When starting a business, we all find ourselves in moments where we believe our idea is the next biggest deal, and we cannot wait for the world to see what we’ve come up with or what we’ve produced. But before any products can be sold or the business can fully assist anyone, much time, consideration, and research needs to go into the building blocks of who the business really is.
Yes, your business is a who and not a what. Your business is someone you are beginning to invest time in, where you are creating what they will look like, how they will communicate, and the small details about them that will make them unique.
In this process, there’s so much to weigh and consider, but what about the things to avoid and situations not to fall victim to? Two young women, who have experience building their own businesses while attending college, have some tips on things not to do as an upcoming entrepreneur.
Shelby Smith, a senior at Syracuse University, is COO of Kairos Culture, a platform designed to train, connect and promote creatives, activists and entrepreneurs by having events. These sessions will ground them in not only their faith, but how to advance in the realm of creativity, activism and entrepreneurship.
Kierra White, a recent grad of Pace University, is founder and creator of The Mod Collective, a business built on helping female-owned businesses live up to their fullest potential with equally-beautiful branding and driven results.
1. Don’t go in without researching
Alongside creating the identity of your company, make sure to put in just as much effort into learning about your audience or clientele.
“Use scholarly articles and research that’s been done in the past 10 years. It’s important to read articles because if you don’t know who you’re trying to target and how to reach them, then you don’t have customers,” said Smith. “When you want to start a business, think: ‘Is this solving a problem?’ Figure out who it solves the problem for, how it solves the problem, and why it solves the problem. This is research.”
“Be big in your strategy. Define your audience and know who you want to work with. Know the demographics. Dig into the strategy of who you want to serve because then you can focus on them and building the business on who you want to work with,” said White.
2. Don’t do this alone
Whether it’s a partner or a community full of partners, don’t forget that you’re not alone and that having a successful business takes a team.
“Surround yourself with people in the same industry that you can go to for advice. Or even recommended clients to other people,” said White. “A lot of people have someone they look up to in their industry. I kind of started exploring hashtags and connecting on industry leaders’ posts and connecting through Instagram. Scrolling up and down the explore page. I don’t follow for a follow back. I engage with their content. I watch their IG Live. You have to be authentic.”
“Find a partner or an advisor,” said Smith. “When developing, there needs to be a collaboration. My partner, CEO Jonathan Stamper, is the visionary. I get involved in the details. Jonathan may struggle with administration, but that’s my strong suit. So it’s finding someone who complements you or is compatible to your strengths and weaknesses. Find someone that can balance out your skill set and personality.”
3. Don’t think everyone will be on board
Although there is community filled with helpful people who are passionate about business, creativity and entrepreneurship, not everyone will be able to cater to your needs. Each business has its own culture; therefore, don’t fall into the misconception that a company that seems similar to you will be the right fit. According to Smith:
“There’s a lot of resources and competitions. You’re not gonna be successful with all these resources. Not everyone is gonna think your idea is a great idea. As a resource, they may be beneficial, but can have a different focus.”
This also applies for when it comes to being the right resources for someone else.
“You’re trying to get your name out there. You’re hustling. It’s hard to turn down projects,” said White. Although you may want to say yes to all who request for your services, if they don’t fit what your brand is about, it may be best to decline and refer them to someone who may be of better assistance.
4. Don’t forget about authenticity
“Do not copy. The industry is already saturated. Everything has been done, but hasn’t been done in your way. Look for inspiration but don’t take that inspiration and recreate it,” said White.
She adds that this doesn’t just go for when figuring out the face of your brand, but even when reaching out to others.
“I’ll follow someone and interact with their content. Sometimes, when I follow them, they send me an automatic DM that tells me about them and asks nothing about me. Don’t do automation bots. Don’t randomly message people. That won’t get any service to you and it’s not authentic because it’s won’t really making that connection.”
5. Don’t rush the foundation
“When you have an idea and you’re in the process making it a business, know your core values,” said Smith. “What are people purchasing when they think of your brand? What do you stand for? What is your purpose? This can be displayed through events and social media. Through captions and photos.”
“If you don’t know how to start, do your research, take a class, there’s tons of resources,” said White. “You literally just have to go for it. If you have the passion and the fire in your heart then go for it.”