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Get The Last Laugh

. . . even when everyone says your business idea is crazy.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When Anne Abrams and Cecilia Hugo, both 46, decided to chucktheir successful theatrical PR company to start a specialty retailstore for dog and cat lovers in Seattle, everyone they knew thoughtthey had lost their minds. In spite of such skepticism, the firstBow Wow Meow Treatoria opened in 1996 to an enthusiastic public. Itwas located on the first floor of a converted house, with Abramsand Hugo living in an apartment upstairs. Since then, they'veadded a second retail location, as well as a commissary where theymake fresh pet food.

In the process, Abrams and Hugo learned some excellentstrategies for dealing with people who think you're crazy forstarting your business:

  • Show you've done your homework. Do thorough marketresearch and develop a solid business plan. Then, when peoplechallenge your idea, you'll be in a position to respond withconfidence.
  • Find an angle skeptics can relate to. For both Abramsand Hugo, the emotional support of their parents was important.Although neither set could personally identify with the market forupscale pet foods and products, they were of a generation thatcould understand the concept of living above the store--andthat's where Abrams and Hugo made the connection to win theirparents' support. And though their friends thought abandoning aPR business in favor of a specialty store was crazy, most could atleast relate to the store's concept, because they had pets.Eventually, some of them even invested in the store.
  • Expect some relationships to be damaged. Any newbusiness venture is risky, and an unusual one is even more so. Youmay have friends who simply can't deal with the risk you'retaking. Sadly, Abrams and Hugo say they have friends who were souncomfortable with what they were doing, those relationships willnever be the same again.
  • Disassociate yourself from the naysayers. Keep yourselfpumped up by avoiding negative people who only drag you down.
  • Remember other successes that started out as crazyideas. Abrams and Hugo say their theme song is the old Gershwintune "They All Laughed." When people say they'recrazy, the partners invoke stories of other successfulentrepreneurs who were ridiculed. Says Abrams, "They alllaughed, and [now] we're laughing, too."

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