(PART 2) Starting a Business During COVID-19: What They Don’t Teach You in Workshops
In this week’s post, we’ll continue talking about what we’ve learned while starting our own business. Whether it is something legal, technical, or even about ourselves, we’re still learning something new everyday.
Classes and mentoring were invaluable. However, there are things you must experience to fully absorb the meaning. We’re going to get a little gritty on this topic since this post is mostly about a popular buzzword in the entrepreneurial community: “grit”. We’ll mainly discuss what keeps us motivated through any doubts or hurdles that arise and some of the traps we’ve fallen into ourselves.
Here are just a handful of raw accounts of what we’ve learned through our journey so far:
Fear is not a weakness. In fact, it takes courage to admit you’re afraid.
We had to learn to be comfortable with fear fast. It’s okay to be scared. Fear is a natural instinct. It’s how you react to fear that defines you. Whether it’s fear of failure, of looking incompetent, or of the unknown- all of these feelings are valid. Frankly, these fears are not uncommon.
I don’t know if we will ever be fully comfortable with fear. We push to recognize when we’re afraid so we can plan how to tackle what’s driving that fear. What really prevented us from falling victim to all of our smaller fears was the fear of regret. We harnessed the biggest fear of all to overcome the other inevitable ones that came with taking on this venture. It’s a daily struggle, but starting a business isn’t for the faint of heart.
You can apply for an LLC yourself (or whatever entity you plan on filing).
This one is highly debatable between my partner and me, but I have still no regrets in hiring an attorney to file our incorporation paperwork. It came at a steep cost. There were cheaper alternative services scattered throughout the internet, but we ultimately decided on hiring a law firm. When we decided to pursue forming Memory Pharm, we both believed that we should focus on what we’re good at and find the right people to fill out where we needed help. Legal work was one of those looming major tasks we weren’t as familiar with, so outsourcing that task seemed like a logical decision. However, we jumped in too soon. We later found out from our mentors that they were already well-acquainted with the process. They could have helped us with our filing for no charge. It was an expensive lesson on being too eager and afraid to trust ourselves.
Building a strong partnership/team.
No matter how smart or talented you are, you can’t do and be good at everything. We all have our limitations. Everyone brings a different value to the table and fills in gaps the other may be missing. Finding the right team and partner can make a world of difference.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said: “It feels like I’m in a marriage”, I’d have enough to fund our entire venture. Going into a healthy business partnership is a huge commitment. We’ve had to have very hard and open communications about finances, how we would run the business, and our roles. Starting a business is hard. Having that proper support from someone who believes in the same vision relieved the load and helped facilitate productivity. I can’t begin to count the days where I was overwhelmed or had doubts and vice versa. We were both there to lift each other up and remind each other why we’re doing this; then, had the other pick up slack in areas the other needed help in. Not to make it sound like a love letter to my partner, but I would not have gotten this far on my own. Coming from someone who thrives on working alone, it was a pivotal change in my mindset about being a good teammate, open communication, honesty, and not being afraid to admit you need help.
While it is important to look at competitors, stop comparing yourself to others.
It was really easy to go look through all of the websites with similar concepts as ours and get down on ourselves. It got in our heads that there was so much competition and they are so far along. One, competition is good. It means there is a demand. Two, we all have to start somewhere and the important thing is that we’re starting. At some point, we had to stop obsessing over the competition before it started stunting our own creativity. We still go back and forth constantly reminding each other that we aren’t trying to be our competition. We weren’t studying them to use them as a template but rather researching ways we’re standing out.
Sometimes we forget the value we bring into building a product or even the product itself. While we firmly believe what we’re trying to accomplish could make a difference in enriching peoples’ lives, we found ourselves questioning whether what we were creating was good enough. It’s already bad enough when you are your own “devil’s advocate”, but when you add well-meaning advice from your loved ones, it really makes you question if all the time, money, and resources are being well spent.
That’s when it hit us we too often make so many assumptions before we’ve even tested the market. We sell ourselves short and undermine our value before the market could even tell us our product’s value, or even if we effectively explained it’s value. This ties back into our fears. The fear that no one will believe in our vision and we’re wasting our time. How do we know if we haven’t tested it out? And if that test “fails”, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just another point where we have to change directions and find a solution that works. When we remove our fear of failure that’s when we do the most learning. And that’s what in the business of- learning how to learn. It is a concept we embody every day.
We can say whole-heartedly that this is a dream come true. Through all of the “learning experiences”, tears, hiccups, epiphanies, frustrations, we have no regrets (maybe except paying the attorney- but still I’m happy we did it). We have both gained so much knowledge, confidence, and are more dedicated than ever to learning about what makes for an impactful learning experience. We don’t intend to quit until we’ve inspired a new wave of excited learners.
Did we cover any valuable talking points for you? Any new business owners going through the same learning processes? What else do you think we and our community of learners should know about how to run a business in this climate? We’d like to hear what you have to add to the conversation.