How to become a successful entrepreneur

Starting your own business is a journey, learn from people that have blazed the trail.

There’s a running joke that I absolutely despise. It’s a simple phrase that people throw around without thinking about the deeper meaning. It goes something like, “If he says he’s an entrepreneur, that must mean he has no job.”

People that say this have absolutely no clue the amount of effort it takes to build a company. However, it does bring up the point that relatively anyone can “say” their an entrepreneur. I don’t want you to just say you’ve started a business, I want you say that you’ve started a successful business!

It’s so easy to legally start a business that a caveman could do it. You basically just submit a form. Growing your company is the real challenge. Read on to hear what it takes to develop your business into something you can be proud of, as told by successful entrepreneurs.

Dr. Steven Edelson — Walsh University Entrepreneurship Professor

It’s maybe a bit cliché, and a rather “academic” answer, but it boils down to one word. Persistence. I was actually waiting to answer this question, because I was hoping that earlier today I’d be able to have good news on a venture I’ve started with my (8-yr. old) son, Manny’s Cookies (www.mannyscookies.com — never stop promoting your business!).
We actually came up with the idea when he was 6, bandied it about for a year and didn’t really move. Then in May 2015, we registered for our LLC in Ohio and we were a business! Well, in name only, really, as we did not have a place to make the aforementioned cookies. In August of 2015, we thought we’d struck a deal with a location to use their commercial kitchen. In September, after putting up our website (but not taking orders, thankfully) that deal fell through. In November of the same year we began negotiations with a local small business owner and had a tentative deal in place when communication stopped coming from our potential partner. As it turns out he had been offered a significant buy-out for his business and had signed a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement with the new owner until the deal was finalized. He out us in touch with the new owner, but the new owner had no interest in working with us.
Back to square 1. We explored using some cooperative kitchens (there’s a nice one in Cleveland) and that remains a plan D or E, right now. But less than a month ago we approached another local small business to see if we could reach an agreement to sublease some kitchen space on a part-time basis. He asked us to provide some samples (which we did, of course, in exchange for some samples of his wares) and we were scheduled to talk this morning, but he had to delay our talk until tomorrow. So…. Maybe in 24 hours we’ll be closer to a deal!
But the moral here, is persistence. It would have been easy enough to just say, “heck, it’s too complicated, it must not be in the stars.” We didn’t have any major sunk costs; but by staying alert to opportunities to launch, we stuck through it. Hopefully people reading this blog in 2 years see the humble beginnings of the Manny’s Cookies empire! And, if it fails, well, we’ll be resilient and find another opportunity.

Dr. Phil Kim — Walsh University Business Professor & Founder of Ideapath Consulting

I think for me, it’s looking at entrepreneurship as a journey rather than a single point or destination.
I don’t think most entrepreneurs think of themselves as a “success,” as in “I have arrived.”
Almost every entrepreneur I’ve met is constantly looking for ways to improve or grow their business. Whether it’s increasing their product line or services, to reducing waste, business development, etc. Sometimes it’s small tiny tweaks and other times it’s starting all over for a new adventure.
I think the most successful entrepreneurs are thinking of the long haul.

Max Polec — Founder of Fashion by Polec & College Student Innovator at the University of Pittsburgh

I want to preface this by saying that entrepreneurial success is subjective to one’s own circumstances. Some succeed because of the right team, the right product, the right time, or even just luck.
However, when it comes down to luck, I think Seneca said it best: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. This quote prompts this question: how does one prepare?
In my case, preparation manifested itself in the form of hard and difficult work. I was not lucky enough to have as many doors open as my peers. I started my first business when I was 15 out of need. If I was going to go to college after high school, I needed to start making money to pay for it. So I took the grass cutting equipment out of my garage one hot summer day, teamed up with my older brother, and we started our first business. It was by no means easy as my competition was adults who had the local market locked down, but I put in the work, the business strategy, and I acquired my fair share of clients that helped me get my business started. Then I scaled, grew my clientele, took bigger jobs, and made more money. This business has been successful every year for the past 6 years because I put in the hard and difficult work that no one else my age would even consider doing.
Another piece of advice that I attribute to my entrepreneurial success is taking the dive. In short: if you have an idea, go for it. I learned how to sew in the winter of 2015 and I started making bow ties. After getting compliments on the handmade bow ties that I was wearing around, I decided to open up an Etsy shop and start selling them. Why not, right? Well, that little hobby turned into fashion brand, Fashion By Polec (FBP), which serves me now as a profitable side-hustle. I see a lot of “wantrepreneurs” with ideas that are terrified to act because of the very real likelihood of failure. Remember, you are a “wantrepreneur” until you make your first sale. Don’t wait any longer and start now.
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