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I Left the Corporate World to Start a Chicken Coop Business — Here Are 3 Valuable Lessons I Learned Along the Way Board meetings were traded for barnyards as a thriving new venture hatched.

By Chris Bowman Edited by Chelsea Brown

Key Takeaways

  • Succeeding as an entrepreneur requires a commitment to continuous learning.
  • Gaining expertise in digital marketing is essential for small business success.
  • Building a strong network and seeking guidance from experienced mentors can significantly ease the transition to entrepreneurship and help you avoid common pitfalls.
  • While it comes with its own set of challenges, entrepreneurship offers a unique freedom that allows for a better work-life balance and the pursuit of personal passions.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Between 2021 and 2023, the United States experienced a 34% increase in likely employer business applications. It was during this entrepreneurial boom that I, along with a friend, transitioned from a corporate job to launching a venture in backyard chicken coops. Here's why and how I made that leap.

After years in a high-stakes corporate financial technology environment, managing a large team and an equally large budget, the daily grind and office politics began to drain my enthusiasm. I was always very entrepreneurial, even inside the walls of corporate America. However, it wasn't until I faced a particularly challenging boss that I realized I needed a change. I wasn't just seeking escape from a bad work situation, but I'd be lying if that wasn't part of it. I was driven by a vision for a different kind of life — one centered around a different community, sustainability, and most importantly, freedom.

Related: Considering Entrepreneurship After a Successful Corporate Career? Here Are 3 Things You Need to Know.

Preparing for the leap

Transitioning from the corporate world to entrepreneurship wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision for me. Initially, I ventured into the healthcare sector and let a startup I created ride along while I cut my teeth in corporate America. This broadened my understanding of small business dynamics and gave me some experience in relative safety. This experience was a crucial stepping stone that prepared me for jumping into backyard chickens.

"Buy or build" has been the "chicken or egg" of entrepreneurs since the beginning of time. Getting into chickens never crossed my mind until I forwarded the business listing to a friend who wanted to buy a business. I really didn't think much of it, but he was fired up about it. The idea took flight quickly, and we started due diligence for the purchase. Leaving behind the predictability of corporate America means one must become a student and quickly a master of the game. Learning about digital marketing, search engine optimization and media strategies became my new norm, as these skills are critical for small business success. I also got a crash course in international logistics.

One fundamental and interesting lesson is whatever company you might be starting or acquiring, no matter what name is on the door, it isn't a manufacturing company or an ecommerce business. It's a media company that happens to sell whatever it is you're selling. There's a big difference, and the focus on digital media will make or break your venture. I consulted with experts and adapted their insights to fit my business model. Gaining expertise in digital marketing is essential for navigating the online market effectively.

You don't have to be the smartest as long as you surround yourself with really smart people. One key to this was we assembled a knowledgeable legal team early on who had tons of real-life deal-making experience. This team became instrumental in helping me navigate the complexities of small business ownership. They offered guidance on everything from structuring deals to handling regulatory requirements.

For instance, their insights were invaluable during the acquisition of my healthcare company, helping me manage financial terms and negotiate all aspects of the agreement, including some significant tax benefits. Their expertise didn't just provide legal safety — it fostered creative solutions to the challenges that frequently arise in entrepreneurship.

Moreover, as mentioned above, I recognized that in today's business environment, regardless of your industry, you must operate like a media company and master digital marketing. The digital landscape is constantly evolving, and staying ahead requires a commitment to continuous learning. I subscribed to industry newsletters, attended digital marketing workshops and followed thought leaders to keep abreast of the latest trends and techniques.

Over time, I've hired agencies and freelancers and learned from all of them. Absorbing knowledge like a sponge from anyone who will teach you the tips and tricks of digital marketing is a great way to become a master. Generating effective content is one of the key pillars of digital marketing success and should be one of your top priorities with any business.

This approach to learning and team building has kept our chicken coop business agile and competitive, enabling us to thrive in a fast-paced and ever-changing market.

Related: 3 Digital Marketing Strategies That Will Save You 20 Hours Every Week

Key lessons and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs

Embarking on the path from a secure corporate position to the dynamic world of entrepreneurship has taught me invaluable lessons. Here's what I would like to share with every aspiring entrepreneur:

1. It's more than a cliche — networking is everything:

The importance of building connections with experienced mentors cannot be overstated. When I started, I reached out to established business owners who had navigated similar transitions. For example, I connected with a former corporate executive who successfully transitioned to running a multi-million-dollar organic farm. His insights helped me avoid early financial pitfalls and inspired innovative approaches to market my products.

Networking is more than just receiving advice; it's about mutual growth and sharing experiences that enrich both parties involved. Networking groups in your local area can be a great way to do this, but being vulnerable and willing to reach out to key thought leaders in your space will reap huge rewards. Pick up the phone. The knowledge you need is out there.

2. Be ready to learn — always:

The entrepreneurial journey is a continuous learning curve. When I first entered the world of digital marketing, I realized how vast and intricate it was. I was totally overwhelmed and didn't even know where to start. I took online courses, attended webinars and even hired a digital marketing consultant to bring me up to speed.

This proactive learning approach was crucial when we had to pivot our marketing strategies during the launch of a new product line, which significantly differed from our initial offerings. Testing your assumptions without bias is key, and being willing to move wherever the data leads you is like finding the gold at the end of the rainbow. Being willing to put in the work and learn how to apply the same concepts to different scenarios will be invaluable even when you hire people to do the same work later.

Take Elon Musk, for example. Despite achieving significant success with companies like Tesla and SpaceX, Musk continues to wade into new fields like neural technology and sustainable energy. His approach involves constant reading, learning from failures and engaging with diverse knowledge areas to innovate and solve complex problems. If you look closely, you will see that he's applying some of the same tactics and lessons across industries that are polar opposites. I'm nowhere close to being as energetic or successful as Musk, but his commitment to continuous learning fuels his ventures and pushes the boundaries of technology and business. Finding blue oceans — a great book — is done by pushing the boundaries of learning like this.

3. Freedom is worth the risk:

Choosing entrepreneurship brings a unique type of freedom that's rare in corporate life. For instance, being able to set my own hours allows me to balance work with personal passions, like pickleball, boating and international travel. Having the freedom to do things when and how I want has drastically improved my life. However, it also raises the question — can I be disciplined? Can I manage work-life balance, handle stress and differentiate myself in the marketplace?

Related: How to Become an Entrepreneur - 8 Tips to Get Your Business Going, Even if You Don't Know Where to Start

Taking the leap from a secure corporate job to entrepreneurship is daunting, but for those who dare, it can be incredibly rewarding. My journey from corporate executive to professional nutraceuticals to backyard chicken entrepreneur is a testament to the power of aligning your career with your passion for freedom. If you know how to do business, it doesn't matter what industry you are in or what you're selling. If you're ready for a challenge, the entrepreneurial path offers a new way of working and a new way of living.

Chris Bowman

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Co-owner of Chicken Coop Company

California native Chris Bowman combines a passion for global outdoors with entrepreneurial verve. With experience in financial tech, healthcare, and real estate, he builds relationships and leverages e-commerce expertise globally.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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