to Become an Entrepreneur?
by Lenora Chu
If you have a pulse in the '90s, chances are you or someone
you know has toyed with the idea of starting a business. It's almost
the definition of trendy these days! The success stories boast fabulous
perks: making a difference, ownership of something you believe in,
freedom, flexibility, and yes, there's always independent wealth.
Join the club! After cornering
a few brave souls who have armored up and ventured out into the
world of startups, I've compiled a short list of their advice. Here's
what they have to say to budding entrepreneurs about to take a dive
into the deep end.
Be passionate about your great idea.
You don't necessarily
have to own the proprietary technology to make cars fly like spaceships,
Jetsons' style. Good business ideas can come from anywhere. If you've
got an area of expertise, from cutting hair to preparing research
reports, why can't you market it? Or, you might encounter a hole
in your everyday routine that needs to be filled with a service.
What about bringing someone else's successful idea to your neighborhood?
What's important is to believe in your mission, otherwise you will
quickly lose steam.
Be nice to everyone and network, network, network.
to meet people who can help you will pop up anywhere and everywhere.
Keep in contact with old bosses, former professors, old school buddies.
Remember to tip big at restaurants and thank everyone you meet;
the next door neighbor or yesterday's waitress could unexpectedly
be the one degree of separation between you and venture capital
gold. Turn every encounter into an opportunity to tell someone about
your business and make a connection that may be useful at a later
So you weren't
the first kid to start up a senior-prom singles hotline in high
school. You didn't run the neighborhood's window-washing business.
Don't think you can't knock 'em dead. If you've got the mad passion
and the will to succeed, then you have the juice to be an entrepreneur.
If you sound like you believe in yourself, no one will take the
time to doubt you.
can be a turnoff at a cocktail party, but a moderated "toot
your own horn" approach can work wonders. Be your own cheerleader
and get your name and ideas out there; trust me, no one else will
do it for you. By the way, the right company name can speak volumes.
Instead of another "Big Earth" or "Computer World,"
dream up a name so catchy that it rolls off your tongue and tickles
Realize that ideas are a dime a dozen; Execution makes the difference.
Don't delude yourself. If you've thought
of it, chances are someone's already tried it. But, a commitment
to execution will put distance between you and the other dreamers
out there who do only that -- dream. Stay focused. Methodically
forge ahead with your plan and do what needs to be done.
Know your market.
You must buckle
down and research. You don't want to run ahead with the inspiration
of the century, only to find that a little company in Kansas already
has a critical headstart. Who's your competition? What does the
customer need? What are the ups and downs of the industry you're
getting into? There are many ways to get the information you need,
from holing up in the library to calling up industry and trade associations.
Having done the work will pay off in spades later on down the line.
Draw up a business plan.
If you can't lay
out a detailed explanation or strategic plan for your business idea,
chances are you need to focus on stamping out your objectives. Most
of what you need is already swimming around in your head; tracking
down the relevant data to support your plan becomes second nature.
Write it up and whip it out at opportune times. What better way
to show potential investors that you mean serious business?
Be persistent to the point of obsession.
Besides sheer luck, the biggest difference between
the businesses that succeed and the ones that fail can be found
in the drive and motivation of the founders. Don't stop when the
phone hasn't rung in a week. You can will it to ring. Don't be discouraged
if you haven't gotten any good press or your 100th potential
investor has just hung up on you. Call the next contact on the list.
If idea #1 fails, try #2. Push on, even after PG&E turns the
lights out. Remember, no pain, no gain.
Do good work.
Whether your business
idea is service- or product-based, quality will speak for itself
once you get rolling. The word-of-mouth channel can be very powerful,
especially when it's flooded with raves instead of complaints. Happy
customers grease the grapevine gears, and free advertising is always
a good thing.
Starting a company
is a tough business. Overnight successes are few and far between;
those are just the ones you hear about in the media. On the other
hand, somebody has to make it?why can't it be you?
So there it is. Do you have a dream?
My name is Lenora Chu. I live in San Francisco and I have a dream
as much as the next kid on the block. Eight years ago, I traded
Houston's humidity and my Texas-bred accent for the beauty of the
Bay Area. After graduating from Stanford University, I tackled the
corporate world as a management consultant for a number of years,
most recently with Strategic Decisions Group in Menlo Park. At SDG,
I developed marketing and business strategies for Fortune 500 companies
in the high tech and pharmaceuticals industries.
After realizing that my true calling lay in the
arts, I decided to pursue the dizzy life of freelance writing and
editing. On the business side, I enjoy creating marketing and public
relations materials for startups and non-profits; but, my true love
lies in publishing and the creative arts. Currently, I devote much
of my time to acting, editing, writing and contributing to Bay Area
newspapers and publications.
Outside my professional pursuits, I have a passion
for reading, tutoring, shopping and goofing around with friends.
I love to travel, and have so far touched down on 5 of the earth's
7 continents. If anyone is planning a trip to South America or Antarctica,
you know who to call! Keep in touch!
E-mail any thoughts to LenoraChu@alumni.stanford.org