The vision people have of a startup founder is at their vacation house looking out on their big boat just smiling at how awesome his/her life is. They don't have a care in the world. They built their business, didn't have a boss, made their own calls and became rich. That's pretty awesome!
I don't know the numbers, but that might be 1 out of every 1000 entrepreneurs get to that level. Most business just flat out fail. I believe 90%+ don't amount to much at all. The founders lost most everything. They might have also lost their investors money, as well. That story isn't what is told in media.
Jeff Bezos is the type of person who is immortalized. He left his corporate job. Started Amazon small as a bookseller. Made the right calls. He's now with many many many many billions. He said he actually gave his chance for success at 20%! Even he knew that startup live is a massive gamble. He was ready to lose it all though....or at least lose the money his parents gave him to start the company.
If becoming rich is something you are envisioning when you start your company, then you might want to hit reset. Becoming rich MIGHT happen, but your focus needs to be on solving a consumer problem with a great product. Tight focus on that in combination with intense effort MIGHT result in your getting money and becoming rich.
For Sloane I really thought we'd be financially success very soon. Make some undershirts. Sell them. People talk. LOTS more people buy undershirts. Mike becomes rich. Sounds pretty doable.
About a year or so in I realized how hard startup life is and how difficult it is to become rich off of it. Here were some challenges.
- Where does the money come from to invest in inventory to even sell?
- Where does the money come from to develop a website?
- Where does the money come from for a photo shoot to even put images up on the website?
- Where does the money come from to make people aware you even exist? Facebook ads? PR? Influencers?
That's a nice little list of expenses that need to be paid BEFORE you even sell your product. When those started to add up I knew that I was in for an enlightening journey in entrepreneurship. Becoming rich was a looooong way off and I needed to take the first step on the journey.
From that point on I have never thought about becoming rich from Sloane. It was about learning and enjoying the journey. Make the best product possible. Please as many consumers as possible. Learn from mistakes. Don't get too down.
With that attitude I've been able to really enjoy the entrepreneurial life. It's been a total adventure. I'll share more of the ups and downs in this blog. To me the experience has been worth it (or at least that's what I tell myself in the hard times! ha).
The best way to get an understanding about your new business is to get it out to the people. Launch it! That is the best possible feedback that you can receive. Your co-workers, investors, friends and mom all have thoughts. They don't really know though. The consumer is the ultimate decider.
The constant theorizing, tweaking, testing, thinking and talking all delay LAUNCH. There is need for some of that as your develop the product, but it passes a point where it just gets counterproductive. I think the more academic the people are the more they struggle with this. Let's think of every possible thing and have a plan IF it happens. Overthinking at it's finest.
I read a funny quote that essentially stated that the best entrepreneurs are B students because they aren't smart enough to know how bad their idea is. They just launch it! Some of the ideas end up being great and they achieve success. An A student might have just squeezed the idea to death and never got it to market. Or cut it down so much that it lost it's appeal.
This is obviously a subjective call because every person's business is different. I do think less thinking wins the day though. Let the consumer experience the product and adjust from there. You'll quickly see where the issues you and you fix them. Some of the things you thought would be issues just weren't. Some things you didn't foresee ended up being issues. Great to know!
The startup needs momentum. You need wins (like actually launching). You need feedback. You take the feedback and adjust. That is the consumer feedback loop that will lead to success.
You never enter the loop if you never launch.
Having your own startup is pretty much like birthing a child. It's that level of commitment. Time. Money. Mental energy. Stress. It's an always on type of situation and requires sacrifice.
If you are single and doing a startup, then you can do 100%. If you are in a relationship, then your partner is now part of the deal. The question is how much do you share as your relationship is getting going? Do you shift and spend more time with that person and neglect the startup a bit? Do you talk about your startup or would that come across as self-centered? Do you share your financial situation and how much you have tied up in your business?
You share too much and the person might think you're an unstable psycho. You share too little and then you setup that person for an ugly surprise when you shift back into startup mode. You are MIA. Your finances aren't what she thought. You start talking about your business WAY more. She then realizes too late that you're an unstable psycho. ha.
I've done this poorly. I've also done it well. When I look back I realize I was not fair to my partners in that I didn't share enough. I was too chill about Sloane. Didn't talk it too much. It was just a "side thing". I didn't get into the deeper reasons why I wanted to do it and succeed. I didn't get into how financially draining it could be as you deal with the ups and downs.
I then was shocked when I didn't feel like my partners didn't support my business like I needed. Did they realize how hard this was? Did they realize the little things that constantly go wrong? No. They didn't because I didn't tell them as we started dating. Why bore them with "business stuff"??
I also wasn't honest financially. During the courtship period you're going on trips, going to nice dinners and kind of loose with money. You just want your partner to be happy. That's just not startup life! You can't be spending money loosely. You have to be conservative. Put your own skin in the game. When that skin is going towards nice bottles of wine things get bad.
The solution is to be honest. Tell your partner as the dates add up about your business. What it's REALLY like. What you REALLY want to do with it long term. What it REALLY takes daily. How much time you REALLY put in. You have to this. If the person doesn't like it, then it would be doomed anyway. If the person finds it fascinating and wants to be a part of the journey, then you found yourself someone special.
This startup game is hard. The odds are against you. You need to have a partner that supports you.....no matter what. If you have a leach for a partner, then the odds of making it are cut drastically. Your mental game needs to be strong, so having a loving and supportive person by your side is critical.
Trust me. I learned this the hard way multiple times. Be honest.
Starting your own business is exciting. You get a ton of energy at the beginning to tackle this huge challenge. You are hopeful things start smooth and stay smooth. Your product is a hit and you make a lot of money. That sounds incredible!
The reality is that it pretty much never goes like that. That brings up the question on whether you should tell everyone you know what you're up to or keep things under wraps a bit as you grind. You want to tell people to share the excitement, but you don't want to overhype what you're up to and then feel the judgement from others later.
For Sloane I think we took a middle route, which I think has allowed for us to get the support we need while avoiding the constant questions that come up about how the business is going. Those questions are well meaning, but when you are grinding hard and feeling like you're trying to stay above water those questions from your aunt aren't too fun to answer.
At the beginning you need some support and positive energy. People to try your product. People to invest. People to support your Kickstarter campaign. People who might know people for early advice. I remember I sent an individual note to everyone I knew on Facebook telling them about our Kickstarter. Every dollar mattered for that, so needed to let the world know.
In the beginning I would talk about Sloane to a broader group and got nice connections to website designers, brand experts, lawyers, accountants, etc. Super helpful! Once we got the base solidified I wasn't as vocal broadly. A big part was because I had a full time job and didn't want there to be a question of my allegiance. If I was spouting off about Sloane all the time, then people would wonder what my plans are.
I would talk about Sloane to a smaller group of people who I trusted and would provide me with the advice I needed. I would put my head down and then just execute. Day after day. Getting your company up and running talks way longer than you think. It obviously takes even longer when you're doing it as a side hustle. Patience is really important because it's so easy to get antsy and rush things.
That issue is made even more intense if everyone is asking you how things are going. Is the website up? How are sales? What? No sales yet? What are you guys doing?? Enter stress and other people's expectations. You don't need that stuff clogging your mind as you are trying to build.
Confidence in your business is needed to succeed. You have to be one of the most optimistic people out there. Arrogance and over-confidence are not good traits. And they are often closely tied with confidence. It's a balancing act that often entrepreneurship just teaches you when you're in the trenches. You soon realize you might not be as smart as you thought or this might not happen as soon as you thought.
That feeling is ok and for the strongest people it just motivates them more. This isn't easy and they will just grind until they get it. That's what it takes.