Young Millionaires 2005: Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
We asked our 2005 young millionaires for their advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Read their answers to for the inspiration you need to get started.
"Choose something you love. You've got to know that if it doesn't work out, you did not spend your time in vain." --Jonathan S. Bush, 36, co-founder of Athenahealth, a Waltham, Massachusetts company that provides internet-based revenue-cycle management for the health-care industry
"Be discerning about the idea that you pick and do your research up front. It's a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself. People are the most important asset to any business so make sure you do a very good job to hire high quality, high integrity people who you can trust."--Vinay Bhagat, 36, co-founder of Austin, Texas-based Convio, a provider of online constituent relationship management software and services for nonprofit organizations
"I'm a big believer in business plans. If you're interested in starting your own business, you should work really, really hard at producing the best business plan that you possibly can that is as thorough and detailed and creative as you can."--Chris Griffiths, 32, founder of Garrison Guitars, a manufacturer of acoustic guitars in St. John's Newfoundland
"Don't get too impressed with yourself. It's easier to screw things up at this point than to keep growing. Remain humble and always be willing to take advice from someone who has done it before and done it bigger and better than you".--Mike Domek, 36, founder of Crystal Lake, Illinois-based TicketsNow, the world's largest online marketplace for secondary event tickets
"I think what separates a business owner and somebody with true entrepreneurial spirit is a business owner makes the mistake of working for their business where they go in every day and do the tasks that the business requires. What I've done is I have enough people that are working in the business on a day-to-day business that it gives me the opportunity every single day to work on the business. I go in and try to figure out what the next thing is for the business, making improvements every day.
"One way I do that is once a week I get away from the office. If you have a management team, get them away from the office so they're not in that environment and then you can really say, let's work on the business. Nothing keeps the entrepreneurial spirit alive better than committing yourself to make an improvement to the company everyday."--Babak Farahi, 32, founder of Multivision Inc., an Oakland, California, company that records and broadcasts coverage for clients
"Have a good plan and understand that you really are going to need to know the finance piece to make it successful and given the knowledge of that realize that the power of a great idea is unstoppable but you still need to execute well."--Doug Zell, 39, co-founder of Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, a coffee roaster, retailer and wholesaler
"Be prepared to work as you've never had to work in a 9-5 job. It's not all golf games and what you've heard on television."--Jeff King, 38, co-founder of Clubfurniture.com, an online retailer of high-quality, upholstered furniture and accessories
"There definitely has to be a strong work ethic. Unfortunately there are sacrifices, but it's the reward, the light at the end of the tunnel."--Darrin King, 34, founders of Clubfurniture.com, an online retailer of high-quality, upholstered furniture and accessories
I would definitely say, stealing the Nike thing, just do it. There are so many people I've met over the years who've really had a good business idea, something that was maybe a hobby of theirs [or] something they were passionate about, and they just never did it. And I think fear is a factor for a lot of people for not entering the business arena. But absolutely do it."--Ryan Duques, 29, co-founder of Shore Publishing, the publisher of 16 community newspapers in Connecticut and Rhode Island
"Follow your passion. It might not always work out, but you will never know unless you try. Stay focused and grow strategically."--Donna Slavitt, 38, co-founder of World Packaging Corp., a New York City manufacturer and distributor of promotional, private-label and licensed items
"If you're going to do something for yourself, make it something you love. Don't go into medical equipment if you love sports. A lot of people do that; they think, 'Hey there's an opportunity here,' and they start their business, working these long days and nights and are happy to be working for themselves, but they're in the wrong industry.
"You have to be extremely passionate about what you do. But that can be a flaw sometimes. I am so overly passionate about what I do that sometimes I would rather pass on a deal than change what I do. A lot of entrepreneurs will take that quick dollar because they believe it will help them get to the next point, but then they change the dimension of their business and wind up doing something they're not well-equipped to do. A lot of times what winds up happening is it seems it's the short road to success, but it dilutes you more and more, and you spread yourself thinner and thinner. Now you're into something that isn't your core focus, and you're spending more of your time to keep it going, when you should've waited for the opportunity and then hit it."--Andrew Fox, 33, founder of Clubplanet.com, a New York City-based online nightlife destination service
"Research your market. Look for your niche. Don't do something common; everybody has done the common. There are going to be a lot of bad mistakes you make in the beginning, and you'll probably sit back and say, 'Screw this, I don't want to do this anymore.' Don't give up."--Scott Sanfilippo, 34, co-founder of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania-based Neeps Inc. and Solid Cactus, which include pet supply websites and a website development and internet marketing group
"It's always better than working for someone else."--Joe Palko, 33, co-founder of Neeps Inc. and Solid Cactus
"They need to realize that in the beginning it's not glamour. Expect the next seven to 10 years of hard work, heartache and complete intensity. You should really expect [the business] to be your spouse. When you're married, you give 100 percent to the marriage, and when you're married to your business, you should do the same. You need to understand there's major sacrifice involved.
"Nobody will ever do the job as good as you unless you hire the right people. Always be conscious of who you hire, pay them right, pay them well. But also make sure you take a paycheck, even if it's $20 a week. There's a funny little guilt thing with being an entrepreneur. When you're at work, you feel guilty you're away from your family, but then when you're away from work, you feel guilty you're away from work. But in the long run, it's a great, beautiful sacrifice when you're truly making a difference. When you read the newspaper about unethical businesses out there, you feel awesome when you wake up in the morning and you know you're not unethical."--Joseph Semprevivo, 34, founder of Joseph's Lite Cookies, a Deming, New Mexico-based manufacturer of sugar-free and fat-free cookies and food products
"Most importantly, if you're going to be an entrepreneur, whatever line of business you get into, you've really got to have a passion for it. If you speak to people close to me, they'll say that I'm always working. But it doesn't feel like I'm working. I know I have a lot of responsibilities, but I do have a passion for what I do. I do wake up and go to sleep at night thinking of new ideas, new ways to take our business to the next level. Really have a passion for what you do.
"Also, be prepared for the struggle. People get into business and think because I have such a great idea, it's going to just take off. Business just doesn't work like that."--Shawn Prez, 34, founder of New York City-based Power Moves Inc., a street promotion, marketing and event-planning company
"The best thing we've done over time is to make an investment in our customers. We've always treated them with the utmost respect and if something goes wrong, I'll always go the extra mile. If they get a defective toy, I'll let them keep it and send them another one.
"That small gesture goes a long way in creating loyalty. They in turn spread the word among their internet friends or newsgroups. If you rip somebody off even once, the news will travel 50 times over, and you get a few messages like that around the internet, and no one will come into your store because of the bad reputation. So it's always doing right by the customer and always treating them the best you can."--Joel Boblit, 29, founder of Somerset, Wisconsin-based BigBadToyStore Inc., an online toy retailer specializing in collectible action figures