The opposing forces of the economy tanking and technological advances soaring have created a prime environment for first-time entrepreneurs. That said, 'entrepreneur' has become a buzz word associated with the few startup founders we've watched become millionaires, and even billionaires, overnight.
As the media catapults these successful entrepreneurs to celebrity status, the separation between 'us' aspiring entrepreneurs and 'them' — the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world — grows. This growing separation can cloud your entrepreneurial pathway with unnecessary mystery.
From my experience as founder of the kids' yoga company, My First Yoga, I have found that as different as each startup may be, the path to success always involves making smart decisions. For those of you toying with the idea of becoming an entrepreneur, here are three common mistakes to avoid:
1. Hiring too many, too soon. For most startups, hiring employees before there is an absolute need can lead to disaster. Yes, delegation is an important part of being a leader, but before jumping into delegating, I encourage you to allow time for the startup dust to settle. Running lean early on requires you, as a founder, to wear many hats. While this may seem overwhelming, look at it this way: in addition to saving funds, you are spending valuable time becoming intimately familiar with the ins and outs of your business. Wait to hire until there is an absolute need; this will give you the hands-on experience necessary to build true domain expertise and therefore, the know-how to make important, informed decisions down the line.
2. Starting with an unidentified target market. While we would all like to build a product that suits everybody's needs, doing so is next to impossible. It is crucial to identify your startup's target market early on in the planning stages. Who will your customers be? If you put off determining your target market until after your launch, you risk being pulled in opposing directions by a wide range consumers groups who only like your product a little bit. To avoid this, spend time thinking about specifically who your product is built for — remembering to think beyond your own demographic. What gender? Age group? Profession? This thought process will help to focus your launch more narrowly on a group of consumers who you believe will be most enthusiastic about your product, and hopefully be willing to give you constructive feedback. Your true target market can only be dialed in overtime, but it helps to start somewhere.
3. People-pleasing. It is also important to have a firm understanding of your overall vision for your startup. You will receive invaluable feedback from consumers about what they like, what they dislike, and even suggestions for ways you can change and grow. Making changes to meet customer's needs are crucial, but it is important to set a precedent for evaluating each change against your long-term vision. Will this change bring you closer to your end goal? Or will it drive temporary sales and lead you in the wrong direction? It can be tempting to make changes to ring in immediate sales, especially when budgets are tight, but I encourage you to evaluate the long-term impact.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Abbie Steinbacher is CEO and founder of the kids wellness company, My First Yoga. My First Yoga provides kids yoga outreach to schools and has a growing line of kids yoga products. Abbie and MyFirstYoga have been recognized in outlets such as The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Parenting Magazine, Parents Magazine, Yoga Journal and The Boston Globe. Abbie has a degree in Psychology from Harvard, and is a certified adult and children's yoga instructor.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published # FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.