‘Entrepreneur’ is a popular buzz word, but what does entrepreneurship really entail? We’ll take you through how to become an entrepreneur, and the things you need to consider before you start working for yourself.
We spoke to Nathan Adler, founder of SurfSense and Refraction Media founders, Heather Catchpole and Karen Taylor-Brown to get the inside scoop on what it takes to succeed in the startup game.
Ask yourself, why do I want to become an entrepreneur?
Fame and glory? Buh bow, wrong answer.
Not every entrepreneur reaches a Steve Jobs level of success. Most entrepreneurs are running small businesses and smaller scale companies.
A lot of entrepreneurs even act as their own investors in the early stages of their business, often forgoing a wage while they work around the clock to get the startup off the ground.
“I have never received a wage from running this startup, but that’s something that will hopefully change in the near future,” says Nathan Adler, founder of SurfSense.
“For nearly 3 years I have been working full-time or part-time to support myself. This is not for the faint-hearted – not everyone may be able to stick to a vision for so long without the reward of earning money. But at the same time, I am confident that the investment of time and resources will pay off. Success seldom happens overnight!”
If money is your only concern, there are easier ways to get there. Try some of these top paying STEM jobs to get started.
All of this is not to say that startups aren’t worthwhile. If you’re passionate and determined, there are ways to get your business off the ground without going bankrupt.
“We were effectively “bootstrapping” the startup, i.e. seeing how far we could go spending very little money at all,” says Nathan. “You would be surprised how far you can get without funding if you have some skills, dedication and time.”
Make sure you’ve got the golden ticket
Great startups aren’t about saturating the market with something that’s already available.
You’re searching to create that one thing that people don’t realise they need. The smart-phone filled a gap that most people didn’t even realise was there.
Small innovations can be successful; think hair ties that don’t leave a kink, or flat water bottles that fit more easily in your backpack. It doesn’t have to be a product either. You could be creating a service, website or app.
If you don’t already have a groundbreaking idea, think about the small problems you face day-to-day. You know exactly what you (and people like you) need and would pay money for to solve a problem. Start there and brainstorm.
Think, what skills don’t I have?
Heard of the phrase, “jack of all trades, master of none”?
Being an entrepreneur requires a fine balance of both singular expertise and skills across a few different areas. If you’ve got a great idea for a product that fills a gap in the market, you’ll need to become something of an expert in that product.
What need does it serve? What makes it special and different? Who is buying it? What does that person want? Would they spend the money on my product?
It’s a good start, but a great product isn’t the only thing you need for getting a business off the ground.
You’ll need to know about sales, developing a successful business model, marketing, branding, building a website… the list goes on.
If you’re not confident enough to tackle this beast by yourself, it’s worthwhile finding a business partner that fills the gaps in your skillset – just make sure you sign a partnership agreement before you begin.
“Engineering a start-up means working across all areas of your business. Having a partner enables you to tailor your tasks to your skillset, and to have someone working on operations while the other does business development. These are such different areas of work, and it’s rare to get one person who excels in both,” says Heather Catchpole, co-founder of Refraction Media.
Heather and her business partner Karen Taylor-Brown co-founded their startup, with Heather acting as Head of Content and Karen managing the publishing.
“It’s inspiring and exciting to share the journey from start up to established business with someone who is equally as passionate, driven and invested as you are,” says Karen.
Inspired? Meet the people who have done the hard yards to get these STEM startups off the ground. You might learn a little something!
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.