Six Insights To Being an Entrepreneur
The following post is from Hanson Grant ’16, founder of Think Board, a fall 2015 hatchery business.
So you want to be an entrepreneur, great! But first, what is your rational behind this decision? Are you searching for freedom, flexibility, or following a passion? If so, this is a great place to start. Most people have the preconceived idea that an entrepreneur is one who takes a large risk with a huge potential upside. We always hear about the Zuckerberg’s in the entrepreneurial world, but never the everyday entrepreneurs. While the well-known stories are remarkable and teach valuable lessons, they fail to relate to the everyday entrepreneur or dreamer.
My name is Hanson Grant and I am an entrepreneur from Babson College – the #1 school in the world for entrepreneurship – studying Business with a concentration in, you guessed it, entrepreneurship. During my sophomore year, I created a product called Think Board – a clear film that turns any surface into a dry-erase board. Over the past year, I have been developing Think Board further and have turned it into an award-winning startup in Boston. My goal is to share entrepreneurship from a personal level, as a college student, to other college students, and help guide aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their ideas to action.
Below are my six favorite insights about becoming an entrepreneur and taking that first step.
Where they only see a problem, you see the solution
Most ideas solve problems, big or small, and the first step is to identify the areas of opportunity. Next time you see a problem, or something that should be different, shift your perspective and focus on what could be different, versus sending negative energy towards what is not working. Think of it as, “How could this be better?” With Think Board, the problem was not having a space to express my ideas that was convenient and affordable, so I set on a mission to create the space I was lacking.
Share your ideas!
Once you have a vision in mind, share it! The best thing you can do is share your ideas with close friends who can give you feedback and support, but also keep you on track when times are tough.
I use my Think Board to continuously brainstorm ideas. Every time a friend walks in the room and asks about an idea on my Think Board, it gives me an opportunity to pitch the idea, further develop it in my head, and hear what others think. If you are concerned about your idea being exposed, have them sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement).
Provide Value to a Community
While most “ah-ha” moments come from a problem experienced as an individual, it is then crucial to understand how this service/product could benefit a community as a whole. While developing your idea further in your own head, or through collaboration with others, you should start thinking about how this can help others improve their lives.
Whole Foods is an excellent example of a company that provides value to the community. They do this by taking all stakeholders into consideration – Customers, employees, suppliers, environment and shareholders – and valuing them all equally. Whether adding value to your local community or a community overseas, it’s important to have a passion for what you do. Without passion, it will be challenging to get a community of supporters behind you.
Just do it. Have an idea? Good, start working on it today. An idea will forever be just an idea until you write it down.
Writing down your idea tells your brain that this idea is more important than the 60,000 other thoughts you have in a day. It further embeds your idea into the consciousness, and before you know it, your idea will begin evolving while you sleep.
Second, talk about your idea. Talk to “potential customers.” Whether college students, teachers in the area, or your neighbors who operate the small retail shop downtown, anyone in your target market will be able to provide valuable advice. Once you do this, you will be able to get a more complete understanding of the potential of the idea, and your heart will guide you the rest of the way. If not this idea, try the next one. Just like a photographer, it takes 20 mediocre photos to finally get a good one.
Third, do not wait for every signal to say go! Just take one step in the right direction. You don’t wait at a traffic light until the next five lights are green, do you? Put your foot on the gas now, but be prepared to navigate around a few roadblocks.
If you plan everything precisely and write a 40-page business plan, it will all run smoothly, right? Wrong. Business plans are a thing of the past.
- You need a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve, but after that, everything is arbitrary.
- You must be able to adapt quickly and not feel too tied to one decision or another. So what if you make a couple wrong decisions – you will learn from it!
- Flexibility is key – you will need to step out of your comfort zone about once a day, because if not, neither you nor the venture will be growing.
- Don’t be afraid to break some rules.
The last, and maybe most important, is to have fun! Working on a startup is overwhelming. Starting a business is just like having kids – regardless of how prepared you think you are, you are still in way over your head. Sometimes 60 to 80-hour weeks may be necessary, and if you are a full-time student, parent, or employee, it can be tiring.
Just remember why you wanted to become self-employed. Was it freedom from a boss, flexibility, or simply following a passion? If you are in any way similar to me, it is because we wanted more time to do the things we love! Find happiness through an optimistic and positive attitude during your day or take time off (because you can!) for a day, a week or a month. Running a business is