Know what you are getting into before embarking on that first step
Leaving a full-time job to start a business at a young age can be intimidating and not to mention, nerve-wracking. Many people prefer a corporate job because it provides security and a steady income. But remember, the younger you are, the more time you have to experiment. If you do not take risks now, then when will you take them? People may tell you that you are too young or too inexperienced, but if you genuinely believe in your business idea, don’t let them bring you down. Being an entrepreneur is all about taking the plunge and learning throughout your journey. Think about how you would feel if the next unicorn company turns out to be exactly the idea you had while you were too afraid to take any risks.
These are some of the essential things I have learned throughout my journey as an entrepreneur:
1. Solve a Real Problem
An actual problem that you have faced is the greatest tool to uncover an opportunity for a new product or service. While my co-founder Anuja Shah and I were at university, we realized that students usually end up meeting people only in their dorm or classes. There were many times that we wanted to form a group to play basketball, but couldn’t find enough people. We clearly identified a problem and created an activity-based social app to solve it. Make a difference in people’s lives and give them a reason to pay for your service.
2. Be Innovative
The most innovative ideas bring a completely new perspective and change the meaning of the industry that they are a part of. People are attracted to something that is different, exclusive and opposes the norm. We saw that social media has been criticized for creating loneliness and depression, and decided that we want to change the meaning of social media by making social media more social again, and using technology to foster real-life interactions.
3. Identify Your Market Niche
In the beginning, focus only on one niche market that is the best fit for your product, and carefully examine what motivates people in it. Every interaction with them should be carefully crafted based on what they would get out of it. I moved halfway across the world from India to New York to launch my startup because after conducting market research, we recognized that the college student market in the U.S. was the best fit for our initial target audience.
4. Create Partnerships
Do not underestimate the power of networking and creating valuable partnerships to minimize your costs. Don’t be afraid to ask investors to give you advice or ask anyone to make an introduction. Initially, I was intimidated by the idea of approaching big brands, and thought they would not get involved in any partnership without a clear increase in their profits. But I found co-working spaces to host our events at absolutely no cost in return for publicity, and created collaborations with bars, student parties, and universities by being persistent.
Be creative and confident with what you can offer them, and you will be surprised at how far these partnerships and relationships can take you. Write emails to specific individuals and not the generic email address for that specific company. Find the list of staff to discover the pattern their email addresses follow, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. This will improve the rate of responses you receive.
5. Create a Group of Influencers
It is important to identify and pamper the first group of influencers who are excited to use your product. This will automatically stimulate a snowball effect and maximize word of mouth. I created an internship program to identify my group of influencers: Initially, I thought students were only motivated by financial motives, but later realized that I could keep them motivated by providing them with a wonderful learning experience that truly benefitted them. Provide these influencers with an exclusive experience that will make them talk about you and boast about your product on their social media. Offer them an experience that makes them feel exclusive.
6. Be Passionate About What You Are Doing
Make sure you undeniably love what you are doing, and are so passionate about it that you would do anything to fight for your dreams. As an entrepreneur, you will face many challenges. You will be miserable if you are not passionate enough to hustle your way out of everything.
It is crucial to adore your entrepreneurial journey and be excited to build an empire of your own and actually make a difference in the world. There were so many times when I became frustrated and wanted to give up, but my vision of connecting people and making the world a more connected and happier place kept me going. I have an emotional attachment to my company, which energizes me to deal with every obstacle.
7. Create Your Own Luck
Many people blame any failure on bad luck, but I believe that bad luck does not exist. Every person creates their own luck by being positive and believing that they are lucky, along with working hard and persistence. I am inspired by something Steve Jobs once said: ‘The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” I am working toward doing that myself.
Co-Founder & CEO DownToDash – Connects people based on what they are down to do whether it’s workouts, sports, movies or travelling.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organisation comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship programme that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
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