5 major mistakes new startups make…and how to avoid them

The team at Baobab Entrepreneurship are a group of social entrepreneurs in Senegal providing workshops to help early stage startups reach that next level. Here are the 5 biggest mistakes they’ve seen working with young startups and how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Not Talking to Your Customers

When collaborating on a startup, team members will often believe they have everything figured out. They think their product, exactly how it is in their mind, is what customers want. This isn’t to say customers always know exactly what they want, but not testing or gauging customer reaction can leave you in a lot of debt with a product no one is too crazy about.

How to avoid it:
Get out and talk to your target customers. Listen to them to find out what really they want.

Mistake #2: Waiting for Financing

Many entrepreneurs looking to begin their startup just wait for money to fall from the sky. It’s not going to happen. Many don’t think about how to sustain themselves or their business for the long road before they launch. You need to make money along the way. What can you do today with the means that you have today to make money? You need to start small to get bigger.

How to avoid it:
Boot Strap. Really think about what services you can offer now. Put those services out there and charge for them.

Mistake #3: Working Alone

Try not to stay so tight-lipped about your project idea. Many entrepreneurs are believe that as soon as they talk about their project with others, someone will try to steal their idea, that’s extremely rare. If someone is audacious enough to steal your product, chances are it won’t be exactly how you were planning to go about it. There will still be room for you. It‘s important to talk about your project so you can find partners and investors. If you work alone, no one will know what you’re doing. At some point you’ll need to promote your product and you’ll want people to have heard about it.

How to avoid it:
Let go of the fear and put yourself and your product out there. Find people to talk to, it may help you find investors!

Mistake #4: Being Too Vague

When describing your business, your product, or the need you are trying to fill, no one knows your product better than you. Being too vague in your description will leave potential customers and investors confused about your idea, which will make your product less useful and your business less successful.

How to avoid it:
Work on your pitch, “with this new product, you’ll be able to solve your unique need in less than 5 minutes.

Mistake #5: No Paper Trail

Often new start ups will want to start working right away without keeping good notes and documenting their processes, leaving no trace of their team’s progression. This is bad for two reasons. First, if you work on something and then later need to go back and refer to it and it’s not there, that’s a loss for you. The other reason is for communication purposes. It’s great to have visuals to help explain your process. Having great notes you can turn into flyers is helpful when marketing your product.

How to avoid it:
Although it may be time consuming and seem cumbersome, keep and write everything down.

For more on CONCREE and Baobar Entrepreneurship:

Read why you should, ‘throw out’ your business plan
and find CONCREE and the Baobab team on Facebook and on Twitter at @startupconcree and @startupbaobab