It’s Not All Rah-Rah and Coffee Shops: Keeping it Real When Starting Your Own Business
For as long as I can remember, I have been dreaming of starting my own business. My BFF and I used to make plans during school breaks of what we’ll do and what we’ll sell. I spent most of my life dreaming and dreaming. What this symbolised for me was being my own boss, deciding what I wanted to do with my life and securing absolute independence.
As a young person full of vigour and zest, you have so much foolish confidence in thinking that you can do anything and everything that you want to do. Unfortunately, you often end up working hard at any job you could find, just to make ends meet. Real life always runs parallel with dreams and there are bills to consider. Real life tends to poke holes in dreams. So, instead of being able to be my own boss when I was young, I continued building my life on the corporate ladder; my ambition never wavering, my quest for being the person who made my own decisions never far from my mind. I eventually made the leap last year.
Way back when I was a teenager with galaxies in my eyes, there was no internet, social media, or the millions of apps that we have today. There were no such words such as “entrepreneurs” or “start-ups”, and none of the beautiful buzz words like “incubation programs” and “tech labs.” We are living in the most exciting times – there are so many tools to help you be your own boss and to bring things to fruition which do not exist yet. People of all shades and shapes have the same opportunities. We have progressed at the speed of light in the last twenty years.
The world is, therefore, your oyster when it comes to setting up your own business. But even though the tools are available, and there is a great spirit of reception and support, do not think that it is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. It is anything but. You are up against millions of other dreamers who also want to live their best life. There are thousands of brilliant, bright young things. It has become super difficult to have an original idea. And original idea aside, an idea which appeals to customers and therefore will make money. We have experienced disruption of such epic proportions in the last two decades that our next step is building rockets to go to Mars with. So as accessible as it has become, so the standards have also been raised.
Back here on earth, you need to keep it real and decide how you are going to bring your idea to life. There are a few issues standing between you and realizing your dream and none of them are very inspiring: you have to eat to live, you need a place to live, you cannot work naked in public, you need coffee and you need to be online. Unfortunately, you need money for all of these. So as much as you might have this wonderfully ambitious dream, it is a matter of life and death if you ignore how you plan to make a living from your idea. Make sure you know where the money will come from. What you do to project your idea and business forward, is not only based on your dream and freedom: the banks want their money.
With great freedom comes great responsibility: every hour and every little thing you do remains precious time for billing. And time seems to move like mud when you’re stressed about the dough. Know it well: it will take longer than you think to hear the ching-ching. Be as physically and mentally prepared as you are able to be before you sashay out of your air-conditioned corporate job. No money, no lifey.
Next essential rule: believe in yourself and be prepared to work as hard as is required to get what you want. You’ll note that I didn’t say that you needed to believe 100% in your idea. You might think this is sacrilege, but your idea can change. You are the one you need to believe in, with an unquenchable fire, because your success is completely based on how open your mind is, how adaptable you are to change and how many times you can stand up from the floor. Did I already say many times? Resilience, grit and guts are your war buddies.
To start your own business, or be part of something built from scratch, you have to be prepared for multiple paradigm shifts and mind bombs. Your original, precious idea might turn out to be a terrible one. Or it might be a fantastic one, which ends up not suiting you once you start to grow into a completely different person. During your process, you will undoubtedly discover things you never knew, see the world from angles you never thought you could and it’s therefore vital that you remain receptive to change.
So, did I mention that it’s hard? But hey! That’s not all! It’s also lonely. Deciding to turn into the slip lane of life, with traffic zooming past you at break-neck speed, is a very lonely place. Just making that decision, taking the first step, could be counter-intuitive to the logic of everyone around you. You might find that those who you thought would be your biggest fans become your biggest critics and that people you never knew before you started, become your biggest cheerleaders. The company you keep can make or break you. If someone is supportive and believes in you, cling to them like cat hair to a black jersey. You’ll need them when winter arrives.
You will find yourself standing on the pavement of freedom, watching the zooming, upwards trajectory of corporate careers whoosh past you and doubt yourself. Wondering whether you have done the right thing. Because it’s so super uncomfortable. Even if you are someone who is comfortable with uncomfortableness, there are times you will miss being paid to drink coffee and people telling you what a good boy you are.
Wow, I’m packing some punches, huh? If you’re still here: congratulations! These are a couple of hard-hitting truths. High stakes, for sure. Don’t let the bling of others convince you otherwise. But! Drumroll…
There are greater, amazing aspects of owning your own company in store for you like creating your own life, expanding your mind until it feels like it’s going to explode, learning things about things you never knew were things, meeting the most remarkable people as you venture into a new wide world. And then the reward when it starts to come together, when you can say: They love me! They really, really love me!