Survivor to enabler is an entrepreneur’s journey!
Successful and Entrepreneur, big words, right?
If they were to be put together in a phrase that is not a question, some would rather find it odd. People say it’s a rather fresh and evolved concept, being an entrepreneur, but if one thinks about it one of the key features of being a successful entrepreneur is being innovative and innovation breeds evolution.
So technically, while the term might be relatively newer, the concept is long grasped.
It probably goes back to the cavemen era of when the first tire was discovered or even when fire breathed for the first time.
The interesting part is the journey from being a survivor to becoming an entrepreneur.
We all know what success means but if one asked you to explain success through an example, there’s a high probability that the definition of that would differ from the person next to you. This is because success is a subjective term.
While one can experience different types of successes, who is the judge for measuring how successful one is.
For an entrepreneur, that too a budding one, success could mean earning 2000 dollars but for someone else, it could mean being a millionaire.
The purpose of stating these basic statements is to reestablish a simple concept that is hard to grasp, the concept of subjectivity.
This just might be the first step on the line of establishing yourself, never compare your success to that of another person.
The weight of expectations on each shoulder differs from person to person, if it isn’t heavy already adding another person’s bundle of expectations on your trying shoulders would be anyone’s nemesis. Being an entrepreneur is tough and it becomes tougher when you compare your success to that of someone else’s.
Being an entrepreneur cannot be taught, neither from a textbook nor a real-life article because everyone has their own individual journey to embark on. However, a wise person once said, learn from other people’s mistakes and experiences.
Here are 10 Mantras that will help you be sane and with hard work and a little luck, help you be the entrepreneur you want to.
1. Know your Worth
“Know your goal” is something one will often come across in such articles but in my opinion, goals often change.
Being an entrepreneur is filled with unpredictability and one needs to learn to embrace that. While it is hard to always know your ultimate goal, what is not hard is to know your worth.
No matter what field or industry you are part of, old or young, experienced or inexperienced if you don’t know your worth people will often walk over you.
In today’s time where people exploit one’s truest treasures, it is imperative to know where you stand in the queue.
For example, I along with my 4 co-founders run a sustainable business enterprise. Sustainable clothing is extremely hard and expensive to produce but the end product is similar to that of an ordinary tee.
People often come to us asking us why we charge such a high price for a tee.
The truth is, the customer, employer, any external stakeholder will only see what you show them.
What goes on the backend is what determines your worth.
If you know your price is fair for the product you make or the service you provide, maintain a solid ground. Know your worth and stick by it. The stakeholder that values your effort and hard work will be willing to pay the price for your worth.
2. Customer is God
Such an Indian thing to say, isn’t it?
While this business strategy does work not for many, it has certainly worked for some!
Everyone knows about extremely huge businesses and entrepreneurs featured in Forbes 30 under 30 but big or small, an entrepreneur is an entrepreneur.
I want to talk about the true Gujrati, Marathi, Marwari and Punjabis of India who keeps this country up and running all because they make for the customer.
Customers should be treated like a King, something only possible if you know your target market in and out.
Producing for the masses only works for certain industries with standardized products like Petroleum, Necessities, Pharmaceuticals, etc but others knowing and the customers’ current needs and want is something that will give the entrepreneur a headstart amongst its competitors.
Chandani Chowk, Heart of Old Delhi, paints a distinct mental picture of thousands of Ethnic clothing shops all competing for the same audience?
How do they survive?
They survive because they don’t make the products and sell them, they make for the customer they want to sell to.
We try to survive in a constantly changing global economy where needs and wants change by the hour and to keep up with them is important but what is a priority is to keep up with what will satisfy your customer the most.
3. Keeping up with the Trends
We live in an era of a constantly evolving business economy and all we can do is adapt.
Keeping up with the trends doesn’t necessarily mean making new products according to the constantly changing needs and wants but rather create and adapt to newer means of reaching your customers.
There are thousands of businesses that survived through means like door-to-door sales, try and buy, customization orders all of which suddenly came to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Especially in a country like India where there is an entrepreneurial venture in every other home, everything was still. Nobody accounted for these unprecedented times but one has to adapt to survive.
Overnight, thousands of businesses took over platforms like Instagram shop, Facebook, Myntra, E-commerce platforms to reach their audiences virtually. The power of the internet and social media became so gallant that you could reach millions.
For example, when Instagram released the reels feature and changed their algorithm people’s initial reaction was that this is a copy of TikTok.
But, an entrepreneur is innovative enough to use whatever means they have to earn profits. Slowly, thousands of businesses started to use the Reels feature due to its ability to get viral and reach millions of people.
