5 Things You Need to Know Before You Launch Your Own Business
You have your idea. You have your dedication. You have the decision before you: Are you going to go for it? Are you going to take your idea and figure out how to turn your passion into a business? Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a one-day conference for non-techy wannabe-founders called HustleCon. The conference featured 15 already-founders talking candidly about what has and what hasn’t worked for them to a room of 500 people, who traveled from all over the world (we’re talking five of the seven continents). If you’re someone who is trying to pursue your dreams and start your own business, here are tips from aspirational entrepreneurs who are out there in the trenches, hustling with the rest of them.
Finding your core community starts before you have a website, an app or a brick and mortar. Your core community is filled with the people who believe so deeply in your mission that they will eventually become evangelists for your idea. But these people aren’t just going to fall into your lap. Matthew Brimer, founding partner of General Assembly, built such a strong core community that they took his idea of creating a collaborative space for entrepreneurs and startups and helped him create the successful business that he runs today — success being 19 locations in six different countries.
How did he do it? The answer is surprisingly obvious: When you find someone who is excited about your idea, build that relationship. It’s a matter of 1:1 coffees, group dinners, giving insider space tours or previews to whatever it is you’re working on, manually building your email list with every email you come across and letting these people be the first to try your product, whether that’s through pre-sales or advance memberships. If you’re thinking, “I have way too much to do; I can’t be off having coffees and going to dinners with people,” rethink that. Your core community is going to offer you thoughtful and invaluable feedback and the personal endorsement and word of mouth advertising that is so essential to the success of your business. Take the time. Get a drink. Get a dinner. It’s really not that bad.
Know That It Takes Time to Do Something Right
If you think you’re going to build something in six months and it’s going to have a million users the day after you launch it, prepare to have your bubble burst. Every speaker at Hustlecon spent years building their product before they even pushed it to market. When they did push it out, the backend was often akin to looking behind the curtain and seeing the not-so-great and not-so-powerful OZ. Read — they were doing things very manually. This doesn’t mean that you’ll build continuously for a year or two in the void. Your job is to do rapid prototyping, show it to as many people as possible, collect feedback and reiterate. If something is taking you longer than a week to build with no feedback, it’s taking too long. Jank something together, show it, get feedback, make it better, make it right —- do you see how this process could take time?
Since the idea is to not invest a lot of time or money building something that is just a prototype, rather than bringing a top-notch programmer in at $150 per hour, Arum Kang, founder of Coffee Meets Bagel, suggests contracting someone overseas for around $15 per hour. The code might not be beautiful, but it will let you test and validate your idea before you invest in higher-level development after you know your idea is a success.
Leaving the security of a steady paycheck and health insurance for an idea you have — whether that’s making a necklace, opening up a tea shop or developing an app — is going to sound crazy to most people — and that’s because it is. And if you’re crazy enough to still go forward with it no matter how many people tell you you’re nuts, then you, my friend, are an entrepreneur. Stubbornness is a trait that innovators the world over posess.
If you’re wondering just how irrational you should be, let Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora, be your guide. In 2001, Westergren was in need of some Series B funding. But the market had just crashed, and there was no funding to be had. Rather than throwing in the towel when everyone told him it was over, Westergren racked up $500,000 in credit card debt and convinced his 50 loyal employees to continue working for him… unpaid… for two years. Westergren said he just felt so certain that he had something that could really change the world and the way we listen to music.
In 2005, he got $9 million in funding, paid his employees the $2 mil he owed them in back wages, (yes, he owed them TWO MILLION DOLLARS) and built the behometh that Pandora is today. That’s what being irrational (and maybe a little crazy) can get you. But let’s not confuse irrational and stubborn for pigheadedness. Westergren remained flexible when it came to what the application of his idea would be. At the time of the company’s crisis, Pandora didn’t even have a product, Westergren didn’t know what to do with The Music Genome that he had built and he and his team tried lots of things before they figured out the right application. So be flexible with that wild, yet genius, idea of yours.
Pitch Your Story to Everyone. Continually Refine It.
No matter if you’re trying to get funding or not, refining and developing your story is part of starting a business. People have to understand what your mission is, and to do that, there needs to be a real human connection — something that makes you want to get involved with that company or product. The first time you tell your story, it’s not going to be your real story. The second time you tell it, nope, still not there. The 100th time? You’re getting closer, but you still might be missing the emotional element.
Finding the story that sticks, connecting people with you and your brand and making them want to be a part of it is hard to refine. Adam Draper, founder Boost VC, says that if you’re not willing to tell your story to your friends and family, just assume that your business is dead in the water. And while not everyone needs to get funding, if you do end up throwing that into the equation, you need to get your story down pat before you even think about talking to investors. You should be excited about your idea and want to talk about it nonstop. Eventually, you’re going to find the right mix of words and hit a chord with people.
