BY SAMA JASHNANI
When you leave a full-time job to start a business it can be intimidating – and not to mention, nerve-wracking. Many people prefer a corporate job because it provides a certain level of security and a steady income. But remember, the younger you are, the more time you have to experiment.
If you do not take risks now, then when will you take them?
People may say you are too young or too inexperienced, but if you genuinely believe in your business idea, don’t let them bring you down. Being an entrepreneur is all about taking the plunge and you will learn throughout your journey. Think about how you would feel if the next unicorn company turns out to be exactly the idea you had while you were too afraid to take any risks.
These are some of the essential things I have learned throughout my journey as an entrepreneur.
1. Solve a real problem
An actual problem you have faced is the greatest tool to uncover an opportunity for a new product or service. While my co-founder Anuja Shah and I were at university, we realized students only ended up meeting people in their dorm or classes. There were many times we wanted to form a group to play basketball, but couldn’t find enough people. We clearly identified a problem and created an activity-based social app to solve it. Make a difference in people’s lives and give them a reason to pay for your service.
2. Be innovative
The most innovative ideas can bring a completely new perspective to your business and change the industry. People are attracted to things that are different, exclusive and opposes the norm.
3. Identify your market niche
In the beginning, focus on one niche market that is the best fit. Carefully examine what motivates people within your niche. Every interaction should be carefully crafted based on the marketed benefits. For instance, we recognized that the U.S. college student market was the best fit for our initial target audience. So, I moved halfway across the world from India to New York to launch my startup after conducting market research.
4. Create partnerships
Do not underestimate the power of networking. Create valuable partnerships to minimize costs. Don’t be afraid to ask investors for advice. Ask peers to make an introduction.
Initially, I was intimidated by the idea of approaching big brands. I thought they would not get involved in a partnership without a clear increase in profits. Ultimately, I partnered with co-working spaces to host our events at absolutely no cost in return for publicity, and created collaborations with bars, student parties, and universities.
Be creative and confident with your offering. Write targeted emails to specific individuals and not generic email addresses. This will improve your response rate. You will be surprised at how far partnerships and relationships can take you.
5. Identify influencers
It is important to identify and pamper the first group of influencers who are excited to use your product or service. This will automatically stimulate a snowball effect and maximize word of mouth. When you provide your early adopter influencers with an exclusive experience they will talk about you and boast about your business on social media.
Photo: © lubero, YFS Magazine
For example, I created an internship program to identify my influencers: Initially, I thought students were only motivated by financial incentives, but later realized I could keep them motivated by providing a learning experience that truly benefitted them.
6. Be passionate
Undeniably love what you do. Fight for your dreams. Be so passionate about it that you would do anything. As an entrepreneur, you will face many challenges. You will be miserable if you are not passionate enough to hustle your way through everything. There were so many times when I became frustrated and wanted to give up. But my vision to make the world a more connected and happier place kept me going.
7. Create your own luck
Many people blame failure on bad luck, but I believe bad luck does not exist. Every person creates their own luck by a) being positive and believing that they’ll succeed and b) working hard and being persistent. I am inspired by something Steve Jobs once said: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
This article has been edited.
Sama Jashnani is the co-founder and CEO of DownToDash, connecting people based on what they are down to do whether it’s workouts, sports, movies or travelling.