Indian Ethnic co. is one of such brands. They made beautiful dance reels wearing and flaunting their products so they could reach more people. In days they had over 100 thousand followers.
Hence, they said it for a reason: When in Rome, Do as the Romans do.
4. Learn How to Say No
Often in life, when we work hard for something for far too long and invest our best into it, we become too attached to our work.
While this might be your motivation, for some it can also be their downfall.
The majority of entrepreneurs make this mistake of becoming too overwhelmed by the tiniest of appreciation for their work that at that moment they lose their ability to make wise decisions.
Most entrepreneurial innovations are often bought by or copied by other bigger businesses or experienced entrepreneurs just because they get too overwhelmed by a reaction that they can’t say “no”.
Being an entrepreneur comes with long hours of hard work, patience and most importantly trusting your mind and its intuition. If you feel like this opportunity is big however is not parallel to your vision for your product or service, you are your own boss with full right to say “no”.
Enlightening you all about a personal experience with my own sustainable venture.
When we first began our pursuit to change each lifestyle more sustainably, a big MNC’s new venture approached us to design and manufacture their merchandise line for them.
They made us prepare all designs and layouts for them but when it later came down to production they asked us if we could produce them on non-sustainable normal cotton fabric.
While we were quite enticed by the benefits associated with a partnership with them, after several disagreements, arguments, days of contemplation, we decided to say “NO”.
If we would say yes to them and twist our morals and ethics, we wouldn’t be the ethical sustainable enterprise we claim to be.
Patience is key, life has a funny way of working out.
5. Trust the Process
Even the brightest, mightiest, fastest, and lucky individuals might lack the quality of being patient.
Things don’t happen overnight and they certainly don’t happen when you expect them to.
They say that only 50% of entrepreneurial ventures make it through their fifth year. While the glass is half empty, it is also half full.
If you have faith and determination in your cause and what you do, you have to let it take its own pace to grow and stabilize. The actual test for an entrepreneur isn’t thinking about the idea or even completing the innovation phase, rather it is the survival phase.
Do you survive through it? Do you survive and outrun your competitors? Is your venture profitable enough?
Few questions often pop up now and then. The truth is, it differs from person to person and venture to venture. Some businesses pick up and some don’t.
There is no guarantee but an assurance of lifelong learning.
Zomato started back in 2008 and people did not use it so frequently till 2011 or so.
You have to give your customers time to adapt to your product or service. Especially for a brand like Zomato with a fundamental operation of an easy order in, with online payment facilities that eliminate the need to physically go out and pick up an order.
These are fundamental changes that take time to seek in and hence with that you need to learn to trust the process.
6. Don’t be Greedy
Often in life when we work so hard for something we want it to pay off.
At the end of the day, all entrepreneurs have an ulterior end goal of having a profitable entrepreneurial venture. While profit may be a motivation factor for some, it might not be for many.
The satisfaction of your first payment or even your first order is unparalleled.
Whether it is a service or a product, we often push ourselves to earn more to be able to make a better living. What we forget in this process is to not be greedy.
Ever thought of how new businesses enter into established markets with high barriers to entry? They are smart enough to lower their margins to a point where they become competitive enough to survive.
Think about the clothing manufacturing industry where thousands of companies make the same kinds of T-shirts and still survive profitably. How is that?
When businesses first start out, they should focus on building connections and surviving rather than earning profit.
Playing on the volume of 1000s can be more beneficial than a 100 dollar margin.
In the initial times, keep the overall price low enough to stay competitive yet have a good quality product being able to get more orders rather than having few orders with a high margin.
This strategy works well for mid-end products that do not necessarily cater to niche markets.
7. Mutual Respect
Ever seen the meme and advertising war between Burger King and McDonald’s adverts?
While they do not trash each other by names but they do have a fair share of bad faith throughout their advertising.
While such tactics might be light-hearted and funny to watch, not all businesses can afford competitive rivalry, especially new entrepreneurial ventures that are still building their reputation.
Mutual respect towards your competitors, their products, and how they showcase their products is imperative. Not only does it creates a respected perception in the minds of the stakeholders but also helps one build connections for future collaborations.
Similarly, mutual respect with your vendors, employees, and staff should be a priority for an entrepreneur.
Surviving through the initial stages of the cycle is only possible with a motivated team and established a supply chain system for a manufacturing venture.
For service-based companies, it is imperative to have mutual respect for your employees to be able to expect the same from them through their tasks.
Demotivated workforce results in an inefficient day which is probably worse than an unprofitable one.
Being an entrepreneur is all about leading your team and keeping them as motivated as you are.
