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The prospect of starting your own business venture can procure all kinds of doubts: How will I get it off the ground? Is my idea good enough? Will people care about it? What happens if I fail? Will I lose money? It’s not just personal insecurities that can stand in the way of that all-important first step, either.
In January, Forbes published an article suggesting that the Great Recession was to blame for killing off U.S. millennials’ entrepreneurial drive, as well as higher debt, housing and healthcare expenses, and lower overall income compared to generational predecessors.
For many, these albeit natural concerns become the barriers aspiring millennial entrepreneurs face in bringing both themselves and their unborn enterprises to fruition. But setting up a new business doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing affair, and the merits of drive and enthusiasm cannot be overstated in transforming the potential of your passions into real financial and emotional rewards.
The road to entrepreneurship
I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I spent the first part of my career in a “regular job.” At 25, I was a personal trainer, and I worked as a residential advisory for a dormitory. It brought money in, but I knew my real passions were dance and finding ways to help other people. I wanted more freedom and I knew the only way to get that would be with my own business.
So, when I was let go from the personal training gig, I took it as a sign. I turned my energy to dance, moved to Korea and ended up teaching dance in 60 countries. I trained with some of the best boys in the world and taught homeless kids, too. Before I knew it, dance had become my career.
Building the business
It’s a total myth that you have to ditch your stable 9-to-5 job to start up a meaningful business. The company I later founded, which helps users grow their Instagram accounts, started as a side project. I started by sending a cold email out to people, telling them about digital marketing techniques to enhance their presence on Instagram. Someone responded with a business model and ideas for some campaigns. That was five years ago.
After that, it took about six months before we saw some real profit. During that time, I had money coming in from the other work I was doing, and we invested time in devising the company infrastructure and preparing for customers. When we signed our first client (who then stayed with us for two years), we hired an employee. Three years later, we’d become a full-blown agency. Today, we have 15 part-time staff members.
Overcoming challenges to growth
There are so many things no one tells you about when you first start out. For example, we had no idea how much to charge for our services; we just made up a figure that seemed right. Building a team of trustworthy people and a client list from scratch was challenging, as well.
Start by identifying the core values of your business. For instance, the welfare of others has always been really important to me. When I teach dance, I aim to help youngsters build the confidence to express themselves, and the same goes for creating a workforce. Everyone has a different personality, and that individuality must be embraced in order to keep each team member happy and motivated. I love seeing people doing what they love and doing it well.
Building connections and researching your field is also an essential part of being a successful entrepreneur. Everyone has something of value to offer. For example, when our team attended a course on Instagram, I connected with someone through the founder of the program who went on to become my mentor. By networking within my industry, contacting peers via email and social media, and making guest appearances on their podcasts, I’ve been able to exchange my own knowledge for their advice and insights. You’ll be surprised how many contacts turn into valuable connections and opportunities for exposure further down the line (and that goes both ways).
Nailing the mindset
From pretty early on, I learned that treating people well and doing a good job for them (whether I was being paid for it or not) was so important. When I first started out as an entrepreneur I made mistakes in this area, but I now realize that the more I help others reach success, the more naturally and easily the referrals for future business come rolling in.
For this reason, I also think it’s invaluable to find yourself a mentor. I could see that the most successful people I knew made smart decisions with their time, money, strategy – everything. Reaching out to these successful entrepreneurs became an incredible source for knowledge, advice and growth.
I recommend reading Napoleon Hill’s “Think And Grow Rich” and “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert T. Kiyosaki. Getting the right advice, being prepared to work hard and helping others are all part of the entrepreneurial mindset of winning.
Knowing how to brand yourself
A clear brand identity is one of the most valuable assets you will have as an entrepreneur. In those first six months, when we were still waiting for our first client to come in, I focused all of my attention on building and branding the business model. I knew from the outset how valuable Instagram could be in enabling aspirational people to achieve their personal and professional goals, and that desire to help others realize the potential of their ventures was a strong driver in our brand’s identity.
As your business grows, you need to hire people who share and project your brand’s vision. Because of the way we’ve branded ourselves, when prospective clients approach us, they know exactly what we are going to offer them, and the referrals from previous success stories speak volumes about the methodologies we use to achieve those results.
Believe in yourself
Anyone with the ambition to change their day-to-day life has (perhaps without realizing) already taken the first step to creating their own business. While a successful venture doesn’t materialize overnight, a focused, sensible approach can lead to life-changing results.
The freedom of waking up to different countries and cultures and the flexibility to travel and forge connections with new clients as part of my business has changed my life forever. With a drive to learn, and the determination to build and market a desirable service, I have started a business that enables other brands to sell their expertise and products – and you can, too.