Monday, June 29, 2015

Risk & Entrepreneurism

TRENTON-- Hip hop mogul Jay Z Shawn Carter once said that I'm not afraid of dying, I'm afraid of not trying. Even as this statement was probably not meant to tell help one better understand the basics of being an entrepreneur, I think this quote does in fact have implications for the world of entrepreneurism or potential small business owners.

Indeed, as aspiring small business owners or entrepreneurs, we cannot be afraid to take a risk or a chance on our ideas. As they say, no risk, no reward. In other words, even with great amounts of market research and careful decision making, there is still an element of risk involved because there is no guarantee that your entrepreneurial idea will succeed.

As a case in point, when I started out doing panel discussions or forums at the local library or community college here in Trenton, I was extremely apprehensive, as I didn't know if those events were going to be a success or not. During these events, I would say to myself, "what if I fumble my words?" "what if the microphones don't work?" "what if I get nervous and choke?" All of these things swam around in my head as I thought out these forums or discussions.

With these forums, I was definitely swimming in previously unchartered waters. I had no experience with those types of things. Sure, I studied them in books, but I had no experience with them whatsoever. However, even though I was boldly going some place I had not gone before, I stuck my head out there, and gave it a try anyway as I thought these discussions could really add value to the community I belonged to.

Needless to say, a lot of mistakes were made. I took on too much responsibility, I didn't request enough help, the discussion questions were prepared in a rushed fashion. These events were not promoted or marketed well.

All in all, a number of things could have been done differently. However, despite these issues, I learned a lot from them after reflecting on each individual event and then looking at the proverbial big picture.

I think this is a fundamental part of being an entrepreneur. As Jay Z says, the only thing we should fear is not trying. If we don't try we will never know what we could have done.

Indeed, had I not tried, I would have lived with a mountain of regret dwelling on what could have been.  On top of this, had I not tried, I would not have got a chance to learn what to do differently the next time I host a panel discussion or community forum.

Believe or not, and this took me a while to understand, my greatest source of learning has come from my biggest mistakes, failures, and disappointments. Its what some call failing intelligently, meaning you fail in such a way that those failures do not become stumbling blocks but rather stepping stones on your journey to success.

Entrepreneurs recognize that a fundamental part of the entrepreneurial process is to try and fail, then try again armed with the knowledge that they took from their previous endeavor. So I hope my experience dear reader aids you in your journey toward success. As always, shoot for the stars and go for your dreams.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Me & Entrepreneurism

Ladies and gents, boys and girls, with this whole entrepreneurism series that I have started, I know you may be wondering what do I really know about entrepreneurism.

You maybe asking yourself questions like : "what does this guy know, he never ran his own business?" or "how much can he tell us about being a successful entrepreneur if all he has ever done is interview other business owners or entrepreneurs in the community?"

Well, I think these sorts of questions are definitely fair and legitimate. I have to admit that my understanding is based solely on the books I have read and the interviews I have conducted. The criticism is clear: book knowledge has value, but there's nothing like getting an education from the good ol' School of Experience.  

However, my dear readers, what you may not know, is that my understanding of entrepreneurship can also be attributed to seeing both of my parents engage in entrepreneurial activities during my childhood and also during my adult life. Indeed, I picked up a few pointers from them as I watched them do what they do, so to speak.

I saw my mother independently sell homemade skin and hair products products growing up and I also witnessed my father sell clothing, jewelry, and other miscellaneous merchandise as a vendor. Now don't get me wrong, neither my father nor my mother were tycoons by any stretch of the imagination. But they were their own bosses, which to me is by far the most attractive part of being of an entrepreneur. 

I learned a great deal from these two entrepreneurs, my parents, that is and I wanted to share one of the takeaway messages I got from them that may help others pursue their dreams of being an entrepreneur. 

My parents taught me that with entrepreneurship everything starts with taking inventory of what your current knowledge, skills, and abilities are. Bottom line, the idea here is that you have to know yourself and what you bring to the table first before you go out there and really start sowing your entrepreneurial oats. 

