Last week Inc. Magazine released their coveted 30 Under 30 List of America's Coolest Young Entrepreneurs. The list is chock full of some of our favorites, including three of the hottest companies in Boston. As Inc Magazine puts it, these companies are ones that are bringing innovation to market, building unique brands, nurturing trends, giving back, and making money along the way. Overall these 30 young companies are changing the way we do business.
Boston is lucky enough to be home to 3 of the 30 who were named. 2 of the 3 companies named to the 30 Under 30 List are founded by women. We had the chance to sit down with Windsor Hanger, the President and Publisher of Her Campus and Morgan First, the Marketing Director and Co-Founder of The Second Glass to see what their top five tips would be for WomenPreneurs going after new business ventures. What have they learned along the way? Windsor and Morgan give us their top five tips that got them from the idea generation stage to startup stage to being named one of the Coolest and Hottest Company's in America.
Windsor Hanger, President and Publisher of Her Campus
1. Bootstrap at the beginning. A lot of entrepreneurs get caught up on financing rounds. They tend to spend all their energy on going after the money. There are things that could be done with a million dollars but it delays the overall process when stressing about it all the time. Forget about the money at the beginning, bootstrap for as long as possible and do it. Try to run a lean business. Use internal capital for as long as possible.
2. Enter a business plan competition. Even if you don’t win it helps you put together your business plan that you will use moving forward. It is tough staying motivated especially before your business is launched. The deadlines of the competition will help you move forward.
3. Find somewhere other than your apartment to do work. Even if it is your local coffee shop, you are supporting your local businesses. It is depressing to wake up each morning and go into your living room to work. It makes it hard to feel like you are actually working. Get dressed each morning like you would be leaving for work, go to your mobile office and settle in. Differentiating home life from work life is essential.
4. Find team mates, even if you think you can do the business on your own. Even if you think you don’t need help and you are sure you can do it on your own you need to bring someone else into the business. This will help with morale and hopefully keep you from burning out as well. You will be able to hold someone else other than just yourself accountable, together you will hold each other accountable.
5. Nike style. Just do it. I didn't know how to sell ads for my online business. I could have said, "I don't know how to do this, so I am not going to do it." Just try to do it, whatever it is. I called Juicy Couture for 2 weeks until finally I spoke with the Marketing Director. At this point Her Campus wasn’t online and wasn’t close to being there. Point of the story is to figure out what you want and go for it. Try over and over and over again.
Morgan First, Marketing Director and Co-Founder of The Second Glass
.5 BE YOURSELF, BE AWESOME! This might sound silly and basic, but work really hard to be the happiest you can be and people will want to be around you! If you are creating a company in a field that you LOVE people are going to be able to see that in your energy (and it will also help on those days that are not as awesome). The happier you are and the more you let that shine into your product, the more people will want to work with you, work for you, help you and buy your product.
1. No woman is an island - its okay to ASK for Help. You are AWESOME and I am sure very talented, but nobody is the jack of all trades! YES, as an entrepreneur you will have to wear all of those hats at one point until you can hire a team, but don't think that you have to rely on what is in your head right now. The best thing to do is find experts and ask them for their advice. Then make sure that you thank them for it!
Wouldn't you want someone to tell you, "WOW, you are so smart and you really helped me grow my company!" My guess is yes and there are lots of other people out there like you that want to help. Granted not everyone is a fit, but keep reaching out and you will find them.
Which leads to my next point...
2. Money shmoney, it's all about leveraging what people REALLY want. So you need to start growing your team, or you want to ask for expert advice, but you just don't have the cash to pay what they are worth. The question is not, what don't you have, but what DO you have that they might want? Can you take them out to dinner (maybe someplace you already have a special deal arrange for discounted food)? Can you trade them for info on a subject at which you are an expert? Maybe get them an intern or set them up on a date? Often times a little bit of recognition and making someone feel special for hard work can go a long way.
3. You ARE a connector (as long as you think like one). I think often times entrepreneurs who are just starting out think they don't know anyone and thus sometimes feel bad asking for help when they can't return the favor. It's not true! You just have to think creatively about who you ARE connected to and work on growing your connections. When I was still in college I would try to find mentors who could help me grow my company, but who I could also help by giving them access to my younger connections - at the time college students who could provide product feedback or be potential interns. When I was able to return the favor I found that they were even MORE willing to help me out the next time!
I often will go out of my way to connect like-minded people because I see how it can benefit both of their companies. Often times, they see my help and then keep me in mind when they are making connections.
4. Create your own COMMUNITY. One of the hardest things about building your own company can be the reaction from your friends and family. Even if they are supportive, they often ask questions like, "so what DO you DO all day?," or other negative energy instigating things. It's important to build yourself a community of people who understand what you are doing. This community is also KEY as a resource for advice, mentors, team members, etc. I have found the best part of this community is people who simply understand what you are up to and will listen to and understand when you need to complain!
I have found its key to build an "entrepreneurial community" and a community of people in your shared business. So maybe if you wanted to open a clothing line or dress shop, it would be key to also have "fashion friends" that own shops, work at shops, design clothing etc. This way you have friends that understand all the points of your business so you always have someone to complain to that understands and then someone who can help solve the problem.
5. Fake it till you MAKE IT! I think it can be scary to proclaim, "I own a business" or "I am an expert" or I know it because when I started my first company I was terrified someone was going to "find me out" and say that I was not actually an expert.
Honestly, it's all about confidence and hard work! Most people who work at most jobs are still learning what the job is and taking small new risks all the time - so DO NOT feel like just because you have not done something a million times before, it's not something you can do! Clearly, you should not lie and you should be weary and not take on more than you can possibly accomplish, but its good to set high goals for yourself and then run speeding towards them! Asking experts can be especially useful for this, because they can help you "fake" having all the info, by lending you their years of experience :)
I am constantly, "making it," by achieving goals and then throwing myself into the deep end where I feel like I have to "fake it" again.
Congrats to our fellow WomenPreneurs, Windsor and Morgan for being named to the 30 Under 30 List by Inc Magazine! What are your favorite tips from Windsor and Morgan that you are going to remember and leverage when working through the stages of your venture?