More than a few successful entrepreneurs have raised a glass (occasionally a finger) to the folks who believed they’d never achieve. Funny thing is, though, the first attacks of cynicism and negativity that knock an aspiring entrepreneur back usually come straight from you.
It’s a natural thing, fearing the leap into entrepreneurship — it is, legitimately, a leap, and letting the ground go out from underneath you is scary. It can also be exciting, invigorating, inspiring and freeing, if you can push hesitation aside long enough to let it.
Over years of working with entrepreneurs — and navigating the leap into entrepreneurship ourselves — we’ve found that we all tend to say certain things, make certain excuses, to stall our efforts before we get a chance to begin. Which makes sense — even if our businesses are vastly different, the mental and emotional process of starting a business tends to be similar. We’re risking, exploring, reaching, searching… doing intimidating things, even if they’re things we really want to do.
So, if you’re thinking about starting a business, in all likelihood, some or all of the following will pop into your head, give you pause, maybe scare you into stepping back. Here’s a heads up: You’re far from alone. And another heads up: You can shoo these thoughts away with a little knowledge, and a little support.
1. “I have an idea for a business, but I don’t know where to begin.”
This may be the one we hear the most. The majority of budding business owners who walk through the doors at our Nashville coworking space are not serial entrepreneurs. They’re folks with 9-to-5 jobs and some sort side project they want to pursue. We’ve heard from an insurance salesman who wants to open a local movie theatre, a marketer who bakes “Nashville’s most delicious chocolate cookie” and countless other surprising combinations. These folks have inspiration and passion, but no experience, and no entrepreneurial roadmap.
The good news: Beginning is actually easier than you’d think. You need some basic business education, and a willingness to devote time and energy to turning a passion into a money-making endeavor. Read some business books. Watch webinars. Attend a workshop (our Introduction to Entrepreneurship workshop is a low-cost, low-time-commitment option right here in Nashville). Snag our Starter Kit. There are lots of ways to get started.
The underlying truth about entrepreneurship: Beginning is easy. It’s the middle that’s hard.
2. “I’m not sure if this would make a good business.”
In the idea/concept phase of a new business, few entrepreneurs are confident in their business idea. There’s no data to say whether the business will be a success, and anyone who expresses confidence is likely just guessing. The only way to know if an idea has any chance of making a decent business is to do some real-world testing and exploration. You’ll never know while sitting on your couch and thinking about it.
Testing and exploring are a big part of what we tackle in our Introduction to Entrepreneurship workshops, and an important part of the Starter Kit workshop attendees use. (If you prefer to work solo, the Starter Kit is available as a standalone option, too.) But even if you don’t use our methods of testing out your business concept, seek out ways to do so. Don’t just sit with assumptions. Test them. Find potential customers and get answers. Get data to back up your excitement, or prove that your hesitation is founded — it’s important to get clarity, even if the answers you get aren’t what you hoped for.
One more point: What makes a “good business,” ultimately? Is it a business that makes a ton of money? A business that allows you to quit your job? One that helps other people, even if it’s not a huge money maker? Everyone defines success differently, and your definition is the only one that really matters here. Knowing the answer to this question will help you evaluate whether your business has a chance of making you happy. To us, at least, that's a fair measure of a "good business."
3. “I’ve never started my own business, so I’m not qualified to do it.”
You’re not only qualified, you’re our favorite type of entrepreneur. What you lack in experience, you make up for by having a fresh perspective and a willingness to learn what it takes. You are neither jaded by your past failures, nor overconfident because of past successes. You’re green, and that’s a color we love.
Yes, you have a lot of work in front of you — learning the basics of entrepreneurship, learning to overcome your missteps (you will have many) and to find the time, energy and enthusiasm needed to give your business a real shot — but don’t let your inexperience stop you. Every successful entrepreneur had a “first business” they decided to pursue.
4. “I don’t have enough money to start a business.”
Launching most business ideas will take some infusion of money, yes. Whether that’s your own actual cash or a trade of your money-earning time (each hour you spend on your fledgling business is an hour you could be spending on other money-making work), you’ll likely have to put some dollars on the table to get started. But, depending on your business idea, that doesn’t necessarily have to be an enormous amount.
It doesn’t take a lot of money to at least explore your business idea — talking to potential customers, creating basic financial projections, prototyping a product or service… in most cases, these things are free. And even when you are ready to invest some capital, we believe that most businesses have a way to start small — to test the business idea in a small, controlled way, before deciding that an infusion of more capital is worthwhile. That way, you can be sure you’re only spending money when you need to, and only when the business requires it.
If you find that your business idea is requiring too much money too soon, there’s probably a smarter — and less expensive — way to get off the ground. We wrote a whole blog post about the virtues of starting small, and it might spark a few ideas.
5. “Someone else is already doing it.”
This is a surprisingly common excuse, drenched in fear of what other people are doing. Swallow this pill immediately: You are not the first/only person to be pursuing your idea. True originality is rare. It’s also not necessary. Ideas are easy; it’s the execution that’s hard.
You don’t need to be the only one, you just need to be the best one for your particular customers. Just because someone else is doing it doesn’t mean they are doing it well, or doing it for the same customers, or doing it in a way that’s profitable and sustainable.
Existence is not an indicator of success. Stop worrying about the “competition” and start focusing on beginning the challenging work of creating value for your customers.
If a business idea is swirling around in your head — and these concerns are mixing and mingling with it — we’d encourage you to do three things:
- Read this post again, and really let it sink in that you’re in good company as an aspiring, if slightly nervous, entrepreneur.
- Drop by the resources for entrepreneurs section of our website. There’s a ton of information and tools in there, all free, and we created it all to help folks like you work through whatever’s holding you back. If you think hands-on help would benefit you, register for an Introduction to Entrepreneurship workshop with us. If you want some more direction but would rather work solo, snag an Introduction to Entrepreneurship Starter Kit — it has all the tools we use in class, including a workbook that explains how to use those tools.
- Talk with other entrepreneurs. Our coworking space is full of them, but you can always reach out to the owner of a small business you love to see if he or she is willing to grab coffee (your treat) and chat, too. If there’s one thing we know about entrepreneurs, it’s that a willingness to pay it forward is ever-present, and contagious.
We’re always here to help, too, formally or informally. Entrepreneurs are our people, and we want to see you thrive.