10 Things I learned in Entrepreneurship and How They Reflect in Life and Business

There are many great entrepreneurs in the world today. I went down the road of entrepreneurship, hoping to be one of them. I’m now one year into this whole thing and here are the things I learned.

To start things off, I first experienced what entrepreneurship is back in high school. I was taught about business plans and the individual components that go into them. I successfully came up with a business. It was nothing feasible and it wasn’t even close to being a startup, but I took away a lot of things from that experience.

More than a year later, I stepped into the warm and spirited campus of University of Southern California. Here is where I met numerous college entrepreneurs, aspiring individuals, and talented students who have already walked down a road of their own to chase whatever dreams they have, fueled and motivated by passion. I wanted to be just like them, and I needed to know how.

It was shocking for me to see how behind I am from everyone and how lost I am in terms of what I want to do. I knew I had to start something as another day of me not doing anything was another day I am behind. After a year of suffering from identity crisis and being adrift, the opportunity finally came. A good friend of mine decided to hit me up and have me co-found a start up with him. That was when I stepped into the world of entrepreneurship which I know nothing about but was eager to learn from.

Everyday was a learning process to me. I had to learn everything from documentation to attending networking events to pitching our startup. Things were extremely hard but looking back now I really learned a lot. Here are some of the more significant things I wish I knew earlier or that I picked up along the way.

“You won’t realize how great you are unless you give your everything and give it a try.”

