Becoming an entrepreneur comes with its fair share of unknowns. Taking the leap alone is a daunting feat. Along the way, there will be plenty of lessons learned and aha moments; some of which you may have wished you’d learned earlier! But as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Without experiencing something, setbacks and all, you wouldn’t have gained the perspective you have today that is contributing to your long-term success.
What better way to prepare for the future than to gain insight from seasoned founders who have gone before you, in the trenches of starting a business? Here are their stories and pieces of advice to serve as inspiration as you take the plunge into entrepreneurship.
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Know your why
“Starting a business is a big undertaking; one that no one is truly fully prepared for. It will require every ounce of your energy and more, but if you get into business for the right reasons, business ownership can be incredibly fulfilling.
In speaking with other business owners over the years, I’ve seen how critical it is to know your ‘why.’ Reasons like, to have a better life, to make more money or to have a flexible schedule are not enough, especially on the longest and most trying of days. For those inevitably tough days – when you doubt even yourself – you’ll need to put in more work than anyone else, and that’s when your ‘why’ carries you through to the finish line.
Having a meaningful reason as to why you started your business will help carry you forward, allow you to be more creative and help you be proactive in reaching your goals.”
— Will Bartholomew, founder and CEO of D1 Training, a leading fitness franchise concept utilizing the five core tenets of athletic-based training
“With new business ventures, you’re constantly seeking the advice of others to learn from. And while everyone tells you how important the location of your business is, you never fully realize it until you wish you had.
Though the location of our first business worked fine, looking back, I wish I had taken more time to research the surrounding market more fully – location is priority number one, two and three. When you’re starting out, it’s easy to feel like you have to do everything on your own, but I’d advise you to consult with a professional who is familiar with the market you’re interested in entering so you can be sure it’s the best move for the future growth of your business. Make sure there are enough potential clients in the area so as you gain stability, you can be confident that there will be plenty of clients to service.”
— Inger Ellen Nicolaisen, founder of Nikita Hair, one of Europe’s leading salon chains expanding throughout the U.S. through franchising
Understand your financials intimately
“You should know where every dollar is coming from and where every dollar is going. If you don’t stay on top of your cash flow, you are ultimately putting your business at risk. Start by establishing a budget and make sure you stick to it – keeping in mind that it must be adjusted on factual data as you grow. You need to break financial goals down into attainable and measurable ones – set smaller milestones along the way to keep motivation and confidence high.
Don’t forget to keep reserves, for both personal and business purposes. You never know what can happen when starting a business, so it is best to prepare yourself for when emergency situations arise. As a business owner, you now have full responsibility of your employee’s income, as well as your own, and that includes retirement for yourself, too! Take things into consideration like health insurance, Roth IRA and other investments. The more you plan and prepare, the more equipped you’ll be in risky situations.”
— Brandon Ezra, founder and CEO of Grand Welcome, the leading vacation rental management franchise
Let your passion guide your culture
“Not only do you need to start your business for the right reasons, but you have to be passionate about what you are doing. Passion is what will guide you in building your company’s culture, and it is that culture that will propel your success.
The Walk-On’s story began while I was a walk-on for the LSU basketball team. During my travels, I realized a need for an elevated dining experience that blended quality food with exceptional sports viewing. Despite having little business experience and less financial background, the traits of a walk-on athlete – hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence – carried the vision of Walk-On’s to life.
I realized this ‘walk-on’ mentality really shaped our brand’s identity – it was time to lean in and let that guide our company culture. When it boils down to it, your culture will be the differentiator in the success of your brand.”
— Brandon Landry, founder and CEO of Walk-On’s, a destination known for offering elevated Louisiana-inspired food alongside an unparalleled sport viewing experience
Reflect on your journey
“As I reflect back on being in business for 16 years, the one piece of advice I wished I knew back then that I know now is the importance of your story.
As a founder, you are the visionary of your business and someone who aspires to change the world. I wish someone had told me to start and/or keep a journal. Starting a business and growing it is an adventure, both personally and professionally. I wish I could go back to my 25-year-old self and look back on the memories of when the Waxing the City story began.
It’s never too late to start journaling, and it’s a practice I’ve just begun. Journaling helps me to establish future goals, problem solve, express myself, tap into my inner creativity and helps to shape my personal growth.
As I continue to grow as a person, I use these experiences and my voice to continue to help shape the company today. You are where the story begins. Remember this as your business takes form and all of the complexities that come along with it.”
— Summer Vasilas, cofounder and director of training of Waxing The City, a 110-unit franchise devoted to the art of waxing, catering to both women and men
Originally published Jan. 22, 2020.