One of the biggest advantages for an entrepreneur can be a flexible supply chain system. Having mutual respect and trade understanding with your vendors enables you to have a flexible payment structure, leaving room for all the initial entrepreneurial mishaps that are bound to happen.
With this support, you become more competitive amongst the competitors.
8. Loyalty Goes a Long Way
An entrepreneurial venture is nothing without its customers.
While I already talked about customer needs being a priority, what is equally important is establishing a long relationship with them so they come back for more. Repeat customers are a primary feature to identify or measure how good a business is performing.
Building this customer loyalty can differ from business to business but irrespective of that there are a few basic ways that all entrepreneurs use.
One can either do this by creating an emotional connection with your customer, probably write a handwritten personalized note mentioning all details about the product, or even by thanking them for their purchase.
One can also do the same by membership cards, free goodies, special occasion discounts, etc. to make them feel connected to not just your product but your brand as a whole.
It is all about building a community through your brand. This is what keeps your venture going and differentiates it from that of your competitors.
Sephora is one of the leading beauty stores in the world, not only selling its products but also those of its competitors.
It has established itself as the go-to store for anything skincare and beauty-related. They offer membership cards with discounts, special occasion offers, membership upgrades with points, and even free goodies to entice their customers to come back for more.
Similarly, for service-related companies, Verizon is known to be one of the best CRM firms in the world. Have you ever tried calling them?
The minute the provider picks up the phone they would have your full chart and history ready with the same provider that assisted you before for your convenience.
Small gestures like these build loyalty amongst the customers, stopping them emotionally and mentally from being poached by your competitors. Having this identity is what makes successful entrepreneurial ventures.
9. You Can Always Rediscover
Trial and Error is a part of the process.
Like more PCM (Physics, Chemistry, Maths) students who decide to switch to an Economics major, several entrepreneurs discover their true calling later down the road.
Being an entrepreneur comes with its fair share of challenges and failures that might make one want to give up but the successful ones are those who follow that ray of sunlight on a gloomy day.
There are uncountable brands that initially started as something else and later changed their operations to a completely different tangent.
This is because being an entrepreneur comes with business instincts, the ability to act under pressure and make a comeback from a falling mountain.
Have you ever seen the blue Tiffany Jewelry box? Who knew this luxury jewelry brand initially manufactured stationery.
Brands like Nokia were not even in the telecommunication sector, to begin with.
Trial and error is part of the journey.
If one product does not work out that does not indicate the end of the venture. Innovate, research, rediscover and sell again.
For the service industry, there has been a drastic change as to how entrepreneurs operate.
With technology being such an integral part of our lives, something as simple as switching on the AC can be automated. Innovation breeds complicity. Innovate and rediscover what is your true calling.
10. Do Not Limit Your Horizons
Being an entrepreneur means having a money crunch for the majority of the survival phase.
Smart entrepreneurs make the most out of this by not limiting themselves towards one revenue stream. Divide and conquer is probably the oldest and most successful technique of all times.
It is unwise to keep all your eggs in one basket. By diversifying the range of products and services one offers they also diversify their risks.
Ever seen why Reliance has its name in the telecommunication, food and beverage, and financial sector?
Similarly, thousands of small entrepreneurial ventures also diversify in some way or another.
For my venture, producing sustainable clothing is extremely expensive and with that comes the burden of finding an audience willing to pay that price. We decided to open up a Business to Business (B2B) division catering to corporate orders helping us procure in bulk and simultaneously being able to meet the orders on the customer front in a timely manner.
Not only do we have more orders but also a sense of security about the risk factor. We also started to offer services on how to make your business sustainable by packaging tips, packaging material, etc by further diversifying our horizons.
Sometimes, to be able to support your core competency you have to branch out and expand your horizons.
11. All That Glitter Isn’t Gold
Nothing in life comes easy and being an entrepreneur is one of them.
They are relatively fewer individuals that decide to go all out, dedicating themselves to their ventures on a full-time basis.
Most entrepreneurs start as a part-timer to see if there is any scope of the idea flourishing. This is where the difficulty comes in. Being able to balance your entrepreneurial instincts with the bounds of societal work.
There will be people who pull you down, discourage your efforts, harshly critic your work, and some even would tell you to give up and get a job.
But, what is better than working for yourself and being your own boss?
However, no one said it was going to be easy. While you may think that idea development is the toughest of all but, in reality, there is a long never-ending list of difficulties to battle with.
More than 20% of entrepreneurial ventures do not even make it through their first year. There are going to be bad, doubtful days where you will have absolutely no idea about your goals.
