Do You Have To Risk It All To Become An Entrepreneur?

Safe and Steady

I consider myself a pretty risk averse person. I’ve taken the safe route most of life.  I went to a good college hoping to put myself on the right track.  I went into a stable industry post undergrad to ensure I had a steady paycheck to pay bills and save.  After a while, I wanted to push for more, so I applied to business school to try to get me to the next level.  Even after business school, I decided to go to one of the largest companies in the world to learn marketing. 

Entrepreneurship wasn’t even on my radar when I went to USC for business school. They had an entrepreneurship program and I didn’t even look to take one class.  I was headed for safety and stability.  Things changed in my second year when I came up with the idea for Sloane with my co-founders, Jason and Danielle.  Something clicked in my head and I just knew the idea had legs.  That’s when I entered the realities of entrepreneurship.

That's when I had to ask, "do I have to risk it all to become an entrepreneur?"


The Power of the Idea  

We had the idea. We had the energy.  We now needed to START.  Starting takes money.  Our parents weren’t going to bankroll us.  We didn’t have rich friends.  It became clear early that we were going to have to go into our savings to make this happen.  Instead of the nice car, the Roth IRA investment, the vacation, etc…..the money was going into making prototypes, designing a logo and getting a website up and running. 

A decision had to be made at that point. Are you in this or are you not?  If you are in this, you will start making financial decisions that will hurt your stomach.  The calls you have to make will get more and more expensive as time goes by.  They will get to the point where you will feel like you are risking everything.

My transformation from a risk averse guy looking for the safest path possible to making financial calls that would make my mom sick was a pretty quick one. It happened when I got the idea for Sloane and flipped a switch in my brain that I was going to do everything I could to make it successful.  If I failed, then I would at least do it chasing my passion!  No regrets. 


Risk Averse And Risk Taking

Having a full time job while I got Sloane off the ground was the only way I could balance my risk averse nature with my desire to create and build. If things really totally fell apart, then I would still have my salary to keep me going.  I see this as the model for people to actually start their dream business.

Going “all in” is a hot thing to say right now. You’re not a corporate square.  You’re controlling your own destiny.  That’s all well and good until your startup fails and you lost it all!  I’ve seen too many startups fail to believe that’s a sound decision.  Refer to my earlier article about the dream vs. reality of becoming an entrepreneur to get the exact numbers on your likelihood for success as an entrepreneur!

Working a full time job will absolutely slow down the process. You just aren’t able to spend enough hours on your startup to get it quickly off the ground.  There is a downside to that, but there is also an upside.  You are not making rash decisions.  The pressure to accelerate hyper quickly to get revenue producing ASAP isn’t there. 


The Power of Time

If you start your own business, there are going to be a lot of decisions you’ll have to make where you will balance the consumer experience versus your need for cash. Do you have time to do the extra revision on the website, undershirt stitching, new logo design, etc? 

If you are forced to make decisions solely based on speed in these areas, then you are exposing yourself for a poor consumer experience with your product.  Once the consumer isn’t happy, you are dead in the water.  We found on Sloane that it was worth doing the extra revision.  It was worth delaying the Kickstarter campaign.  It was worth taking an extra 2 months to get the logo perfect.  Without the need for cash we could make those decisions with a clearer head. 

You don’t want to be slow and do 400 revisions before you finally get something out. That won’t work either.  Feeling forced to push the first version is where the risk is.  Sometimes things need a little time to breathe.  You need time to think about what’s the right thing to do. 


The Decision

What if you knew you could start your own company and not risk it all? I think a lot of people would consider giving their idea a shot.  Working a full time job while getting things off the ground is the way to go.  The next question would be how badly do you want it?  Are you willing to put in those nights and weekends?  Sloane has grown while I’ve worked some of the most demanding jobs of my life.  It can absolutely be done! 

Taking out the financial risk removes a big barrier. Now you need to look in the mirror and think about how valuable your free time is to you.  That’s a question only you can answer.