Grow Some Thick Skin and Embrace the Rollercoaster Ride
It goes without saying that if starting something new was easy, everyone would do it. As Elon Musk quoted, “Starting a company is like staring into the abyss and eating glass.” So saying your next few years might be rough (but oh-so worth it) is putting it lightly. And while you’re venturing into those uncharted waters and trying to figure out what the heck you’re doing, there’s a chance you might need funding.
Before Adam Draper started Boost VC, he too was in the market for funding. Just to paint a picture of what that might look like, he told the crowd that he sent out over 3,000 emails, got over 300 in-person interviews and heard back from just a little over 30 of those people. So expect to hear “NO” a lot, potentially over 3,000 times in one year. But you’ve got a good idea that you’re determined to make work, so you can handle it. Show the passion you have for your project, get your story down, tell it to everyone you can and eventually someone is going to give you that golden yes.
What tactics have worked for you before you launched a business or project? Let us know in the comments below!
Your relationship with your finances is one of the most important relationships you'll ever have, and you can't avoid it. That said, for many of us, the pandemic only added to our financial stress. If you find yourself feeling frazzled, just remember that financial insecurity isn't a net-worth issue — it's a mindset issue. And, we happen to have plenty of advice on how to turn your money mindset around so you can take charge of your funds once and for all.
To start, feeling secure begins with a strong foundation, and there's no better time than now to get started stacking the bricks. It's easy to get swept up in the January "new year, new me" mentality, but really? Any time is the right time to get yourself in order. You don't need to wait for a new year, a new moon, the right moment, or a sign from above. You don't even have to start on the first day of the month — you just need to start.
Introducing NerdWallet: A Safe and Reliable Money App
To help with that, we've put together a list of the just-right-for-you ways that NerdWallet can help you monitor your financial outlook. Haven't heard of them yet? NerdWallet is a personal finance company that helps consumers make smarter financial decisions. Their website and app let you compare different financial products, find articles and tools to make financial decisions with confidence, and keep tabs on your finances (hey there, credit score, I see you!) all in one place. Plus, NerdWallet has over 75,000 glowing reviews in the App Store (and a 4.8 star rating) if you want to read up on any more testimonials.
Tim Chen, NerdWallet's CEO and co-founder, started this financial journey in 2009 after his sister needed help finding a credit card. Even with an economics degree and a Wall Street background, it took awhile for Tim to find the right recommendation (so don't feel too bad when it takes you a while, too). Their mission is to bring clarity to all of life's financial decisions.
So it's safe to say that NerdWallet is a pretty good sherpa for your journey, too.
Get the most from your money
Did you know that the money you park in a savings account can lose value? Harsh, but true. If your money isn't earning interest that's on pace with inflation it will actually be worth less to you in the future. And if the bank charges fees? Forget about it. Make sure you're earning the interest you deserve and come out on top. NerdWallet has researched dozens of financial institutions to help consumers find the best options. The hard work has already been done for you, so you can just select the account that works best for you and your nest egg.
Keep an eye on everything, securely
Once everything is set up, tracking and managing your finances is what will keep the money machine running smoothly. You can create an account either through the site or the app and link your bank accounts, then keep tabs on all your finances in one place. Get a clear picture of your saving and spending, get insights into how to master your money, and even build your credit score all in one place.
Get extra credit points
Do you have the best credit card for your lifestyle? Some cards give cash back on every purchase, ones with travel perks, and ones that charge way less interest than you're paying now. NerdWallet takes the guesswork out of choosing the right credit card with simple side-by-side comparisons of different credit cards so that you feel confident choosing the right one. Whatever you want to do, NerdWallet can help you find the best credit card to get it done.
Know your options for settling down
Mortgage rates are pretty low and it looks like they're going to stay that way for awhile, so buying a home might be the move sooner than you think. But there's so much more to a mortgage than just the interest rate! To help you choose a mortgage lender, NerdWallet has in-depth reviews on multiple lenders in a mixture of categories so you get the home loan with the mortgage rate, term, and fees that's right for you.
Settle an old score
NerdWallet helps you monitor your credit score for free and helps you see how little things (like raising the limit on your credit card or paying your bills on time) can increase your score. NerdWallet partners with TransUnion® to provide your VantageScore® 3.0, based on information in your TransUnion® credit report. Your score and credit report information are updated weekly. But that's not even close to all:
- They provide you with tips from experts on how you could build or optimize your credit score
- You'll get a detailed look at your credit score and all the factors that go into it—your payment history, credit utilization, the age and type of accounts, balances, and any recent inquiries
- The credit simulator tool gives you an idea of how your credit score would change if you applied for a new credit card, closed your oldest credit card, or got a new auto loan
- You also get free, unlimited access to your credit report
When it comes to managing your money, safe and reliable is where it's at. Establishing a healthy relationship with your finances begins when you take control and practice habits that build wealth. Signing up just takes a few minutes. Set your intentions to build a solid financial foundation, it will only strengthen your relationship with your finances. And don't be afraid to get a little nerdy while you're at it.