You will go into self-doubt, contemplation and even procrastination on how to survive.
For entrepreneurs with other revenue streams, it might not be their last resort but for several individuals, their venture would be all they have. Hence, while everyone would tell you being an entrepreneur is doable, it comes with its own shares of ups and downs.
12. Proven Tactics : Still Not a Shortcut
One can only benefit from someone’s experiences.
Before the English language even discovered the term entrepreneur, the survival instincts to innovate and adapt already existed.
Being an entrepreneur is not taught but rather it is experienced.
Here are some ways through which the tough times or the roadblocks can be smoothened. Thinking out of the box is key. If you do as the Romans do, there will be nothing to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Several entrepreneurial ventures survive today because of their ability to act on the spot and having the first mover’s advantage. Having an innovative and extraordinary product or a service is not always important, rather it is how you make your first impression as a brand in that industry.
The first mover’s advantage is something that has benefitted multiple entrepreneurs. Take Boeing and Airbus, for example, both aircraft manufacturers essentially making the same product however they originate from different markets, backed by specific countries all because they entered that market first.
Your community will always respect you for the exclusive. Having a duopoly in one of the biggest industries, Boeing and Airbus make the same product but have never been able to penetrate each other’s market, all because of their first mover’s advantage.
Similarly, many entrepreneurs benefit from Pricing tactics for their entrepreneurial ventures.
Isn’t it fascinating to be able to differentiate your prices based on the audience you are catering to? Popularly known as dynamic pricing helps entrepreneurs charge different prices from different demographics.
This helps them cater to a wider audience while also being able to make up the lost profits through high margins by a wealthier socioeconomic demographic.
Some entrepreneurial ventures like food delivery brands also come up with psychological pricing strategies where they offer you something for “+0.99” to entice you, tricking you into believing that you got a discount from that venture.
Lastly, advertisement and marketing are some of the most cost-inefficient departments of any venture.
While it is imperative to aggressively market yourself to your audience especially in the earlier stages, budget always seems to be the limiting factor for rising entrepreneurial ventures.
A solution to this can be adapting unconventional ways of marketing that are much cheaper and fun to execute. Guerilla marketing techniques often help create a long-lasting impression in the minds of your audience and that too at a cheaper cost.
13. Survival of the Fittest
At the end of the day, it is all about the fittest of them all. Everyone wants to succeed but it is the law of nature that only the fittest survives.
What is essential to understand is that entrepreneurs are supposed to be smart workers and not hard workers. There are going to be countless challenges but only the ones with innovative enough answers will pass through.
A major question often asked is how does an entrepreneur start a venture if they do not have any lead capital or investment?
It is all about the hustle.
Being an entrepreneur without any capital is possible if there is a will. The majority of successful entrepreneurial ventures have one aspect in common, they are resource strong.
The resource does not indicate monetary resources but rather other ways of growing your brand.
Huda Beauty, Reliance, and many more are brands run within the family. Here, the family is their biggest resource. Similarly, every entrepreneurial venture will have its core competency and it is all about exploiting the same to be able for you to survive.
The hustle never stops. Even if you are an entrepreneur, you are also human.
A personal example would be with my Co-Founders and I were looking at ways to get investment for our venture. We started participating in B-plan competitions hoping to win cash prizes, started investing in stocks, took up multiple side jobs to be able to support our venture.
Having resources does not limit to just financial but also exposure in terms of new skills and practices that can be used as inspiration for your own. Only those who battle all limiting factors will be able to survive this never-ending race.
14. Rome wasn’t Built in a Day
Lastly, patience is key.
The journey is all about taking it one day at a time.
Sometimes it takes days, some months and some might even take years. The comparison should be with your position yesterday and not with that of your competitors. This is a constant learning process where after several wrongs comes a right and the successful ones are the few who have the will and dedication to survive through this phase.
One of the greatest and most successful entrepreneurial qualities is having faith in yourself and your cause to be able to convince those who work for you and those who you work for that your venture is worthy.
This is my experience, just like there will be thousands more that might be able to help you but at the end of the day, you will write your own journey with your own set of laughs, tears, sweat, and blood.
However, don’t take my word for it, I am myself a hustler, just like you! Being a successful entrepreneur is not easy but it is also not impossible. At the end of the day, Rome was built.
Struggling, Hustling and Hoping!
Khushi MehraContent Strategist
A Marketing Consultant and Content Strategist, pursuing a Business and Management degree from Indian School of Business and Finance, an affiliate of University of London and London School of Economics. Founded her own Sustainable Enterprise “Emacity World” back in 2020 with 4 of her other co-founders.
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