We gave you the chance to ask me, Influenster's co-founder, anything related to starting a business. After reading through all of your questions and comments, I see that there are a lot of entrepreneurs-in-the-making out there! Read on to gain some advice, and see what I've learned through my personal experience!
YOU ASKED: What were some obstacles you faced? How did you overcome them?
Starting Influenster was difficult for multiple reasons. We needed to build a community (you guys!), and we needed to convince clients to work with us (the brands you know and love). In the beginning, I remember it was a chicken or the egg dilemma—do we try to get people to join Influenster first, or do we get clients and then find people later?
We had no money for advertising or marketing, so we had to rely on word of mouth from our community. We knew if we could make Influenster something that members loved, they would want to talk about it with their friends. Many of our first members played an integral part in helping us spread the word and making Influenster the robust and powerful community it is today!
The brands we work with love how engaged our members are. The exciting, opinionated, and friendly spirit of our community is something that still plays a big part in our community and business growth today!
BOTTOM LINE: Trust your network and community. Focus on building something that is beneficial to your users and your clients!
YOU ASKED: What's the first step to starting my own business? Where do I start?
Once you have a focused idea, it’s time to do your research and pull your plan together. How much money do you need to get started? Can you work at your current job while testing out your idea, or do you have to dive into your new venture full-time? Regardless of the phase you’re in, there are plenty of resources at your disposal.
There are many opportunities for mentoring and funding if you choose to go that route — professional organizations such as the Anita Borg Institute, tech accelerators such as Women’s Startup Lab, and online forums such as Women 2.0 are wonderful options. There are also funds that are focused on supporting female entrepreneurs including the Women’s Venture Capital Fund and Female Founders Fund
BOTTOM LINE: Be organized, make a plan, and make the most of all of your resources!
YOU ASKED: How do I get experience when my company doesn't exist yet?
First, think about what type of business you want to start. From there, you can work at a similar company to learn the ropes. You will learn a lot about what to do and what not to do when you're actually in an environment that resembles the one you are trying to create–these are experiences you will take with you to your next venture.
I think the biggest move that helped me successfully launch my business was the decision to work for another start-up before making the leap myself. Taking on a huge amount of responsibility at a young age with little resources gave me an advantage in launching my own business down the road. How do you get involved? Contact female entrepreneurs whom you admire and ask for advice—this is a great way to grow.
BOTTOM LINE: Seek out opportunities and experiences that will easily translate into your own business ventures.
YOU ASKED: How do you stay confident, how do you know you're making the right decisions?
I have a secret to let everyone in on (even if entrepreneurs hide it well). We were all a little scared and intimidated when starting a business, especially at the beginning. When starting a business, you’re going down uncharted territory. It’s natural not to know all of the answers, and no one, no matter how much they think they believe it, can predict how it will turn out.
The way to be confident is to understand it’s okay not to know everything right away, but have the patience and drive to learn what you need to from your experiences in order to be successful. When we first started Influenster, it was difficult to get brands to work with us because we were new and had no reputation or history. Instead of getting discouraged and throwing in the towel, which I could have easily done, I pressed on by changing the messaging. I was listening to brands, paying attention to what they wanted, and adding on the services that they were asking for.
The point is, everyone is unsure and everyone is taking a risk.
BOTTOM LINE: You just have to believe in yourself and your idea. Be open to criticism, get out of your comfort zone, and start figuring it out.
So, do you have any advice to share? Maybe a few more questions?! Tell us all about it in the comments below!