At the end of September we went live with a new fashion brand called President Penguin. What are the three key lessons that starting a business taught me about entrepreneurship and life?
Together with three of my best friends we spend over a year to prepare for the launch of our first start-up. We all still got our regular jobs, so we worked during the evenings, nights, and weekends. It’s an example of something that’s explained in my previous blog post: You don’t need to quit your job to explore other interests.
Within our start-up, I’m mainly responsible for the branding and marketing. But this is not a post about social media marketing or Google advertisement. Instead of going into specific skills, I want to share the three key lessons that starting a business taught me.
1. Starting a business is fun, sometimes
People around me are extremely supportive and keep telling me how amazing it is that we have started a company. In today’s society, being an entrepreneur is cool. Entrepreneurs are considered risk-takers and dream chasers who do what they want to do. And this is partly true.
The bigger a company gets, the more specialized the jobs usually become. In a start-up, you’re doing a thousand different things and not everything is fun. Some tasks are new and very rewarding because you’re learning something, but starting a business is not all rainbows and butterflies.
To give you an example: Last weekend we all spend two days to manually check 1,000 bracelets. We took out a small percentage that we weren’t completely happy with. These will be returned to our manufacturer, together with new guidelines for quality checks. Fingers crossed that we don’t need to do this again…
2. Experiment early on and make sure that you’re able to adapt quickly
Mike Tyson once said: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” We did a lot of research before we started. We wrote business plans and knew exactly how we wanted to grow our brand. And while we didn’t get punched in the face, reality did give us a firm tap on the shoulder.
It’s important to realize that you can’t plan everything. You must simply get started to learn what works and what doesn’t. We designed bracelets for men and set young men as our core target audience. But within our first few months we learned that women really like our bracelets as well. And more importantly, they seem to be more likely to buy a bracelet for a man than men are to buy one for themselves.
3. You need a bit of luck and a lot of patience
Earlier this year I read the book Shoe Dog. It’s is a book by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. He tells about the early days of Nike and how it became one of the biggest companies in the world. On this journey, there were many times Nike could have gone under if things had gone slightly different.
Starting a business today is much easier than when Nike was founded. You don’t need much capital anymore and Internet gives us many new ways to connect with suppliers and customers. But the fact that it’s relatively easy to start a company means that there is more competition as well. In our world of instant gratification, it’s important to realize that growing a business takes time. We know that we will not only need some luck, but also a lot of patience to be successful.
To sum up: Starting a business is an incredible experience, but it’s not for everyone. Think deeply if you want it and why you really want it. Because no, you won’t have a boss who tells you what to do, but shit still needs to get done and there’s a lot of uncertainty to deal with.
And if you decide to go for it, experiment early and make sure that you’re able to adapt quickly. And an important bonus tip if you’re about to do this with more people: Only work with people you want to spend time with! Starting a business is hard work and not everything will fun, but working with people you love makes the journey much better.