Last Lecture as an Entrepreneur

Posted by Cooper Davis on

I do not feel adequately prepared to provide advice for someone else who is considering becoming an entrepreneur – I only know my own perspective and what I have been told in school and by my mentors. If someone asked how to create a successful and profitable watchmaking service and part supply website, I would not be able to tell them – my business is not yet profitable. All I am able to share is my own knowledge based on my experiences pursuing financial independence through entrepreneurship.

My first word of advice: do your best to write out a business plan before you dive into the work. This business plan should not just be what you want to do and a vague means of accomplishing the task – “make designs for tee shirts and sell them on my website”. This is a start. From that starting idea, break it down into every detail you believe you must accomplish to achieve that – if you were instructing someone else to create this, who has zero experience, what would you tell them to do exactly? What problems must they solve to accomplish this goal?

  • Who is my target demographic?
  • What will be my designs?
  • How will I go about designing these shirts and this website?
  • How will I convert my idea into a professional design?
  • How will I model my products?
  • Must I hire models? Photographers?
  • Will I need to hire an artist? Website developer?
  • How will I market my product?
  • How will I attract people to my website?
  • How will I convert those who actually visit my site?
  • I will need product descriptions – should I hire a professional writer?
  • How will I know my clothing, products, and shirts are true-to-size?
  • If they are not true-to-size, how will I manage returns of orders?
  • How will I ship my product?
  • How will I ship my product… in a cost-effective manner?
  • Will I ship internationally?
  • How do I fill out customs forms?

Even after answering all of these in great detail to the absolute best of your ability, you’ll be shocked to find out that for each question you answered, there are a multitude of even more relevant questions waiting for you when you actually execute your plan.

  • What is this customs fee I just received? How am I going to pay for this? Shouldn’t the recipient of the product pay for this? Do I need to clarify that in the legal section of my website?
  • I didn’t expect this many returns – how am I going to make ends meet?
  • What do you mean the size chart for my products was based on Asian sizes?

… so on, and so forth.

My second word of advice: do not beat yourself up when you fail. When you make that decision to dive head-first into your own entrepreneurial journey, know that it is not an easy shortcut to luxury watches, mansions, Lamborghini’s, and attention from attractive members of the opposite sex like social media might convince you to believe. You will work long and hard for a pay rate significantly lower than what you would receive from a nine-to-five. You will experience complications that you never even considered being an issue. If you have character flaws, know that each and every one of those flaws will be exposed to the world through your work, even if you are trying your absolute best.

Following on this, my third tidbit of advice: yes, your flaws will be exposed to the world, but there is no promise that you will ever become aware of them – if you are going to succeed, you must look for these flaws, and you must correct them. In the beginning, it is likely that you will be your only employee. The product of this one-person show will directly reflect the individual entrepreneur’s abilities. If you are following the path of entrepreneurship independently, you will learn where your character flaws are. This sounds frightening and humiliating – and it is. But, remaining attentive to the feedback that comes from your work, you will have an incredibly rare opportunity to know exactly what the flaws are. If you are humble enough to seek guidance from those more experienced than you, then you will be able to correct them.

I have yet to “crack the code” in my entrepreneurial pursuits. I am still struggling. Fortunately, I made the decision to dive into this path at a young age, and I am approaching my customers, partners, and mentors with as humble of a spirit of a spirit as possible, prepared to learn from my mistakes and become the best version of myself I could possibly be. I have no plans on stopping, and no matter how many times I fail, I will fail forward, learning from my experiences – and I hope whatever starting entrepreneur that may someday read this will do the same, ensuring their failures are not signs to quit, but rather opportunities to continue learning.

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