In college, I did everything I thought would prepare me for owning my own business. I majored in Business Administration and minored in Entrepreneurship, both suitable options for reaching my goal. But when starting my company at the ripe age of 24, I soon realized the reality was far from what I'd imagined within those classroom walls. Don't get me wrong, business school was undeniably worth it and has been incredibly helpful, but there are some things a curriculum cannot teach! I did learn business basics (through hours of reading textbooks and case studies), how to work constructively with others (through tedious group projects), and had my fair share of practical internship experience (which at the time I did to boost my resume and now realize how much they've helped in the long run). However, through the pages of overly highlighted text, inevitable group project drama, and unpaid internships, I wasn't prepared for the non-academic hurdles of how to actually run my own company.
Without any guides on how to mentally handle my new start-up, I dove right in head-first and found myself "doggy-paddling" my way through, trying to keep my head above water. Fast forward nearly two years and I've learned invaluable lessons that have given me a more comprehensive understanding of how to manage a business. For fellow eager entrepreneurs, the following are 5 tips I've learned that I wish were taught to me in business school:
1. Just do it. For the young dreamers out there in your 20s or 30s, there is no better time to take risks because later on in life you may not have the time or energy. Remember that fear of the unknown (like running a new business) gets in the way of possible successes for many people, but once you just do it, you will look back and realize it wasn't as difficult as you imagined.
2. Surround yourself with encouraging people. This is one lesson I've learned that has made a tremendous difference for me. Without the positive, encouraging support from my family and friends, I may not have been able to emotionally get through some difficult challenges. As with any start-up, there are always ups and downs, so having a positive support system is vital.
3. Don't hire a "yes person". I learned this when I hired my first employee, though I was lucky because I didn't have to learn this particular lesson the hard way. My first employee was not a "yes person." Instead, she challenges me to help make the company better. If she agreed with everything I said and did, we wouldn't grow. She has her own opinions and is honest, but still respects me as a boss. Hiring her is one of the best things I've done so far to help my company.
4. Do what you love. Though cliché, this advice is crucial because when working towards a mission you feel wholeheartedly connected with, it doesn't even feel like work! Before starting my current business, I was trying to start my own clothing company, but it didn't take long for me to realize I had no real passion for it. Now with my current company, I love what I do and look forward to helping people build healthy lifestyles and a more sustainable planet.
5. No such thing as failure. Henry Ford said it best: "Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently." It's not a failure if you learn from your mistakes. The same goes with criticism. Accept all types of it, make necessary changes, and keep moving towards your goal of improving your company.
I would be lying if I told you that owning your own business is easy, but the truth is it's also not as hard as you might think. While I've had the inevitable outbursts of tears and moments when I've wanted to give up, I've also had countless occasions where I've laughed, literally jumped for joy, and done victory dances! It's these ups and downs and obstacles I've faced that have brought me to where I am today; I welcome future challenges as opportunities for me and my company to grow stronger.