Happy New Year and welcome to 2022! I have supported new entrepreneurs for a couple of decades, and one thing rings true every year in January…this time of year, droves of hopeful, inspired potential entrepreneurs visit us to share their dream of starting a new business. And why not? The New Year is the time to reassess, re-evaluate, and establish goals to improve ourselves and our community. People have dreams of being their own boss, having the ability to set their own earning power, and gaining the respect that comes with being a successful entrepreneur. In fact, one in three people want to start a business so this January phenomenon should not come as a surprise.
I have been watchful of the 1,000+ new businesses created with the support of my staff members, programs, and counseling. From what I have observed, entrepreneurs most likely to follow through with starting a business and to survive long-term to scale the business to create jobs have three secrets of success: passion, resilience, and support. Entrepreneurs should reflect on and foster these three attributes when starting and growing a business.
Successful entrepreneurs have a bigger goal in mind than simply starting a business to make money or selling a specific invention or service. Anyone can start a business (honestly, it is not that difficult). However, the entrepreneurs who personally experienced or witnessed a Problem and yearn to create a Solution so others do not have to experience the same Problem are those that will endure. We coach entrepreneurs, in the beginning, to fall in love with solving the problem, not with a specific product or service to be offered by a business.
By evaluating and pondering the Problem instead of starting with a narrow Solution in the beginning, the aperture for successful product offerings will be opened. The Problem needs to be specific and defined, and a specific customer needs to experience the Problem who is willing to pay for a Solution. An entrepreneur should understand every aspect of the Problem from a target customer’s perspective and be passionate about solving the problem.
Entrepreneurs should start to develop the Solution, which will be the product or service offered by the business after passion for the Problem is developed. As the Solution is developed, incorporating technology to scale will have a greater impact in solving the problem. Passion for solving the Problem at scale will take an entrepreneur to technology almost every time.
Being an entrepreneur is concurrently one of the most rewarding paths and most difficult paths to choose. Resilience to get through the difficult periods - such as the minimum viable product (MVP) failing or ten investors in a row saying “no” - is important so the entrepreneur does not give up and close the business when there are other viable options to explore. Resilience is at a popular topic in media now to keep everyone moving forward through COVID-19 variant outbreaks, pandemic decision fatigue, the Great Resignation, supply chain issues, and so much more. You may have noticed that some people are very tired but some are upbeat and hopeful. Some of that difference can be attributed to resilience.
We are less than 2 years into the pandemic, and on average it takes 7-10 years to build a truly successful startup, so resilience is needed to go the distance. Resilience builds from Passion and Support. It comes from taking care of yourself, caring for those around you, and striving toward something greater. Successful entrepreneurs build resilience by doing whatever is needed to sustain them long-term whether it is surfing, socializing with friends at a brewery, caring for their family, or something else. Activities that create flow (make you lose track of time) such as painting, hiking, and reading can also help. For me? I get flow from volunteering at a therapeutic riding facility walking horses and riders around an arena. I also love to lose myself in creating a new Excel spreadsheet (true definition of Saturday afternoon bliss for me).
Along the way, successful entrepreneurs gather a tribe of supporters. Supporters fall into three categories: people who know the industry, people who know startups, and people who know the individual. These are commonly three different groups of supporters but all of them are critical to help through the highs and lows of starting a business. Industry experts are people who own or are leaders in similar businesses.
They can be found at places such as trade groups, LinkedIn, and Chambers of Commerce. Startup experts are people who help other people start businesses and those who have recently started a business. Entrepreneurs starting a business in Wilmington are fortunate because a robust ecosystem of providers is available that will help for free. Examples include the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), UNCW Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC), Cape Fear Community College Small Business Center (SBC), Brunswick Community College SBC, Genesis Block, and other Business Coalition resource providers (visit here for more information about the Business Coalition).
Personal support is also critical throughout the startup odyssey, and may include a partner, family, and/or friends. A hug at the right time and a loved one to celebrate small entrepreneurial successes helps entrepreneurs a lot. Entrepreneurship can be lonely, but it does not have to be when building a robust support network.
To go the distance with the New Year’s Resolution to start a new business, entrepreneurs should focus on growing passion, resilience, and support for long-term success. If you are ready to get started, check out SBTDC’s free 4-week Taking the Leap program here. CIE offers coaching, connections, space, and tools for success. For more information, email [email protected].
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