Striking out on your own: 10 steps to becoming a successful entrepreneur
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Striking out on your own: 10 steps to becoming a successful entrepreneur

Adam Markowitz, founder of Photo courtesy of Adam Markowitz.

Adam Markowitz, founder of Photo courtesy of Adam Markowitz.

Adam Markowitz, founder of Photo courtesy of Adam Markowitz.

Adam Markowitz, founder of Photo courtesy of Adam Markowitz.

Richard A. Lloreda, Staff Writer

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Entrepreneurship is a balancing act.

Forming a creative startup provides the stage to make your business unique and it is important to rembember there is no one way to start a successful company. While entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, the rewards far outweigh the risks. After nearly a year of conducting interviews with a diverse cast of characters, including an artisan soap crafter, a hat designer, an auto remarketer, a computer resume visionary and a decorative painter, I’ve discovered that all of them think outside the box and are well-positioned to grow their unique ideas into successful ventures.  Some salient truths have surfaced, showing consistent value that are vital touchstones for creating a successful startup business mindset.

  1. Surround yourself with positive people (who are smarter than you)!

Adam Markowitz of San Diego’s visual resume posting site offers this advice: “There’s always going to be unknowns. No one knows exactly how to execute what you’re doing or what you’re trying to do. If they did, they’d do it themselves.”

Markowitz adds that a crucial building block in the foundation of your startup is realizing your weaknesses and taking steps to turn them into strengths.

“It’s up to you to surround yourself with people smarter and more experienced than you to minimize the unknowns,” he says. “I understand that I don’t know what I don’t know, so I try to learn and spend time with others who can point that kind of stuff out.”

  1. Maintain a passionate connection to your ideas

Look for an idea that is one you connect with as an extension of yourself. Believe in this idea to an unheard of degree and let the passion fuel everything that you do in order to make your idea a reality. Decorative painter and muralist Shari Tipich from San Pedro, Calif. has the drive that has helped her develop a thriving career in the arts and interior design worlds.

“I have always been passionate about art,” she says. “And because I can appreciate graphics and textile design, I was led into the world of interior design all quite by accident when I was asked to create a decorative painting in a child’s bedroom for a design showcase house in Palos Verdes Estates.”

Tipich had a key spot in the recent 2016 Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts in La Canada/Flintridge, Calif.. She designed and painted custom panels used in two places in the showcase house: a balcony or “The Artist’s Veranda” and the elevator.

  1. Be transparent.

 Shem Gott of Mr. B’s Necessities is the creator of all-natural soaps and candles based in the San Diego area. His products are successful because they are made from organic materials and are less expensive than his competitors.

Gott says, “I have been very open-handed with my business. I don’t hide where I source my ingredients, nor do I keep the process a secret. I like people to know how their products are created and give them assurance that there is nothing underhanded about the product they are receiving.”

  1. Be ethical.

“Being ethical is a lot like being pregnant: either you are, or you aren’t,” says Stephen Houston. Founder of his three-man operation, Tradewinds Remarketing, Houston oversees everything from double-checking automobile inventories to ensuring his vendors are updated. His strong business ethics have helped make his business one of the most successful new automobile enterprises in southern California. People have a way of finding out the negatives about each other in the small worlds of similar businesses, so always adhere to a “golden rule” philosophy.

  1. Your word defines you.

Every one of my interviewees unanimously agreed on the importance of integrity in running and operating their self-propelled business.

Shari Tipich says, “People need to like and trust you immediately. Building relationships with designers and clients, being trustworthy and following through are vital to maintaining a successful career.”

Leticia Martinez of Leticia M Studio, a Los Angeles based hat designer agrees, “Don’t flake out on your people. Take the responsibility with a ‘no excuses’ policy and work with integrity. In this business, everyone remembers you when you don’t follow through.”

