Successful entrepreneurs are the heroes of the business world. They make their own rules and work with whom they like, when they like. They create their own destinies and sell products they love. Pursuing a passion and making a profit…the entrepreneur’s reality is most people’s dream. It’s a high-risk, high-reward job—and it could be yours with the right tools and mindset.
Laying the Foundation Brick by Brick
If you’ve ever seen the 1999 film Office Space, you know that the main character doesn’t think his plan through before quitting his job. As these things go in movies, his problems escalate. In the end, however, he’s a happier man despite his misadventures. He’s no longer under the thumb of a greedy boss, and although his plans for revenge backfired, his plans to live free from the restrictions of the office succeed. What can we learn from this? Your heart and soul has to be into your startup to make the change worthwhile.
The best entrepreneurs don’t start with millions. They aren’t geniuses—many don’t even have degrees. The best entrepreneurs create something that consistently makes money. This is, after all, the core of business. With enough energy, determination, and creativity, almost anybody can become a profitable business owner. Whether you fit the mold of Entrepreneur’s “50 Habits That Prove You Were Born to Be an Entrepreneur” or march to the beat of your own drum, you can be a success. You just have to believe in yourself and your idea.
Laying the foundation of a startup can be a daunting task, especially if you’ve left your stable office job to fly on the wings of a half-baked idea. The first step is to research your market and ensure the idea that you have fits an industry need or gap in the current system. Just because someone has already developed your idea doesn’t mean yours won’t be successful. Before Facebook there was Myspace. Before the iPhone there was Blackberry. Before Netflix there was Blockbuster. If you believe you can deliver a product or service better than the competition, go for it! You won’t be the first brand to dominate an established market.
Then, you’ll need to come up with a business plan. (Or not—Dave McClure of 500 Startups advises entrepreneurs to build prototypes and test them with customers, instead.) The method that works best for you will depend on your budget and ultimate goals. If building a prototype of your product is the best way to secure investors and get people talking, great. If constructing a solid business plan will serve you better, great. Do what you believe is best for your business and will attract investors.
The Modern Way to Launch a Startup
Thanks to the Internet of Things, social media, and crowdfunding trends, it’s a relatively easy age to launch a startup. The search for a lead investor can be difficult, but it’s incredibly valuable to your company. A lead investor provides the main source of financing for your business—without which, you can’t get off the ground. Pursue investors with experience in your industry, and build a relationship with them before asking for funding. You can persuade a lead investor to hop on board with data-driven facts about your company’s plans and projected growth—the good old-fashioned way.
There’s an alternative to searching for a lead investor, but it’s not a funding guarantee—though some brands have found incredible success with it. It’s crowdfunding, and it’s seen amazing results in recent years as major platforms such as Kickstarter gain popularity. There are a significant number of crowdfunding sites to choose from, with more on the rise as this method of funding continues to work for hundreds of hopeful entrepreneurs.
Once you secure funding for your project, the fun part can begin: developing your brand. Here’s where you’ll excel if you chose a product or service that you have a personal connection with. It’ll be easy to develop your brand with an authentic, unique voice and personality. Your content will come from the heart—the best kind of content—and consumers will feel a bond with your brand right away.
Millennial consumers are much more interested in branding than past consumers are. Branding in the age of social media doesn’t have to be a maze you stumble through. Entrepreneurs today must understand how to master social media, or their brands don’t stand a chance against tech-savvy competitors. There are plenty of tools, techniques, and resources if you don’t know where to begin with social. Take this simple infographic, for example:
As you can see, social media marketing doesn’t have to be a puzzle. Simply optimize your efforts based on your target audience, choosing the right platform for your brand. Stay on top of current trends in social media to stay relevant, and study up on best practices for your chosen platforms. For example, posts on Twitter should be short and to the point with a hook or call to action for readers. Posts on Instagram must be photos or short videos with the intent to personalize your brand—not sell.
Your startup will flourish if you keep these modern marketing techniques in mind and use today’s tech to your advantage. If you’re ready to embrace self-ownership and quit your day job, you have my vote of confidence. The main thing to remember is to stay true to yourself and true to your brand. This will serve you well far into the future—a future that looks a little brighter as an entrepreneur.