Help! I want to be an entrepreneur by Anita Menon

Let’s face it. Every second person we meet these days is either an entrepreneur or an aspirant. 10 -12 years back, I clearly recall how the biggest dreams for careers were built around corporate jobs. Mine included. The aggressive growth of the industries like Information Technology, retail, hospitality and banking lead to huge recruitment drives from campuses. 5 years into the game and the economy started to move south in all parts of the world. Massive lay-offs coupled with minimal job creation efforts by governments left no choice for the fresh grads and post -grads to try their luck of their own by setting up ventures with little or no capital. Most of these ventures went bust while some stuck on to become moderate to huge successes. It is in these last 7-8 years that there has been a major paradigm shift in the way entrepreneurial ventures are being viewed. These minor and major entrepreneurial success stories have inspired people to quit their jobs and start their entrepreneurial journey. Most governments of the world have also realized that creating jobs for the youth in their countries is much harder as compared making the home turfs a level-playing field for anyone who wanted to start their own business. My entrepreneurial journey started nearly 4 years ago primarily fueled by the disillusionment I faced at my last corporate job. The decision to quit was made without a plan of action in hand but with a resolute mind. Since then it has been a roller coaster ride but completely worth it. I would consider myself a fledgling in the entrepreneur world but I do get a lot of queries from young, aspiring entrepreneurs about how they can take the ultimate plunge. This is an account of some of experiences of the kind of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs -to- be I get to meet and interact.

1. I want to be an entrepreneur but I want to keep my day job

The most common breed I meet are the ones who want to sail on two boats.They want to keep their corporate job but also want to wear the entrepreneurial hat. Then they wonder why they haven’t started their venture yet! Being an entrepreneur is more than a full -time job. You never switch off, there may be no vacations for a long time and it may be a long before you start seeing a fixed income getting credited in your bank account. Starting your venture is extremely risky and it may not be everyone’s cup of tea to chin up and trudge on even if you are not making any money. Continuing your current corporate job may be the best for you when you are in two minds about starting your venture and keeping your day job. You do not have to follow a trend just because it is “cool” to be an entrepreneur. However, I know some very talented individuals who wear multiple feathers in their hat and manage everything beautifully.

2. I have no clue what I want to do but I am sure I want to be an entrepreneur

Any entrepreneur worth his / her salt would definitely know what they want to do. That clarity is the only constant that drives them even if they don’t know about the ‘when’ and the ‘how’ of the plan. If you are passionate about an idea, you will go to sleep thinking about it and wake up with that as your first thought. There will not be a moment of peace and yet you enjoy being in this constant state of flux. Being clueless about what you want to do to step into the shoes of an entrepreneur clearly means it is not your time yet. Think of all the things that you may want to do and flesh them out with people you trust. Slowly and steadily, you will see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t just jump on to the entrepreneur bandwagon simply because your friend or your relative is doing it.

3. I know I can never be a CEO if I don’t start a business of my own

A social media business acquaintance once said to me, he wanted to be an entrepreneur because that is the only way he can get into the management cadre. He is a prolific writer and pens down wonderful articles about branding and marketing. He works a content writer in a digital marketing firm but isn’t happy with being called a content writer. He aspires to be known as a C-level executive and feels being an entrepreneur is the only way to fast-track his career path. I suggested he can be a freelance writer but it has the associated risks of long spells of not finding any work. But the title of freelancer was worse than being called a content writer, in his dictionary. You may become a CEO or a Managing Director of your firm by starting your own company but you have to earn your title. That comes from working hard, growing your brand where the respect automatically comes to you. Initially, when I started my firm, I refrained from divulging my designation and when someone insisted, I would say, I am an owner. A “Owner” is simply, just that. I did not feel weighed down attaching the big titles with nothing to show for.

4. I have 379 ideas and I believe all of them will be successful

The enthusiasm of this lot is infectious and sometimes it feels like I am not doing enough “ideating” of my own. But unfortunately, all the 379 ideas are only on paper. In such cases, I ask them to filter down to top 10 ideas. A little brainstorming can narrow it down to top 2 or 3. Picking an idea that is viable is the most crucial aspect. As a budding entrepreneur, you can take help of mentors who have experience in verifying the viability of ideas. They can even help with building of business plans which can be pitched to Venture Capitalists (VCs) or even banks for business loans.

5. I have run my business for a year but how come VCs are still not interested in me

I got this question during an exhibition I had attended. The entrepreneur who asked me sounded very sincere. I thought of simply offering her my encouragement and moving on. But I felt it would be insincere of me to do so. I asked her if her business had reached the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) mark? She seemed unaware of the term and I explained to her that her product must have enough features to satisfy her early customers while leaving enough room to add more features in the future upon receiving funding. She hadn’t been successful in getting early buyers for her product and hence her pitch to investors did not generate enough interest. In short, the proof is the pudding and unless you don’t have enough takers for your product, it will be difficult to find investors no matter how many years you have been in business. So, these are a few examples of the entrepreneurial spirits I encounter quite often and the people who think there are more pros in becoming an entrepreneur than there are cons, haven’t really traveled the length of the road. Managing and growing your business will take everything out of you. You can throw the work-life balance that you fought about at your corporate work-place out of the window. You need to be prepared to see many dips before you can experience a high and umpteen sleepless nights. There is only one mantra that really works and that is “Giving up is not an option”.

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