This Is Why Entrepreneurs Succeed After the Pitch Show Ends
The entrepreneurs on ABC's Funderdome are some of the most passionate, creative folks out there. I should know -- as part of my job at GoDaddy, I got to spend a few weeks with them while they were filming and competing against each other for funding. Thirteen inventors pitched their ideas to a studio audience, who voted on their favorites to provide a round of seed funding.
You might think that passion, cash and an appearance on network television are all it takes to break through and turn your project into a successful business. But, it's not that simple. The entrepreneurs on Funderdome haven't become overnight success stories; for many of them, the real work is just beginning.
It takes grit.
For example, Mark Kirkland's Candwich, a portable sandwich packaged in a can, sat on shelves at Walmart stores across the country before his business went belly up after legal issues brought on by a duplicitous investor. "Walmart went crazy for it. But, I needed money to produce, because it wasn't like Walmart said, 'Here's an order for 10 million cans.' I had investors, but the legal problems scared people away. It was a huge missed opportunity," said Kirkland.
Even when you think you've made it, there's always the potential for setbacks -- entrepreneurship isn't for those that give up easily. After his legal issues slowed things down, Kirkland picked himself up and tried again, relaunching Candwich with a crowdfunding campaign. Kirkland credits his tenacity with helping him push through obstacles: "I'm resilient. I believe in my product. And I don't quit."
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But, as the inventors of Funderdome roll up their sleeves and work on building their businesses, what else will help them succeed? Often, it's not what you know, but who you know.
The encouragement and support of family and friends is essential to anyone starting a business. But, more than that, our social networks and communities can bring big opportunities our way.
Take Sherry Latham of Pound Poms: After searching for a trustworthy and capable manufacturer for years, Latham had begun manufacturing her own product in her garage. While she maintained the level of quality that she wanted, adding "manufacturer" to the long list of roles she'd already taken on as an entrepreneur meant she was spreading herself too thin.
Then Latham met Grace Chang, founder of Soarigami, at an early Funderdome taping. Latham and Chang hit it off immediately, chatting and trading stories about running their own businesses. Not long after meeting, Chang and Latham had a conversation about manufacturing. "Grace couldn't believe I didn't have a manufacturer, and connected me with her manufacturer right away," said Latham. Since handing assembly of the products over to someone else, Latham has been able to focus her attention on other aspects of the business -- and all because of a chance meeting and friendship with Chang.
The hustle never stops.
As an entrepreneur, you can expect to think about your business day and night. But, are you ready to put that time in after your day job?
Many of the small-business owners on Funderdome have kept their full-time jobs and work on their business during their free time. For instance, Shane Vermette invented Right Shears, a pair of ergonomically friendly scissors. For two years, Vermette spent nights and weekends working on Right Shears, while he spent his days working as a software engineer at a large corporation.
These entrepreneurs don't start their businesses as a way to get rich quick. They have what I call "the artist's drive" -- they have an idea, and can't imagine not executing it. Money isn't what motivates them to start their business -- it's the unassailable urge to bring their idea to life. And because they've kept their day job and aren't relying on their idea to support them, they have more runway to develop and grow their side hustle into a thriving business of its own.
I learned a ton while hanging out on the Funderdome set for a few weeks. More than ever, I believe that each of us has an entrepreneur somewhere inside of us, and that with determination, community and a plan, we have the power to share our ideas with the world -- whatever those ideas may be.
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