  1. Mistakes are inevitable; forgive yourself

Since there is no magic formula for creating a successful startup business, mistakes are a given.  However, making mistakes (and lots of them) are a sure-fire way to grow and learn. The only real failure in making a mistake is failing to learn from it. Being an entrepreneur takes a combination of guts and humility.

Adam Markowitz has this to say on making a fair number of errors: “It’s true what ‘they’ say: ‘We learn the most from our mistakes.’ So I suggest making a lot of small mistakes and quickly learning from them and not repeating them.”

Being open-minded and ready to accept setbacks comes with the territory, so be flexible and remember those great inspirations are born from unforeseen detours or obstacles.

  1. Be a lifelong student.

There is a lot of value from being a lifelong student.  You will be surrounded by people smarter and more talented than you and that tends to result in opportunities to expand your capacities. Make yourself mentally available to what they have to offer you, even if it wounds your pride now and then. Get comfortable with marketing, creating a business plan and basic bookkeeping. Familiarize yourself with how taxes work. Keep abreast of how technology is developing and either take a class at a local city college or invest in the “Teach Yourself Visually” computer book series. These books provide screenshots of what your screen looks like for certain procedures in an easy step-by-step format and are an excellent reference and refresher source. They can be found relatively cheap on Amazon used.

While you are at it, get comfortable with public speaking because making pitches, finding investors and building a clientele are going to be constants. Try a few months at a local Toast Masters and record yourself on your phone’s video app to study how you hold yourself in front of an audience.

Search YouTube for a host of tutorials and use LinkedIn’s vast resource of information sharing to get moving in the right direction.

  1. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals.

Adam Markowitz found like-minded entrepreneurs at the startup incubator EvoNexus, which is just one of many accelerator programs to help you gain a competitive edge.

“The EvoNexus committee that selects companies is made up of experienced entrepreneurs, investors and advisors, which give instant credibility to the companies that are accepted,” Markowitz says. “I was absolutely thrilled to be accepted into the program. As a first-time entrepreneur with little experience – but all of the passion and determination in the world – I  wanted to surround myself with experienced folks who were willing to help. That’s what EvoNexus is.”

Aligning yourself with these micro-communities will help you network and make you and your company a visible presence.

  1. Find multiple ways to raise money

There is no shame in asking for financial help from family, friends and through crowdsourcing programs like GoFundMe or Kickstarter. You can exchange your product instead of cash once you are successfully underway.

Self-funding is another way to get going if you can. The upside of this is that you will owe no one anything and are the sole owner of your company. The obvious risk is that you will have to cover all expenses out of pocket, but many have taken this route and survived.

Stephen Houston did this and his company Tradewinds Remarketing is thriving.

  1. Master the five basics steps to keeping your cool

Have faith in yourself: You are smart and a creative problem-solver. Tackle one problem at a time, keep your plan flexible and move forward.

By making your work and your life seamless, your business will be a living thing. Leticia Martinez agrees.

“Being an entrepreneur is an organic experience,” she says. “I learn and grow as I go along. Be positive, work through the anxiety of the unknown. One thing I can offer up: Always make your own contacts.”

Know and trust your instincts. Use past experiences to help make decisions. Only you know what or who was effective or trustworthy in your past business dealings. Above all, respect your instincts.

Communication is key – with investors and clients alike. Communicate regularly with your investors. Provide them with updates on your business’s progress. Conduct a field survey and perform several tests before you commit to an idea because you will now have a strong point of reference.

Develop an attitude of preparedness, actively learn and search out opportunities as a part of your daily life. Make it fun and interesting by engaging with interesting people. Enjoy the work as an extension of yourself so play hard; this is a marathon race: Go slow and double check that you have crossed  all the T’s and dotted all the I’s and get everything in writing.

Dream big and play nice. You never know who might lead you to success and what you can learn from others in your business. Respect and nurture relationships with your customers, as they are the ones who will make you thrive.

Finally, relish the challenge of transforming your unique idea into a reality.