A few weeks ago we concluded our 5-week series Build Your Own Career Bootcamp, which the Entrepreneurship Hub hosts in collaboration with the Venture Initiative! This program is for folks on campus who want to build their own small business — bakers, makers, creators, consultants, retailers — you name it!
The last five weeks, the group has spent learning about building value, understanding customers, finances, getting a web presence and how to sell. We ended things off with a panel of 3 entrepreneurs who shared their stories of getting started. Their stories were just SO good we had to share them with all of you!
First, let’s meet our panelists!
So what did they wish they knew when they got started?
- Do a SWOT analysis of the industry you are in
- Do some market research, understand the market that you are in and how you are competitive
- Find your community (others who do similar stuff to you)
- Collaborate! You don’t always need to compete with others in your industry
- Understand what your costs are and make sure you are pricing your product correctly
- Know what your specialty is in your line of work
- How to do an effective cold outreach (short & to the point, compliment their work and add your portfolio!)
When asked about how they each got their first sale, each had stories to share of reaching out to someone they didn’t know, getting their message out through word of mouth, applying for contracts, doing giveaways, getting referrals; but there was a bigger message shared!
Three big things our panelists emphasized was (1) just start! Make something for someone and get feedback, reach out to that potential customer, just get started! (2) Know your value! Understand what it costs to offer your product or service, think about the cost of not just tangibly what you are doing (like ingredients, supplies, etc.) but think about your time! Make sure you put a value on that. And (3) advocate for yourself! Make sure you are getting what you are worth from your customers. If you don’t think you are being paid fairly, outline why not and highlight the value you bring to the table!
We also talked about work life balance. This is an important topic for everyone! What does work life balance mean to you and how do you make sure you achieve it? Here are some tips:
- Have your thing and dedicate time to it (for Andrew it’s soccer twice a week)
- Wake up early and set aside time for yourself (Sayem likes to go on runs or walks and listen to podcasts)
- Have “non-negotiables” in your schedule for family time, friend time, things you love, etc.
- Make lists and prioritize your tasks (Nat plans out her week in her calendar each Sunday)
- Enjoy what you do!
Lastly, we talked about success and how each of the entrepreneurs knew they had achieved success. Some might expect that they would have answered with “made $5000 a month” or “closed a big client” or “made enough money to quit my job”. None of their answers revolved around the sales they made or the customers they had. Here are some things they were asking themselves?
- Are people referring others to the business?
- Am I charging what I am worth?
- Am I working with clients I’m passionate about?
- Can I fully sustain my business off of clients I love working with?
It took some of the entrepreneurs 1–2 years to get there, it took others 4–5 years to get there! Success is defined differently for everyone and each person takes a different path to get there. Figure out what success looks like for you and your business!
A big thank you to all of our panelists for joining us! We know that your stories inspired the participants in the Bootcamp and your stories were just so great we had to share with everyone!
If you want to learn more about the Entrepreneurship Hub or the Ventures Initiative, please check us out online!