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. 

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5 Side Hustle Tips from Someone Doing It


Having a side hustle seems to be a very popular thing these days. You've heard chatter from some of your friends who are working on something on the side, and you're interest is peaked. 

Perhaps your main job that consumes most of your waking hours just isn’t enough. You may need that side hustle for extra income or to eventually grow into a main hustle.  I’ve been doing my side hustle starting a premium undershirt brand, Sloane, while I’ve been rising in the corporate world in marketing at P&G over the past 7 years. 

I’ve had some highs like hitting our Kickstarter goal, pitching on CNBC’s West Texas Investors Club and seeing the company continue to grow. I’ve had some lows like getting on the Today show while we were 100% out of inventory, borrowing money from a friend that took 2X the time I said I would pay it back and tireless nights where I come home from a long day and then need to log serious hours to get Sloane off the ground. 


I’ve learned a few things along this journey that I’d love to pass along. We still have a long way to go to get to our goals, but we’ve been side hustling for 7 years, and we keep growing. It’s been a success in my eyes and we see massive white space to keep going.

Today, I hope part of my journey can help you with your side hustle. Here are 5 side hustle tips to help your side hustle be a success.


1. Do NOT Go Into it Thinking You’re Going to Get Rich

The number of startups that fail is sobering. Forbes reports that 90% of startups fail. 90%!!! So not only are the odds not with you that you’ll get rich, but the odds are that you would lose everything!

Going in eyes wide open is critical because you have to be ready to do what it takes to succeed. Be that 10%. Your product or service, work ethic, marketing, fulfillment, team, etc need to be on point!

But if your first idea fails, don't worry and don't stop! Chalk it up as a learning experience and move on to the next one.


2. Be Clear on Where the Hours Will Come From

A side hustle happens on top of your current job. If you are a person that works 8 to 6, then you need to find the hours in addition to those times to work on your business. Are those your TV hours? Are those your softball team hours? Are those your workout hours?

Sacrifices will have to be made to find those hours. I moved to Cincinnati when Sloane started and didn’t get a TV. Those old TV hours turned into Sloane side hustle hours.


3. Make Sure Your Idea is Strong

Before you jump in, make sure you do the leg work on the idea. What consumer problem are you solving? How do you plan to create your idea? How do you plan to sell your idea? Do people like your prototypes? Get input from people who you trust. The last thing you want to do is jump in by sinking your life savings into something that’s a bad idea.

If you get some initial wins with a concept or early prototype, then you will have a higher likelihood to succeed. We gave our prototypes out to friends. Once we received positive feedback, we put it on Kickstarter. Once that succeeded, we knew we had something.


4. Be Clear on Where the Money is Coming From

The rule of thumb in startups is that things take twice as long and cost twice as much as you think. Having cash is everything. If you don’t have it, then it becomes very hard to even take the first step.

If you are going to take money from savings, then you have to be ok with the possibility losing it all. Can you still go on? This is where the massive risk taking comes in that separates true entrepreneurs from wannabe entrepreneurs. Are you willing to put your own hard earned money into your idea? Where will the money come from if you need more?


5. Be Patient

It takes awhile to build a company when you’re working full time. It takes much longer when you can only give a few hours a day max. I had high hopes Sloane would take off quickly, but the reality was that giving 10 hours a week won’t move things quickly.

You have to be ok with making steady progress versus major leaps. If you have a team, then you can scale your time and move faster. It likely never feels like you’re moving fast enough when it’s just a side thing.

The fatal flaw is underperforming at the job that pays the bills trying to put in extra time on your startup to make it go faster. If you’re patient and have the right expectations you can make it happen!  


About the Author: Mike Droessler is a Brand Manager at P&G working in Digital Innovation and also the Founder of Sloane Men, the maker of The Invisible Undershirt.  He attended Wharton for his undergraduate and USC for his MBA.  Sloane’s mission is to make guys better.  His breakthrough undershirt helps them look their best, but he also shares style and professional tips to help men in more aspects of their lives.

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