Ask around, and most people will tell you about their great idea or how they “thought of it first.” A lot of people on the “outside” believe if they wanted to pursue an entrepreneurial idea, they could just do so. But, most people never pursue that path, and those that do often fail. I think there is a distinct line between those who have an interesting idea, and those who jump in head first.
Just over a year ago, I was a senior manager at a Fortune 15 company, exceeding each goal set forth for me and on a path to move up within the company. But I wasn’t satisfied. Despite high praise from peers and management, something was missing. In fact, I put on a mask when interacting at work to hide the fact that I wasn’t in a great place mentally. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel satisfied or fulfilled in my role.
When speaking to my closest friends, I indicated I was looking for something different. I recognized that I was happiest when I was given the opportunity to figure out solutions with little structure in place, because it offered me the freedom to think and act creatively. Not only that, but I had several ideas for my own businesses that I thought could be successful.
On May 15th, 2015, I quit my job and decided to pursue an entrepreneurial route while getting my MBA at the University of Georgia.
My closest friends were excited for me, but I couldn’t help but notice people immediately began judging me as well. People would make comments like, “It’s a good thing you’re getting an MBA, because eventually you are going to need to find a job.” Or “Wow, I wouldn’t have left a job like that. But, at least you can always go back.” And of course, “Oh, I have an amazing idea as well.”
Not only that, but all of a sudden there were also all of these new expectations. Since most people assumed I would fail, I have had to have conversations with friends, family, and peers constantly updating them on my progress. Honestly, it’s tiring and that’s without taking into account the work involved in starting a company. Mainly because I hadn’t actually done anything yet!
But you know what? I refused to let it bother me too much. I loved what I was doing. I was going to startup happy hours, reading for hours about successful entrepreneurs, and constantly thinking of different ideas. I was learning about so much, and just felt completely empowered.
Not to mention, I started having very interesting things to say about other companies and entrepreneurs in daily conversation. I’d say I started getting my training wheels at that point, and slowly, people began to believe in me after seeing my commitment.
I was very confident in my first idea. I talked about the app to as many people as possible. People praised the idea and said that they hoped it would be available soon. They even gave me feedback on how to make it better. Based on the feedback, I became even more confident.
That is, until I started discussing it with other entrepreneurs and advisors. They asked me key questions about the business that frankly I wasn’t prepared for. Beyond a great idea and a simple business plan, I failed to truly spend the time necessary to figure out that it was flawed.
Why? Well, for one thing, none of the people who said they wanted the app were actually willing to pay for it. I fell into a common trap like other aspiring entrepreneurs in that I thought I had all the answers and could skip to building the solution. Several ideas later, I was still learning from my mistakes.
Honestly, it was more by accident when I noticed a problem that I felt needed to be solved.
I noticed that my MBA peers struggled to find internships and jobs, and many felt unprepared or unsure about what to do to be successful. I had spent several years coaching and mentoring both students and business professionals in this area and found that networking was the single largest differentiation between those that successfully found jobs and internships faster in an area they desired with better pay. This was the beginning of my company, now called Fetch.
I entered the UGA Accelerator during my Spring semester and quickly lost touch with friends, family, and even some classmates. Even my roommate didn’t see me as much. People were surprised when I actually wanted to grab drinks and relax with others.
I spent as much time working on Fetch as I could using the tools from the accelerator and advice from mentors and other entrepreneurs. I learned about and executed on the tedious and difficult process of customer development. I spent weeks preparing a financial model to better understand the business feasibility. I made several pivots and tweaks on the original idea to get it to where it is today. I realized that I would need to sacrifice school work and other fun things to ensure I pressed forward on Fetch.
Meanwhile, the people who did see me saw a person who was constantly busy. I was going to network events, conducting interviews with lots of people, getting interviewed by the local newspaper, and more. Despite what may have looked like pure fun to others, it actually meant very long days and nights for me. On top of that, I was and am fearful of failing because I want more than anything for this to be successful.
Fast Forward to Today
Fetch provides consulting in the form of a half or full day course for students and business professionals to learn the value of professional networking and how to network. In the future, we plan to develop software that helps manage, simplify, and automate the process of networking via a one-sided platform.
Fetch has a long way to go. Although I have gotten further than ever before, the hard part is really just starting. Signing actual customers and growing is the real test. This next step will determine whether the business problem is real and actually helps customers who are actively searching for a solution.
I don’t know what the most important thing is for me to do at any given moment. I don’t know if I’m doing “it right.” I don’t have the skill-set for every component of my business. But each day I press on and make a little progress. As they say, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” That couldn’t be more true with all the help I have received.
Despite wanting to be an entrepreneur and having business ideas, I’ve learned that it takes far more than that. There is a reason that most startups fail. There is a reason that everyone isn’t just “jumping in.” The mindset needed for this type of work is unusual and honestly kind of crazy. Committing to the work is step one.
If you aren’t dreaming every night about your idea, it’s probably not going to work out. If you don’t spend each day thinking about your idea with every free moment, it’s probably not going to work out. But, if you do have that rare “something” and jump in, it will be the most difficult yet fulfilling ride you will ever go on.