Funny story. For several years I was a teacher for the YEA! Young Entrepreneur Academy. It was an amazing experience – I helped middle school and high school students launch legitimate businesses. After 9 months, they created a legitimate DBA in the State of CT, asked for money from investors and launched.
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On the first day of the class I always asked the students what they thought an entrepreneur was – I wanted to see their vision. Here are some very real answers:
- I get to have an office with a chair that spins around
- I get to be a millionaire
- I get to have a ton of money
- I get to do whatever I want
- I get to take vacations whenever I want
- I get to be the boss
These were children, but I can tell you that many adults see entrepreneur life through rose colored glasses as well.
Being an entrepreneur IS amazing. To be honest – I’m not employable – really. I like being the boss, I like taking vacations when I want – but I also am down for working 80 hours in a week if that’s what needs to happen.
The fantasy driven view of what owning a business is all about is probably one of the biggest reasons many fail – they aren’t prepared for the tough spots. I absolutely love launching businesses – it’s FUN. Creating the business plan, designing logos, creating the marketing message, gearing up for the launch – all that is super cool and fuels my soul and creative side. The rubber hits the road the day after the launch – because that’s when it gets real. You have to run the business, live the business and for most, you ARE the business.
When I was working with the kids and started fleshing out their business ideas – we honed in on what they loved to do and what they were really great at. When you can combine the combo it works. Many had hobbies such as sewing, baking, and animal welfare that they felt would make great business ideas. When I asked them: Would you like to bake dog treats (or whatever their hobby was) 40 hours a week and spend another 20 working on sales, marketing, and administrative “stuff” – they stared at me in disbelief. They ASSUMED they would hire other people to do the manual work and they would be sitting in that chair twirling around.
To the children’s credit, they quickly realized that just because you have a hobby doesn’t mean you would want to flip that into a full-time business. Why? The absolute joy of that hobby could be gone after the first 60 hour work week AND just because it’s a hobby you enjoy doesn’t mean others will pay you for that product or service.
The last point I want to touch on is the money. You need it and often times lots of it. I’ve seen many entrepreneurs drain their savings, tap into family and friends, and launch without a solid gameplan, solid market research and a long-term vision. The money is gone and the family and friends are far from happy. Yes, you need to be a risk taker when it comes to money – been there, done that. You also need to realize there will be many weeks you as the owner will not get a paycheck so you can pay staff and invest back into the company. Be prepared to be poor. Some businesses take off immediately and sure, they make millionaires within year one. That is rare – very rare.
To wrap up, entrepreneur life is grand. It’s hard, it’s easy, it’s frustrating, and it’s rewarding all at the same time. I wouldn’t have it any other way.