The 5 Most Important Questions to Consider Before Beginning Your Entrepreneurial Journey
Every entrepreneur’s journey starts with a story, whether an account of overcoming adversity or an anecdotal moment of inspiration found in an unlikely situation. When one digs deeper, he or she discovers that these stories have one common thread: courage.
My entrepreneurial journey began when I took a leap of faith to launch my own public relations brand. Mustering the courage to dive into the unknown wasn’t necessarily a new thing for me. I immigrated to the U.S. as a young Nepali woman to begin my higher education. To do this, I had to leave behind a family and a country torn by civil war. Looking back, I realize that this scary experience fifteen years ago prepared me for my entrepreneurial journey today. I learned that informed, calculated risks coupled with grit is the necessary combination to achieve.
How do you know if being an entrepreneur is right for you? To find out if being an entrepreneur is the right fit for you, consider these five questions:
1. Why do I want to be an entrepreneur?
Each entrepreneur’s journey is unique, even though there are certain qualities, personality traits, and values that entrepreneurs share. Therefore, the answer to this question varies greatly from person to person. Is it wealth? Independence? Social recognition? Legacy? A combination of these? Something else entirely? Take some time and answer it for yourself.
In 2003, when I was age 19, I emigrated from Kathmandu -- a city of about one million -- to Hesston, Kansas, a town of approximately 3,800 people. Before then, I had never heard of tornadoes, The Wizard of Oz, corn dogs or Mennonites. By the time I completed my higher education and found some success in the corporate world, I was fully integrated into American culture. But I felt like my career growth was limited. I knew deep down that if I did not take the risks now I would regret it later.
I finally collected enough courage to leave my stable (but unsatisfying) corporate job to explore the unknown and scary world of entrepreneurship. I told myself: If I was brave enough to emigrate from Nepal as a young woman, I can find the chutzpah to start my own brand and leave a footprint -- a legacy -- that is of value to me.
Most people have taken risks in life, taken leaps of faith in one way or another. These earlier experiences can help you find the inspiration needed to build a business from the ground up. Remember that time in the past when you were bold and dreamt big? When you jumped off a cliff and built your wings on the way down? Become that daring, audacious version of yourself again.
2. What is your story?
Everyone loves a good story. As an entrepreneur, knowing your story helps you establish your brand credibility. Being authentic and genuine about the adversity you experienced helps you connect to your audience and build your brand’s reputation.
Consider the former CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi. She has shared the story of her journey as a young girl from India who came to the U.S. in the 1970s to pursue her higher education. She has discussed the barriers she faced as a minority woman in the boardroom, connecting herself to women in business like herself, minorities in the US and the female workforce as a whole.
3. What are your values?
Knowing your core values and what you stand for as an individual can help define your brand. Our values give us a sense of purpose and direction, and can eventually function as an anchor for your business. What values lay at the foundation of your brand? Is it giving back to the community? Empowering others? Influencing the younger generation? Cultivating creativity? Something entirely different?
4. Are you comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable?
Entrepreneurs must be willing to step out of their comfort zones. Many entrepreneurs share stories about how this idea motivates them to learn new ways of doing things and welcome challenges. Once you embrace the notion that being uncomfortable is okay, you can move past your anxiety and diversify your experiences.
Before I took that leap of faith in starting my own brand, I spent a few uncomfortable months deliberating the idea of quitting my day job and starting out on my own. The idea itself was anxiety-provoking to the point of losing sleep. Eventually, however, I learned that being uncomfortable is a temporary part of the entrepreneurial journey that leads to personal growth. Being uncomfortable, paradoxically, can be a good thing in the world of entrepreneurship. After this realization, I was able to tackle my goals with renewed energy. The vision for my brand became clear.
As Arianna Huffington puts it, "Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it, the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me."
5. What do you want to leave behind?
This question is more about the end than the beginning. For me, taking the entrepreneurial journey was about leaving behind a legacy, a footprint.
We often think of a “legacy” as something grand. To me, it is simply the notion of making decisions and choices that my future self will be proud of. When I embarked on my journey as an entrepreneur, I asked myself: What is it that I want from this experience? What is the end goal? I thought through this question and came to the realization that social recognition and the financial aspect were smaller pieces of the puzzle. The big piece for me was empowering women who immigrated to the U.S. with a dream.
Lastly, know that entrepreneurs must have a healthy relationship with failure. Failure is an option-- it’s how we learn and improve. This process takes time, patience and, above all, courage. As Michael Jordan said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”