Answer: Pft, hardly. I’m not nearly risky enough. But here are four steps to becoming one.
While I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur, not yet at least, I’ve seen several friends try the entrepreneur life out, and a couple actually succeed.
We all have that friend who thinks they’re an entrepreneur. Ya know, the kid that’s kinda loaded, or at least doesn’t visibly work. Not an entrepreneur in my book.
For this person, I’ve created a new term: Wantrepreneur. They want that life, want the image, but don’t want the work that comes along with it. It’s like the childhood story of mother hen are her chicks. Anyone?
True entrepreneurs, on the other hand, contradict popular norms and follow up on their ideas. It’s not a glamorous life, but it is a life you should have a shot at, only if you want of course. Ditch your preconceived notions, ditch the iPads, and listen to my 4 steps for how you can become a legit entrepreneur.
Step 1: Question – What’s your passion?
The advice all successful entrepreneurs will tell you is this: if you’re not passionate about your stuff, it will sink like the titanic. And it probably won’t get that big before sinking, either. It’ll go virtually no where.
What do you LOVE doing?
What do you race home from work or class to do? If it’s something like video games, then you maybe ought to find a better hobby. Creating video games would obviously be fun, but it’s a bad option.
Whats your most rewarding activity, that really shows off your skills? For a coworker of mine, it’s baking. She brings in cupcakes to the office and they are literally gone before she’s sent her first email of the day. She experiements with new flavors, designs, and injects awesome flavors in the cupcakes. It’s a way of showing the world she’s skillful and creative.
Can she start a cupcake business? Only time will tell. This is a saturated niche, meaning lots have done it, and it’s to a point (here in New York City) where there are the big names, the copycat names, and those who just aren’t making it in the cupcake business. Lots of barriers to entry.
Choose your business wisely
You can enter any business though if you really want. Being stubborn is a good thing. But some businesses are a wiser choice than others.
I’ve always been a builder. I clearly remember telling my sister at age 9 that I’d build Legos my whole life, and live in Denmark to design Lego Land as an adult. Buy 14, I had found skateboarding instead (also a builder’s game, I built awesome funboxes). And by 20, I had found blogging and web design. That’s where I operate now, and it’s working quite well for me. Building online is easy, comfortable, relaxing, you name it.
In any case, find you greatest passion and connect it with the world’s greatest needs. If the world does not need your passion, maybe say you’re a great painter, then entrepreneurship may not be for you. You can still develop your work and gain much satisfaction from it.
Step 2: Plot out your time
You’re not going to have instant success over night, despite what those “make money online” or “instant success kit” informercials tell you. I hate them, I hate that people actually buy into them and that’s why those scammers can afford advertise. Ugh!
Proving you’re worth it
The simple fact is, everyone is looking for their own success, and in order to acheive yours you really have to prove that you’re different, and worth it.
The time you spend on a entreprenurial project is an investment. You need some money to hold you out until you’re making it, so think about that now. Do you have a side job? Are you still in school, fully supported? Can you afford to tack on another project? Let me tell you this: Even if you’re working three jobs, if you are passionate about something else and have that burning desire to follow it, then you can afford to tack on another project.
You owe it to yourself, and to your potential future.
Are you in college currently?
If you answer yes, then you have a lot of nice things in place already, like your network. My good friend at Cornell started up a website called “The College Freeway” where students uploaded old notes and review sheets for others to use. Cheating? No, but some thought it was at first. He had to boost his PR and he did. He had members of our fraternity upload 10 documents a piece, and got classmates to do so as well. The incentives weren’t much, a gift card, or just free access to the site itself. But his website grew and soon become Course Hero.
The point was, he was hustling about, using his resources wisely while many of us were plundering our time. You can start literally any business in college.
Another friend of mine developed KaseFlex, a winter glove your can where while using your BlackBerry of iPhone (boy I miss the BlackBerry days). He launched his product with a free bartab – who can say no to that – and even had production setup in China! He did all this in the course of one school year.
If you get set aside time each day, each week, for your project, you can estimate achieving your necessary goals at the 3 month mark, 6 month mark, and so on.
