Founders Row is community for creative entrepreneurs of color to provide aspiring entrepreneurs a first row seat to entrepreneurial success. Read best practices from founders who have launched successful businesses in the tech and creative industries. Follow the column to hear from more founders’ stories.
STELLA ASHAOLU, FOUNDER & CEO AT WESOLV
1. COMMIT IT TO PAPER…OR TECH
As a creative entrepreneur passionate about your business, you can never know when inspiration will strike…and you can never call it back when you are ready for it. When a creative idea comes to mind, whether you are in the bathroom or in the car, write it down, dictate it, or do whatever you can to memorialize it for future use.
2. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE
As a creative entrepreneur you will often times feel like you are all by yourself. Be sure to create a trusting circle of other creative entrepreneurs who will be positive in uences and help you get unstuck when there seem to be no answers.
3. CREATE THE SOLUTION NOT THE PROBLEM
Creative entrepreneurs can come up with amazing ideas but need to be sure their ideas create solutions to real problems and don’t just create problems to fit their solution.
ALEXANDRIA BATDORF, CO-FOUNDER AT ZIPFIT DENIM
1. GET FEEDBACK & ITERATE
Many entrepreneurs have a tough time sharing their work at first because criticism can feel like a personal attack since we invest so much of ourselves into what we do. However, the most successful people I know, regardless of industry, are constantly asking for feedback and using that feedback to iterate and make what they’re doing better. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
2. COUPLE DATA WITH YOUR CREATIVITY
As an entrepreneur, your mind is always racing with new ideas that may help you grow your company. However, it’s important to avoid executing on ideas blindly. For example, if you want to test a new marketing platform you should look at supporting data that can justify why the monetary and/or time investment would make sense. There are many tools such as Google Analytics that can help you make informed decisions by breaking down important information such as customer demographics, traffic sources, etc. to understand if the idea is worthwhile. If you don’t have this data available to you yet, ask other entrepreneurs or experts in your industry to see what has worked for them.
3. THINK LONG TERM
Why are you starting a company? How are you different from competitors? Where do you imagine your company being in 3-5 years? What resources and strategies are required for you to get there? When you’re starting a company, these are questions that you should be thinking of. When you’re thinking long term about what you’re trying to accomplish, you’re much more equipped to make smart decisions.
LANGSTON E. HILL, FOUNDER AT ADTHRILL
No one product makes your business, so don’t be afraid to change things up. Remember your business is not a product offering, it’s a problem solver. The products that you work so hard to create will eventually be modified, upgraded, duplicated and outdated all the time. You remain in business when you dedicate your company towards solving the ever-evolving issues needed in your customers’ industries and world with whatever product is necessary for the time.
2. PACE YOURSELF
It’s ok to start lean, and it’s best to start lean. It’s much less painful to modify your message, business, or product at break-even instead of being thousands of dollars in the hole. It’s ok to build your product in iterations, start with a site that has pre-sale orders, or show a client wireframes of products yet to come.
3. BUILD TOGETHER
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to start your business as a solo founder. However, whether through hiring full-time, part-time, mentorship, equity owners, board of directors, or whatever; make sure you have a team of people who cover your weaknesses and are far smarter than you. Find people who far exceed your skill or intellect level, and then constantly give those people assignments and incentives to work with you. Having smart people in your business is absolutely vital, but the format in which those people work with your company is flexible.
RENDEL SOLOMON, FOUNDER AT ONE STOCK ONE FUTURE
No one is going to believe in your vision more than YOU. Once you start to seek external support, especially from investors, your initial source of funds is likely to come because that individual or entity recognizes your passion about your idea, technology, service, etc. You have to be your greatest supporter!
2. SEEK FEEDBACK
You should actively seek feedback from others. Allow others to provide criticism. This could include customers, other business professionals, nancial providers, or industry partners. This feedback will not always be pleasant, but you should always be willing to internalize the information and process it with trusted advisers whom you respect and admire. This does not mean you have to agree or accept all advice, but you should be open to having the dialogue as it will help you think critically about your enterprise.
3. EMBRACE FAILURE
There are numerous maxims about learning from failure, and they are all true. Another word for failure could be lesson. Do not give up because you fail once, twice, or thrice. Perhaps you took a wrong turn, perhaps you needed an oil change, or perhaps the weather was not cooperating that day. After any failure, be sure to walk away with a lesson that will help you in your next endeavor. If you do not fail at some point, you prob- ably are not taking enough risk which means you are not going to grow to your fullest potential.
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