6 Entrepreneurs from NJ Share Wisdom and Warnings about Starting Your Own Business

Starting a business?

Then you know the path to bringing a vision to life can be exciting — but also scary. Creating the rules of your own schedule, team, and paycheck can be confusing, especially when you’re just starting out.

So — my fledgling entrepreneur — in your moments of doubt, who do you look to for support? You might not have anyone. That was my experience when founding Teach + Learn Networking and I’ve since discovered that most people at the outset of their journey don’t know anyone crazy enough to take on the entrepreneurial challenge.

That means it can feel lonely to follow your dreams.

But it shouldn’t — in the US alone, there are 27 million entrepreneurs. That means it’s a matter of finding a community of people just like you — and listening to what they have to say.

Personal stories are the most powerful teaching moments, so I wrangled up six of the sharpest business owners from my home state of NJ for a candid panel discussion. We zeroed in what it’s like to push through the entrepreneurial struggle and live to tell the tale.

Below, you’ll find nuggets of motivation and inspiration from our panelists, including:

Spoorthi Kumar and Anand Patel, co-founders and owners of Hidden Grounds Coffee in New Brunswick, NJ

Aaron Weiman, founder and director of Speak Music Conservatory in Highland Park, NJ

Kam and Raj Sekhon, co-owners of Lone Worker Solutions, based in Edison, NJ

Our panel was moderated by Sam Popp, (that’s me!) founder of Teach + Learn Networking and Cliff Barany, co-founder and COO of Meridian Physician Solutions.

So, what did all these smart folks have to say about starting your own biz?

Settling on a business idea can be personal, or not at all…

“We had a connection to this idea because our friend fell off of a ladder when he was working alone. Plus, we wanted to create something [Raj and I] could work on together and teach to our children.” -Kam Sekhon
“I wanted to do something I knew nothing about. I am still a student of coffee.” -Anand Patel

…and the first year in business is your biggest gamble.

“Our first year was a huge learning process. For a long time, you’re working for your reputation, and not for your business. As we wrap up our second year, I’m just starting to feel like I can work on the actual business.” -Anand
“Our very first client purchased 3500 devices. It sounds like a jackpot but it took 8 months of negotiation and hand holding to get there.” Kam
“I wish I understood the financials better when starting out. I had no idea how much money comes in to play in the day-to-day running of what we do.” -Spoorthi Kumar
Sam Popp of Teach + Learn Networking, Aaron Weiman of Speak Music Conservatory

No matter how hard the journey seems, passion is the number one ingredient…

“After seeing the empty space for our first coffee shop, we slept on it, and we woke up with excitement, not fear. We were so driven with passion that pragmatism didn’t matter.” — Anand
“We made some projections when we started out. I made a best case scenario and a worse case scenario. I didn’t believe the worst case scenario.” -Aaron Weiman

And support is number two.

“Build a network of people that know about things like commercial leasing and law. You will need them in situations that you can’t imagine yet.” -Aaron
“My biggest support comes from my father, who has passed. Your support doesn’t have to be living, it can be in your mind.” -Raj Sekhon

Working with partners is an art, not a science…

“It’s important to know your partner’s space and respect it.” -Spoorthi
“Shit has to hit the fan at least once for things to get real. After that happens, you can build back the relationship with better understanding.” Anand
Anand Patel and Spoorthi Kumar of Hidden Grounds Coffee

…and competition isn’t always a bad thing.

“We aren’t competing with Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. We create an experience and a feeling — they aren’t doing that.” — Spoorthi
“What we do is special, so with anyone else around us doing the same thing, there is instant camaraderie.” -Aaron

But no matter how rocky it gets, you’ll be learning along the way…

“Find people that really disagree with you about your idea. Not because they don’t believe in you, but because they will point out all the reasons that you haven’t considered for why it won’t work.” -Aaron
“Take advantage of the opportunities around you. Your passion has to be stronger than your fear of being perceived a certain way. It’s not about who’s the most intelligent, it’s about who’s the biggest problem solver.” — Anand
Kam and Raj Sekhon of Lone Worker Solutions, Cliff Barany of Meridian Physician Solutions

…but the biggest lesson of all? Get everything in writing!

“Talk about this stuff now, about partnerships, about money, leases — even if you’re friends — and have it writing.” -Anand
“I’ll sit down with four people that want to start a company and ask them how it’s being split. From the jump they’ll all say “split it equal — 25%.” Then as we get talking, they see some people have heavier roles than others and deserve a bigger split. Have these awkward conversations now, not later, and have an attorney draw up an operating agreement.” — Cliff Barany
“I worked 8 months with my partner in the UK without any contract. Fortunately, he turned out to be a good guy! But, this is not always the case. We eventually put everything is writing, but we should have done it from the beginning.” -Raj

If you liked what all these smarties had to say, please click the ❤ below. Better yet, share this article with that friend that keeps kicking around the idea of starting their own business.

Thank you to Hidden Grounds Espresso Bar for hosting us. If you’re ever in Central NJ, their masala chai and cold brew coffee is a must-try. ❤

Thank you to Jason Wendroff-Rawnicki for snapping these shots. To see more pictures from this event, click here.❤

Thanks to all our panelists for sharing their brains with us, thanks to Amanda Foster for working the door, and thanks to all the new and emerging biz owners in NYC and NJ that support Teach + Learn Networking events with their love. ❤

If you were at this event and would like to leave a review, you can do so here.

What is Teach + Learn Networking?

Teach + Learn Networking is an in-person and online community of new and emerging business owners that’s all about connection, education, and conversation. Networking doesn’t have to suck and we promise we can prove it to you!

T+L Networking was founded by me, Sam Popp. You can learn more about us at www.TandLNetworking.com and local folks can join our New Jersey and New York City Meetups for up to date news on our events.

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