Step 3: Identify your angles
You to have a plan for convincing potential costumers and or fans that you’ve got something good. Maybe you’re fill some gaping wide gap in people’s lives, or just distracting them with something fun. Either way works, as long as you see a clear angle where you can slide in your new product.
Online or real life
Are you creating an online business or a real world product, or maybe a combination of both. If your business needs an online presence where you pitch information or use ecommerce, I’d definitely recommend you get a hosted WordPress blog. WordPress is good for beginner websites, has a lot of free themes for laying out your website how you want, and will cost you about $6 a month.
Being “the other guy” can really work
Have you researched a bit? Does your product exist? It may, but that shouldn’t stop you. One of the best strategies new businesses take is to be the alternative to a popular product or brand. The second best coffee vendor, or mattress-maker, or vacuum provider, or computer review website. People are always looking for alternatives, and if you can spin your product in a cool way, you’ll get folks who are plain sick of having only one option.
I remember talking to a fellow named Xaxier who runs a laptop review website. He was well older than me and much further along with his websites. He admitted to not be the biggest fish in his niche, but said that didn’t matter to him. He only had to be about 10% as good as the leader to do just fine for himself, and his family.
If you can find a sector, a small industry, where only one product is being used, then you’d be wise to be “the other guy” and improve on that product in a totally new way. You’re not undercutting the current product persay, but improving on it.
My college Wikipedia
My first entreprenurial endeavor was creating a college Wikipedia blog. Blogging was something I wanted to learn more about, and I felt college kids didn’t have a go to resource for advice. Well, that was wrong. There were other resources – as I met other bloggers like me I realized we were all doing similar things. Moreover, college kids don’t want advice, they want quick answers, easy good grades, and a great time. But on my way to realizing this, I completed a number of successful, profitable projects. I was even feature in the Huffington Post along with names like BroBible and College ACB.
The point here being, It’s not the end product that defines you as an entrepreneur, it’s the journey. Not to be cliche.
Step 4: Launch
Like a good serve in tennis to start off a point, the launch of your entreprenurial project sets the course for everything after it. It’s more important than your job interview, more critical for your success than your college education.
Are you worth it?
At first, sorry, you’re not. It’s through building your product and injecting value into it that your finally become worth it.
Then, the launch of your product is the one chance you have to convince others. If you don’t hit someone the right way the first time, any subsequent efforts on the same viewer will be seen as yet another desperate attempt. You have to appear useful and cool the first time a pair of eyes see you. It’s then that you plant a seed to build on and grow.
So don’t make the common mistake and launch too soon. Don’t just whip off a Facebook page and beg people to like it, or your brand will turn sour. Even if you have an awesome product, a poor launch will really hurt you.
What to do:
- Give users a bit of info, but not all of it, to generate curiousity
- Focus on benefits, not features (examples of benefits: product reduces weight, helps you read more easily, saves you money. Examples of features: weighs 5 pounds, contains 10 pieces, can be used outdoors)
- Create a community sense: Show some examples of your friends using your product, and highlight some encouraging testimonials of success.
What NOT to do:
- Talk about the alternative product or competitor at all
- Mention the price unless it’s really, really, really a steal
- Give the full scoop on the product. This will bore users – they’ll figure if they know everything about your product already, it’s not worth looking into further.
That said, social media is your friend. The site Betches Love This grew almost exclusively through their Twitter, and their Facebook Fans practically double each day. If you’re spreading the right messages to the right people, your social media will grow.
I know you’re sick and tired of hearing how great social media is. It’s mind-numbing really. But social media is good if you use it with care. So many people bombard their networks with promotions, and requests to like this or that, that they lose all their credibility.
I’ve had several people ask me lately how to grow on social media, and my advice is this: If you pitch things the right way to your networks, and do it with care, the results will show in your favor. If you take a careless approach and just beg for attention, you’ve already lost. This will reinforce any belief you had that social media does not work.
That’s literally all you need to begin as an entrepreneur. Okay, a few more things may help, like an angel investment. But if you’ve gotten the above 4 steps down, you’re well on your way to running your own business, side-busienss, or cupcake stand.
Did I miss any really key pieces of advice above? Have you had success or seen your friends be successful in entrepreneurship? I’d love to hear what I missed or what experiences you’ve had in the comments below.