In the case of my father, he knew that he was the type of guy that valued African American culture and had a knack for designing jewelry. Likewise, my mother knew that helping others was her gift. She also knew that she was knowledgeable about herbs and alternative remedies. 

Both my mom and pop took this inner information and then looked outward to see if there were any gaps or opportunities in the marketplace that could be filled with their knowledge, skills, and abilities. This is a big part of what entrepreneurs do. They study and understand themselves first then they go on to study and try to understand the world outside of them. 

So, I leave you all with this one tip: go out there and reach for the stars, pursue your dreams, but first and foremost, open your eyes, go within, engage in self-discovery, determine what your strengths are, and find out what you bring to the table. 

For further information on self-discovery, click here.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dr. King & Entrepreneurism

In commemoration of Dr. King's life and legacy, and my recent focus on entrepreneurship, I wanted to take a moment to not only remember a great American, but also to illustrate how Dr. King's life was in my humble opinion, a testament to many of a successful entrepreneur's characteristics or attributes.

Below you will find a list of some of those characteristics:

Dr. King had a fierce sense of urgency, not complacency.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King didn't sit idly by whenever he saw an injustice. During the Civil Rights Movement, he took a stand and got involved with a fierce sense of urgency.

Indeed, he organized others, made speeches, and conducted all sorts of rallies. Like Dr. King, it is important for entrepreneurs to act with a sense of urgency when it comes to finding a need in the marketplace and filling it with their knowledge, skills, and abilities. Real entrepreneurs take day to day steps to get their small business venture off the ground whether it be doing market research on what needs are not being met in the marketplace or whether it is developing a business plan, entrepreneurs take action.

Dr. King saw opportunities, not obstacles. He focused not on his fears, but on his faith in his vision of a better tomorrow.

Indeed, Dr. King was not deterred by the obstacles he and others in the fight for civil rights faced. He knew that there were going to be naysayers and other individuals that would fight his efforts tooth and nail, but that didn't stop him.

Indeed, Dr. King was driven not by these fears and anxieties but by his deep faith in a better tomorrow. Like Dr. King, entrepreneurs will face obstacles as well. They may face obstacles like not getting the funding or support they need to get their small business venture off the ground. They may encounter obstacles like working long hours and not seeing their friends and family as much as they would like. But true entrepreneurs do not let these obstacles deter them. Real entrepreneurs soldier on despite the obstacles. 

Dr. King had a compelling vision of a better tomorrow.

Despite the grim realities of his era (injustice, war, poverty), Dr. King envisioned a better tomorrow where individual's would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

As entrepreneurs, it is likewise important that we develop a clear and compelling vision for our small business endeavors. To understand how to craft a vision for your small business, ask your self basic questions such as what makes you cry? What makes others cry? What makes you smile? What makes others smile? For more information on crafting a vision, click here

Dr. King was a constant ambassador of his vision for a better tomorrow.

Like any entrepreneur that is worth his or her salt, Dr. King understood the importance of constantly spreading the word about his vision of a better tomorrow through his powerful speeches and eloquent sermons. Everywhere he would go, Dr. King would discuss the importance of his vision of a Beloved Community.

Its equally important for entrepreneurs to constantly share with others their small business vision. Through sharing with others, the aspiring entrepreneur may enlist the help of others who can play vital roles in the success of their small business venture. 

Dr. King kept his eye on his vision despite setbacks and challenges.

Dr. King's was arrested more than 20 times. His home was bombed and yet he kept his focus on his vision of a better tomorrow. I know what you may be saying, most entrepreneurs don't have to deal with their homes being bombed, and I get that, but please don't miss the point I'm making here, which is that no matter what setback you face, the idea is to stay focused on your goal, no matter what.

This is true with entrepreneurism as well. Sure, you may not have got that small business loan from the bank like you wanted, but that should not stop you from continuing to pursue your small business dream. It just means you may have to try an alternative route to your goal. Even though the strategy may change, keep your eye on the prize or ultimate goal of your endeavors.

For more information on how to start your small business, check out these resources that I have put together by clicking here