Four important lessons every entrepreneur needs to know before founding a startup
Being an entrepreneur is a global trend among millennials that keeps becoming more popular every day. People are learning about the importance of being financially independent and how creating their own business ventures can help increase their income significantly, impact others creating jobs opportunities and contribute to the growth of the tech industry in their communities. Even though all of this is true, if we want to make the most of this experience and grow as individuals, we need to make the life-changing decision to continually choose maturity and responsibility. During my journey in the startup, I have made mistakes, I have succeded, I have failed and I have learned important lessons that have helped me to improve my work and continue creating projects.
My experience started at the end of 2016 when I had a big desire to inspire kids to learn about science and general culture in meaningful ways through engaging projects and storybooks that motivate them to believe in their talents and creativity. With this idea Childbox was born, an educational subscription box for kids that contained science experiments, art and crafts and storybooks related to the theme of each box.
After working intensely for five months and getting our seed-funding, three partners and I co-founded our startup on April of 2017. I learned a lot in those initial days, but my first big lesson came 90 days after starting.
Lesson #1: Learn how to forecast and grow in a healthy way.
Some startups sell products that other companies produce, but in our case, we designed and produced our own unique products. That made us stand out among the competition, but it implied a lot of work and time spent in testing and correcting mistakes until the products were perfect. Fortunately, we had a professional group of product designers, a psychologist, and educators including me, so we always did a great job creating activities that the kids and parents loved. Our projects were safe and helped children to develop different cognitive and social skills. The problem was the unnecessary stress that all the production team managed in order to meet our monthly deadlines. The production of some products was more complex than others and required being tested several times, which caused delays and made us work extra hours. I believe that these situations could have been avoided if we have had a bigger amount of products ready and tested before launching.
Even if the business model of a startup is not a subscription model and whether or not the products are produced by the company or provided by an external supplier, it is important to have a realistic forecast so you can be prepared to meet that demand.
Lesson #2: Make sure that there is a healthy distribution of tasks and roles among all the partners or co-founders of the startup.
Our startup was made up of four partners, all of us were co-founders and one of us was the seed-investor too. Since the beginning, we knew the roles of each of us and we built relationships of respect and trust. However, we did not take into account that when a startup starts, there is so much work needed and more roles than we thought. At that moment, the resources were not enough for hiring more people, for this reason apart from my responsibilities as a COO, I started to take other roles such us accountant, customer service representative, logistics manager, writer, etc. It added a huge amount of work to my schedule and I had to spend my free time on weekends for completing tasks. It made me feel that no matter how much I worked, there were more unfinished tasks to do. One of my partners also took extra roles but the rest of the partners had more free time and fewer responsibilities. This situation caused some problems between us because all the members of the startup claimed to be doing their job, but in reality, there was a bad distribution of the tasks and roles.
It is important to analyse frequently the roles and duties of every co-founder and if it is necessary to make adjustments for making sure that the needs of the company are getting met. It is also very helpful to sign out a Co-founders agreement, in which is specified the business areas and the duties that each member is responsible for.
Lesson #3: If possible, do not use your own space as the physical location of your startup.
Many young entrepreneurs use their apartments, basements or even a room in their parent’s house as the office of their startups or working place. This can be a good option for saving money, especially during those first months in which is important to reinvest in the company and do efforts to make it sustainable. The problem happens when you live in a small place and your spaces also become the spaces of the company, this can affect your privacy and productivity as you get the feeling of never leaving work.
Taking into account my experience, what I recommend to entrepreneurs who work from home, is to separate a working area and respect your resting and relaxing places. Even though this seems to be a small action, it can bring you many benefits due to having a healthy workspace will increase your motivation for getting things done every day.
Lesson # 4: Give importance to spend time with family and friends and to enjoy your favorite activities.
Once you decide to become an entrepreneur, it is very common to obsess with your business idea, you want to invest every minute of your time working in it and even when you are sleeping you think and dream of all the things you want to achieve with it. In addition, startups always have hundreds of things that need to get donde and we can be easilly absorbed, making us forget about our life outside the business. For this reason, it is very important that you schedule and give importance to invest some time for yourself and for the people you love. Small actions like spending an hour a week having an ice-cream and talking with someone close to you, can help you to increase your energy levels, feel more relaxed and ready to work more.
It took me a long time to learn that leisure time is necessary for feeding my inspiration and creativity too. Watching a movie, for example, puts me in contact with scenes and details that can inspire me to write a new storybook.
Just relaxing outside in nature and observing a sunset or an anthill while I hike, can give me an idea for the image of the packet of a product or the cover of a book.
With this, I am not trying to say that we should spend most of our time just relaxing and staring at the horizon without working and putting efforts in getting done the projects that we want to accomplish. On the contrary, I encourage entrepreneurs to use their time wisely and organize their tasks by important things and priorities, but without forgetting that we are holistic beings with different areas in our lives that also have needs. With the same responsibility that we take care of our business, we should also give importance to taking care of our health, our relationships, and our personal growth.
To sum up, entrepreneurship is a great opportunity for turning your dreams and ideas into reality, developing skills, getting knowledge and becoming a more mature person. But it depends on you to make it a hard and absorbing experience or to enjoy every step and lesson you learn. Having healthy habits and organizing very well all the process and foundations of your startup since the beginning will help you to observe in a better way all the situations of your organization. This can also help you to make wiser decisions when needed, which might contribute to the success of your company and your personal fulfillment.