We had the pleasure of meeting Alice Yoo, founder of My Modern Metropolis, a new social networking site, on Friday. She and her husband Sam stopped by the studio and we had fun giving them a tour and chatting about what it's like to be an entrepreneur (read about their visit here). Fellow designers often approach us for advice on starting a small business, and we're always happy to share experience, so herewith, a couple of our top tips:
1. With great autonomy comes great responsibility. Being entrepreneur is liberating and creative, but comes with sleepless nights and big ups and downs. You have to have guts of steel and be ready to work long hours. And you have to be humble - there is no job that is too low when you're starting out (including cleaning toilets, licking stamps, and answering phones!)
2. Choose your partners well. Be sure everyone's ready to roll up their sleeves and put in their fair share of work, cash, sweat, grey hairs, sleepless nights, etc. One of our biggest criteria in selecting employees is whether or not they have "Hello!Lucky in their hearts" (to quote one of our hilarious and beloved veteran staffers!). If everyone's passionate and loves what they do, success will be more likely to follow.
3. Develop great products. Be true to your vision, but listen to the market and refine accordingly. And make sure the economics of creating, selling, and distributing the product are workable (discount your projections by at least 10% - entrepreneurs tend to be a wee bit optimistic - they have to in order to handle the risk!). If you can't find funding for your business, whether it's from friends and family or investors, it's probably not viable.
4. Cut your losses. If something isn't working, change course. Everyone makes mistakes; it's how you respond to them that determines the final outcome.
5. Stay objective. Every entrepreneur has moments when they wonder whether it's worth it to go on; sometimes this happens with uncanny frequency! It's also easy to take ups and downs (especially the downs!) personally and lose confidence. While you need to be realistic, it's also vital to step back from the setback of the moment and look at the positive, whether it's press mentions, customer testimonials, or sales. If things are trending in the right direction, then keep it up and don't take the setbacks personally!
P.S. Happy Labor Day!