and authenticity and it definitely makes us stand out in the now crowded artisanal ice cream space.”
Moral of the story: experience isn’t always a requirement but confidence is essential.
On building your audience
Erica Nicole, Founder and CEO of YFS Magazine
“It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs and small business owners to pour a substantial amount of time and energy into creating content, only to find that it’s not reaching their ideal customers or readers. If you’re ready to grow your audience, first get a crystal-clear image of your target. Then create value by ensuring your content addresses their pain points and immediate needs. Look to sites like Quora and industry-specific forums to shed light on their “real needs” instead of relying solely on hypotheticals -– quality first, then quantity.”
Adding to Erica’s tip: Twitter chats, online reviews and even blog comments are a great way to learn more about what solutions and content your ideal customers are looking for.
On writing, self-publishing and other creative pursuits
Srinivas Rao, Host and founder of the Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Has self-published three books to date.
“Most people think that there's going to be a perfect time to start; a time when their writing is good enough, will be loved by everybody, and will lead to riches and fame. But this is an illusion, perpetuated by not starting and by seeing the people who [accomplished these things already]. I think that to do creative work of any kind you have to start before you’re ready, and embrace the mindset of 'let's just see what happens.' Anybody who has managed to get their work out into the world likely started before they were ready.”
Sure, it’s never easy to face the fear of the unknown and officially 'open-shop' when there are so many variables and little guarantees. However, whether you are a lean startup, are venture-funded or are launching a second or third business, you'll likely find that the only way to learn about your market, your customers, your competition and most importantly yourself is to stop second guessing and start before you are 'ready.
If these entrepreneurs here can make it (myself included), so can you.
Have a tip you would like to share? Drop it in the comments below.