At SXSW this year, we encountered a number of great talks that covered a lot of really significant points for anyone who already is, or is actively planning to become, an entrepreneur. We heard about, for instance, Mikaila Ulmer, who founded her own lemonade company when she was only 4 years old, and has been recognized by former President Obama as inspiration. And we also heard advice on when your startups is investor-ready, and how to interpret what that means. Entrepreneurship always comes with its own special challenges, and given how quickly the business environment is changing, it’s worth thinking about some of issues for today’s entrepreneurs. We found some important ones.
Get Over Your Preconceptions
We all come at different parts of life with pre-existing ideas about the way something is, or should be. One of the most common of these is that Obstacles are Problems. Right? This seems pretty intuitive. But, for particularly determined individuals, Obstacles become the Solution.
Take Mikaila Ulmer, who had some bad experiences with bees when she was 4, being stung by them and quite afraid. But she took this fear and the problem, and turned it into a lemonade company, Me & The Bees, that featured honey in its signature recipe. Now she’s carried in hundreds of stores across the US. Mikaila is taking this inspiring message to her discussions, helping use her story to encourage others to understand how to accelerate for good like she has done. For Mikaila, age wasn’t the obstacle, and even the bees weren’t the obstacle. She’s turned them both into advantages and solutions!
Every Good Entrepreneur is a Storyteller
We all like to think we’re moved by facts and logic and reason. It’s comforting, and makes us believe we’re more scientific and rational. But in fact, what really compels us is a great story. And when talking about your startup, this is especially important. To get people excited about it, you need a great story.
We all like to think we’re moved by facts and logic and reason. It’s comforting, and makes us believe we’re more scientific and rational. But in fact, what really compels us is a great story. And when talking about your startup, this is especially important. To get people excited about it, you need a great story. Even some larger brands are getting in on the storytelling concept. For instance, at SXSW, we were treated to the story of how legacy retailer Macy’s is beginning reframe its employees and their relationship to the products it sells. Rather than just treating them in the normal way, Macy’s has developed a proprietary service that allows its employees to become “influencers” in their own right by promoting their own stories, and, by extension, the story of the Macy’s brand at large. And while it’s exciting to see big, established brands validate this concept, it’s also important to remember that startups are even more nimble in this space, and will have much more creative space to innovate. Your value is in your story, so find the way to tell it!
What does it mean to be Investor-Ready?
Making the leap from bootstrapping to getting investors involved is a huge step in the story of any entrepreneur. But what does it really mean to get your startup “Investor-Ready?” Well, Serial Entrepreneur and established business coach Alejandro Cremades helped us out by walking through some of the basics of the process, from the “Nice to Haves” to the “Must Haves.” As there are so many projects out there for investors to consider, it’s more crucial than ever to make sure that you get your startup positioned properly to Pop Out for investors. As Cremades pointed out, do your research, and plan your timing. If you haven’t done your research, investors can smell it on you, and it’s a clear sign you’re not ready. And don’t underestimate the importance of having a really compelling mission. These days, investors have the opportunity to look at a lot of projects, many of which might make money. What is often the differentiator is the social and global importance of the mission. What are you trying to change in the world? For a lot of investors, there’s no point to invest in something that doesn’t mean anything. So make sure you define a (specific) purpose and keep it succinct.
This is the most exciting time to be an entrepreneur. With markets already global, and technology ready to vault you to the world stage, it’s possible to go from obscurity to massive market penetration in an incredibly short time! But that doesn’t mean you can just jump in willy-nilly. You need your planning, and you need to think about how to approach your challenges.
SXSW is always a great time to gather the most influential and successful thinkers on these issues, and we were thrilled to be able to get some of their time and ideas. Every contribution matters when you’re starting something new and big!
Written by Magali De Reu