Six myths you need to stop believing about early-entrepreneurshipMay 15, 2023
Is there a more beloved job title than “entrepreneur” at the moment? Entrepreneurs seem to be worshipped as heroes (Elon Musk, anyone?), despite the fact there isn’t a person on earth who built a successful business on their own.
Because of this, and the current state of the world, being self-employed has never been more attractive to many people. As someone who has started and run her own businesses for over 10 years, I get the attraction. Freedom to work where and when you please, creativity to build a product you have dreamed of, an opportunity to change the world and build a team of people as passionate as you are to do it.
But wait… is that what it’s really like?
Let’s chat six myths of starting those early years of entrepreneurship.
First things first, what about my 50-page business plan?
You can’t start a business without one! (Or so says the MBA.) This is the easiest myth to dispel because no one really likes writing 50 pages that they will never look at again. Yes, planning is important. No, a 50 pager with endless SWOT analyses and granular detail is not helpful.
I want you to imagine being an explorer. You're about to embark on a thrilling journey to uncharted territories. Now, instead of a flexible roadmap to guide you, you're given a 50-page manual detailing every twist and turn, every boulder and tree you will encounter. Instead of having flexibility and adaptability, you’re trying to predict the unpredictable. The startup world is like a wild jungle, full of unknowns. What happens if you’re on page 20 of your business plan when suddenly, surprise! A market shift, or a new competitor, (or a global pandemic). Suddenly, the rest of your 30 pages are about as useful as a chocolate teapot. And you've wasted precious time and resources that could've been spent on building your business. Do you know what works just as well? A plan on a page. You can find the template here.
You can’t be an entrepreneur without a 6am smoothie and gym routine.
I am fairly convinced I’m nocturnal. The idea of getting up at 6am every day is abhorrent. Yet, I swear almost every entrepreneur on TikTok portrays themselves this way.
Picture this: You've just seen a viral TikTok of an entrepreneur who wakes up at 4am, meditates, does yoga, answers emails, runs 10 miles, all before downing a kale and chia seed smoothie, and it's not even 7am yet. You start to wonder if you're doing it all wrong. Maybe you need to set your alarm for an ungodly hour and stock up on green things for that all-important super smoothie to be successful?
Well, let me tell you a little secret: you don't.
Being an entrepreneur isn't about transforming into a smoothie-guzzling, sleep-depriving, superhuman. It's not about copying someone else's routine, it's about finding what works for you.
So, let's break it down:
The Mythical Morning Wake-Up: Not everyone is a morning person, and that's okay. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are night owls. In fact there is a link between intelligence and night-owliness (and swearing and messiness so I have the trifecta). The key is finding your most productive hours. If that's 2am, then so be it!
Wellness & Mindfulness: Sure, mindfulness can be great. It can help manage stress, increase focus, and more. But if sitting silently isn't your thing, no worries! Maybe your 'meditation' is a walk in the park, playing guitar, or cooking a delicious meal.
The Green Goo Smoothie: Good nutrition is important, but you don't need to force down a smoothie that tastes like a garden. Enjoy foods you love that are also good for you. And remember, chocolate was once a bean so it’s a vegetable (seriously: moderation is key).
The Marathon: Exercise is essential for a healthy lifestyle. But you don't need to run like you're being chased by a horde of accountants. Find a physical activity you enjoy. Dancing, swimming, hiking - whatever floats your boat!
Every entrepreneur's journey is unique. It's not a one-size-fits-all, and it's definitely not a 'one-routine-fits-all'. So, instead of stressing over super smoothies or the crack-of-dawn wake-up calls, focus on building a routine that energizes you, keeps you healthy, and most importantly, makes you happy. TikTok is not the fountain of knowledge (but if you haven’t posted on there today yet, what are you waiting for?! Go build your brand).
But I am not all-knowing:
Ah, the age-old myth of needing to know everything before starting out! Who else feels that they know less the older they get?
No one, and I mean no one, knows everything! Not Elon, not Oprah, or even your mum.
The world of knowledge is like a buffet. It's vast and never-ending. The goal isn't to consume it all, but to pick the dishes (skills and knowledge) that you need and like. Stay curious and keep tasting. You don't need to know everything, but having a wide range of interests and a willingness to learn will help you connect the dots in unexpected ways. Even chefs have their specialties. They don't make every dish on the menu. They have a team. As an entrepreneur, you'll have areas of expertise, and then you'll hire or collaborate with others for their expertise. And by sharing what you know and learning from others, you expand your knowledge base without needing to know it all yourself. Sometimes a dish doesn't turn out as planned. That's okay! Mistakes are not only inevitable but an important part of the learning process.
The goal isn't to be a walking encyclopedia. It's about staying curious, learning as you go, and not being afraid to ask for help or make mistakes.
What about money though? You can’t start something with no cash.
Sure, cash is nice – it can buy you resources, pay for ads, hire staff – but having tons of money at the get-go is not a prerequisite for entrepreneurial success. In fact, sometimes, having too much money can lead to wasteful spending. I think entrepreneurs with really restricted resources make better entrepreneurs…
Many successful businesses started by bootstrapping, which is just using the cash you have, either from savings or from sales injected back into the business. It's about being resourceful with what you have and keeping costs low. Did you know Mailchimp bootstrapped it the whole way… impressive.
Sure, things like crowdfunding and investors are out there, but don’t rush to inject cash unless you REALLY need it. You don’t need hundreds of thousands to get started (in most industries at least).
You might not have cash, but you have time, skills, and passion.
But, I’m not a born entrepreneur? I don’t have the hustle gene.
Are entrepreneurs born, or made? One of life’s great questions.
Well, I think it’s both.
Some people seem to be born with qualities that make them natural entrepreneurs. They're risk-takers, innovators, as persistent as a honey badger, and have a knack for selling ice to polar bears. These traits can give them a head start, but it’s far from a guarantee of success.
Anyone can acquire the skills needed to be an entrepreneur. Leadership, problem-solving, financial literacy, marketing - these are all skills you can learn and hone over time. You can learn the magic of entrepreneurship through various avenues - formal education, online courses, mentorship, or just diving in and learning as you go. Entrepreneurs need to rise from the ashes time and again. Failures, setbacks, challenges are all part of the journey. Resilience can be an innate trait, but it can also be built over time. I was not resilient when I began my journey. The smallest challenge and I would be stress to tears. But now, very few challenges truly faze me.
So, are entrepreneurs born or made? The answer is: Yes! Some are born with natural traits, but anyone with the determination to learn, adapt, and persevere can embark on the entrepreneurial journey. Just because you didn’t start a pet detective company at 8yo, doesn’t mean you’re not born for this.
At least entrepreneurship is fast cars, red carpets and champagne though.
We’ve been back on TikTok haven’t we… no. Entrepreneurship isn’t like that. What you see in the press, or on social media is far from the truth. Yes, champagne toasts happen when you get a big win, but you don’t see the hours and hours and hours (and hours) of meetings and emails and general admin nonsense behind the scenes.
Thankfully, I haven’t met too many mission-driven entrepreneurs who want that lifestyle anyway. But if you are expecting that a few short months in, you’re in for a disappointment. The life of an entrepreneur isn't all glamour and glitz. It's more like a gritty, thrilling, roller-coaster ride of a movie, full of highs and lows, triumphs and setbacks. And the real glamour? It's not in the spotlight or on the red carpet. It's in the satisfaction of seeing your ideas come to life, your business grow, and knowing you've made a difference.
Entrepreneurship is a journey unique to you. Ignore the biz bros on TikTok and don’t feel bad if you don’t think you fit in a certain box. I never did.