  1. Balance is everything. This is a question that I always hear college students asking successful entrepreneurs. When you’re doing school work, being involved in student organizations, trying to be social, and starting a business, 24 hours in a day really isn’t enough. I haven’t yet learned about the secret of balancing everything and school work tends to suffer the most for me (due to it being the most boring out of the all). However, I do have two tips that have made things a lot easier. Prioritize and use calendars. When there are so many things going on at the same time, I normally would lay out all the things I have to do. I then compare the benefits and costs of each task and then put what I should do in order. Normally I prioritize business ,school work and sleep, but it’s different for everyone! I also got into the habit of using calendar. Putting things down on the calendar give you a great sense of how busy you’re going to be and how you can plan accordingly.
  2. Being in college is the perfect time for it. A lot of university students around me want to own a business someday, but they want to do recruitment first. The thinking is that they need a job and they will start a business of their own sometime later when the time is right. The truth is that almost never happens. After graduating from university there are more serious things to consider. There will be bills that needs to be paid and there will be bigger responsibilities. Being able to take risks is an important trait for most successful entrepreneurs. According to the DailyMail, the older one gets the more he turns risk averse. As you get older, there will be less opportunities for you to take risks and the costs of taking these risks will be far greater too. Being a student entrepreneur also works to your favor. People are very willing to help students out. There are also many resources that can be used on campus. USC itself has an incubator that provides a lot of guidance and resources. There are also numerous networking events or startup demos happening. Start young and start now.
  3. Everything can be learned over the internet. Many people want to start a business but they fear not knowing enough. That is a mindset that entrepreneurs shouldn’t have. If you have a great idea and you want to do it, just go ahead. Never be afraid of not knowing anything about the industry or business because the truth is you never will. If you don’t do it now it might be too late later on. Going down the road of entrepreneurship, there will be many mistakes and many lessons. The best you can do is to do as much research as you can in order to prevent mistake from happening that often. There are many great resources online where you can learn a lot from other people’s mistakes and get industry insights. YouTube channels, online forums, news sites, and even Wikipedia are all viable places. You can even hit up industry leaders or veterans for a coffee chat to gain insights and valuable advices. I learned about web design, the making of a pitch deck, manufacturing terms, and even sales and marketing skills just with the internet and hitting people up for coffee chats/phone calls. Truth is everything can be learned as long as you’re willing to make the effort.
  4. Everything is a hustle. A lot of people today want to do entrepreneurship because it’s sexy and you don’t have to work for somebody else. Wrong. Starting a business is all about the grind and the hustle. I frequently attend networking events, meetups, coffee chats, and trade shows. I’m always chasing people off for their business cards and always approaching people for conversations. Doing entrepreneurship is fun as you meet a lot of people and learn a lot of things along the way, but rarely do I feel like what I’m doing is sexy.
  5. Finding a partner is easy, but a right one is hard. This is another common issue faced by early stage entrepreneurs and founders. Many people became founders and co-founders just because it’s convenient or that they’re friends. However, you have to be extremely aware of the ups and downs. Starting a business with your friend may decrease your potential network group and have less diversity in ideas. On the other hand, having a partner you’re not familiar with may increase your network groups, but it can also mean more disagreements. Point of advice is you have to get to know the person you’re partnering with. Make sure you hold the same values, share the same visions, and have similar work ethics. The most important aspect is to have a trust worthy partner. In a business setting where money and legality is involved, you never know what’s going to happen and you can never trust someone 100%. Also remember that no matter who you’re partnering up with, always keep each other accountable. Whether it’s meeting deadlines, setting work goals, or integrity issues, if there’s something worthy of concern, bring it up on the table.
  6. Entrepreneurship is for everyone. Many have argued that entrepreneurship is for certain people with certain personalities. That is true and not true. Certain personalities like extroverts/type A do have some advantages in entrepreneurship. Talking to investors, pitching startup ideas, and networking all require a certain amount of ability to talk in front of a crowd. However, introverts can run a successful business too. Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn and UpWork CEO Stephane Kasrie are both famous for being capable leaders despite being introverts (for more on how UpWork CEO became a leader). Point being, everyone can be great leaders in a startup environment, it’s just that some of us have to try harder than others. Never think that you can’t be a leader or a startup founder just because you’re an introvert. If others can do it, then so can you.
  7. Learn to motivate yourself and your team. Lacking the right motivation when working on a startup can be catastrophic. Most people think that they won’t lose motivation because they’re doing something they’re passionate about, but that’s wrong. Building a startup can be extremely stressful and frustrating. It is also very hard to motivate yourself when you’re not seeing results. Something I do to motivate myself is to talk to people about what I’ve been doing. Talking to friends or family really takes away a lot of pressure and makes you realize the things you’ve done. Knowing your own commitment and recognizing your contributions are important as they help you remember that you’re not wasting your time. You’re building something great.
  8. Establish a strict and neat structure early on. Everything from communication, documentation, meeting minutes, or task assignments should have a strict and neat structure. Starting this early on will give you a well structured SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that will benefit you a lot in the future.
  9. Set Goals. It’s very important to set goals for yourself and your company. Set big goals that are achievable and realistic. Then set smaller goals that can lead you to the bigger goal step by step. This is something I learned later on that I wish I knew earlier. Whether it’s a bucket list or a traditional list of goals, it will serve you a great deed by letting you know exactly what you’re working hard for and what is this road you’re taking. I’m sure most of us have heard the phrase “take the road less taken”. Truth is don’t do that. Take whatever road you want. Just make sure you’re willing to work for it and sacrifice for it.
  10. Keep in touch with people. This is something that I haven’t been doing very well and wish to improve upon. Going down the road of entrepreneurship you will meet a lot of people through networking events or referrals. After meeting different people and collecting numerous business cards, always keep in touch. Building a network is important, but I believe more in building relationships. Connecting through LinkedIn, exchanging emails, scheduling for coffee chats, or even writing thank you letters are all great ways of making good and lasting impressions.

Entrepreneurship is great and it’s fun. You meet new people all the time and you learn new things everyday. However, it also requires a lot of time commitment, energy, persistence, and determination. As long as it’s something you believe in, you should go ahead and try it out. There wouldn’t always be second chances.

This article talks a lot about entrepreneurship, but the main purpose of it is to motivate people to chase after what their passionate about and help people realize their life can be a lot more.

Once discussing what entrepreneurship is with my friends, we came up with a lot of answers. It can be a mindset, it can be a lifestyle, it can be a business format, or it can be a dream. Truth is we don’t know what exactly it is and there are no strict rules. But one thing we agreed on is that entrepreneurship is extremely addicting and rewarding.

“The best way to learn about business is to start one.”

Jasper Chou is the Co-Founder of LYNKD, a new age product development and sourcing management firm that focuses on manufacturing and go-to market strategies.

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