I am sure I speak for many people when I say that I want to become an entrepreneur - it is one of my main goals in life. In fact thinking back to when I was a child, I realise that I always wanted to if not be an entrepreneur, then I wanted to at least work for myself.
Having said this, I know that I also speak for many people when I say that it can be challenging to put your dream into practice. It can also be especially difficult for younger people who don’t know where to start. So you want to create a brand new electronic gadget, but where do you begin? Do you just search for ‘engineers’ online? Do you go straight to a factory? Do you draw your own blueprint first? For someone who has no experience it can be very confusing as to what exactly needs to be done before you can get anything off the ground. Then there is also the problem of capital; namely how to get it. If you’ve just graduated or have only been working for a few years, chances are that you won’t have enough initial capital to even get a prototype off the ground to show to investors. Unfortunately unless you have ‘experience’ (a connotation-laden word that I have come to dread in recent years) or at least the potential to make billions, it’s unlikely that you will be invested in by venture capitalists. Incidentally, I recently read an article by a man called Chris Norström detailing his exploits, adventures and many setbacks in creating his first product. I highly recommend reading it, as it is a charming article with a lot of valuable lessons for would-be entrepreneurs.
Now this is not to say that you will not succeed – on the contrary. If you are committed to putting in the time and effort to carry out your homework and are not afraid to seek advice from people when you need it, I am convinced that you will succeed. I am however talking to the many of us who have the potential to create something truly inventive and useful, but who may be somewhat lacking the motivation to carry it out - that would be a great waste.
But I did not write this article to spread despair among the eager and enterprising GreatPreneurs readership. In fact the opposite is true, I wrote this with the specific intentions of helping and encouraging would be entrepreneurs. The way in which I plan to do this is by giving three tips to help you grow your entrepreneurial muscles without actually starting a business from scratch yourself:
Get a job at a small company - any company, It could even be any job position. Due to the nature of small businesses there will be many, many chances for you to change something, improve something, fix something. The more you do, the more trust you will earn and the more responsibility you will get. Even if all you’re in charge of is typing information into a database, come up with a system to make it easier for yourself, lessen your workload. That way you will both demonstrate that you can take initiative and that you can make things more efficient. So perhaps you can do the same for another aspect of the business that is more important? If all you’re doing is writing newsletters, then think about whether you can make any improvements to it. Does it look professional enough? If the formatting is awful, perhaps play around with the margins, change the font, tiny changes can have a big impact. Again, you will have achieved something and proven both to yourself and to the boss that you are motivated and not afraid to take the initiative. If you do this, then in time you will gain more and more responsibility, and more and more exposure to the entire business. This kind of experience will prove invaluable when you strike out on your own.
Join an existing startup. For those of you who know one or two people who have started their own business and were looking on in a mixture of jealousy and admiration, why not take the plunge and offer them your highly capable services. If all you need is a gentle push in the right direction, you may find it hard to motivate yourself when all it is is a vaguely specified dream in your head; but being part of an already existing startup may be all you need to fill you with entrepreneurial zeal and get you going. Having said this, I will recommend that you only join a startup whose mission you actually identify with. If you don’t feel entirely comfortable with it, or you can’t even imagine seeing yourself being completely behind it, then the best and kindest thing for both you and the startup will be for you not to get on board.
Even if you are unable, or perhaps unwilling to carry out either of the two suggestions above, for any reason – perhaps you can earn a better salary immediately working for a larger company and don’t want to give up that advantage, or perhaps you need time to decide whether entrepreneurship really is for you after all – you don’t have to give up your dream immediately. Yes you can do something else in the meantime, but why not meet with a group of likeminded people every now and then and discuss startup ideas . They can be colleagues (although this is not recommended, lest your boss accuses you of mutiny and mass conspiracy to desert), old friends, or if nobody in your circle of acquaintances is entrepreneurially bent, to a purpose-built friend circle of people you met at entrepreneur meetups (I suppose this website is as good a place to start as any).
In short, even if you’re unable for whatever reason to take the plunge now, there is no reason to forget about your ambitions. There is more than one way to skin the entrepreneurial cat. (No, that’s not why I put that picture up. Ok, maybe it was.)