Lessons in Entrepreneurship

Posted by Julia Koelsch & filed under Entrepreneurship.

Spry Digital is FIVE YEARS OLD! I am incredulous just typing that. It seems both longer and shorter than five years since we formed Spry. We are certainly a different company than what we first imagined Spry to be, which is to say that we grew in ways we could not have predicted and planned for. It’s been an exciting ride, and I’m very proud of what we have accomplished.

I recently spoke at the last Women 2.0 St. Louis meetup. The organizers asked if I could provide some advice on entrepreneurship. An anniversary like ours offers opportunity for reflection, so I harnessed my introspection and found some nuggets of wisdom to share with those just starting down the startup road. These are the tips I shared:

Don’t go it alone

I recommend bringing on at least one co-founder or co-partner. Ideally, look for those who balance you and bring skills and experience that you don’t possess.

Each partner at Spry has a different, and complementary set of strengths and skills. We joke that we form the Voltron of web development. For instance, Sheila Burkett has extensive experience in technology and management from her experience as a partner at Edward Jones. In addition, she had already started a few small businesses. She knows the ins and outs of actually running a company. Ken Moire has extensive experience in branding and marketing, as well as user experience design. He keeps our focus, and our client’s focus, on the end user. I bring my technical experience to the table, as well as my resourcefulness to find new solutions to existing problems.

Along with the rest of our team, we possess the strengths and experience to provide great solutions for our clients. We wouldn’t be able to offer the depth and breadth of services that we do without each other.

If you can’t or don’t want to bring on a co-founder, find a mentor or advisor to help you with the parts of running a business you aren’t familiar with. There are some great resources in St. Louis for startups — so many more than when we started! Accelerate St. Louis, ITEN, the T-REX incubator downtown, the StartLouis meetup, the Venture Cafe every Thursday at the CIC, Women Entrepreneurs of St. Louis (WEST), are all great local resources, not to mention the startup accelerator programs like Capital Innovators, Arch Grants, Prosper, among many others.

Embrace your weaknesses

Recently, I read an article on having the confidence to be comfortable with your weaknesses. This article was a nice reminder that it’s important to acknowledge our limitations, and allow others to do so as well. This lesson is also important to learn when starting a business.

No one, and no business, is good at everything. Pretending to be otherwise expresses a lack of confidence and trustworthiness.

When starting a company, it can be scary to admit your limitations. You don’t want to scare potential customers away, and when you’re struggling to bring in business, its really hard to turn down potential income.

But having limitations is good! It helps you focus your business and your role in the business. If you have a million great ideas, and you don’t know where to start, then let your weaknesses help narrow your focus.

Understanding where your weaknesses lie will encourage you to reach out to others with different talents, and different points of view. This helps foster collaboration and diversity of opinion.

For instance, I started a local DevOps meetup because I needed to learn more about DevOps practices for Spry and for OpenDonorCRM, and this type of meetup didn’t yet exist in St. Louis. Because of this, I’ve met some really talented people, I’ve learned an awful lot, and it’s opened new doors for Spry.

I’m not saying to avoid areas where you are weak. Don’t let it stop you — just know what they are, acknowledge them, and don’t be afraid of them. The rewards will be worth the effort.

Embrace change

Every assumption you make in the planning stage of your company will be challenged, if not totally overturned. Your business model will change, your product will evolve, the people you work with will come and go. Technology is changing daily. This is natural.

This is something you should plan for.

For instance, have an operating agreement from the beginning if you have co-partners or co-founders. Focus on business and technical processes. If you’re creating a product, be sure you have a really easy way for your customers to provide feedback so you can evolve your product and make it more compelling to your users.

Most importantly, change is where ideas come from, and will continue to come from. Innovation only comes from changing the status quo. Instead of bracing for it, embrace it and figure out how to make it work for you.

Celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week

Posted by spry & filed under Entrepreneurship.

Global Entrepreneurship Week is a worldwide celebration focused on the innovators and job creators who launch startups, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. In honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the founders of Spry Digital have decided to share something personal about each of our experiences with entrepreneurship. If you are an entrepreneur, please add to the conversation by adding your responses to one or both of the following questions in the comments section below.

Tell us…

1.)  Why is entrepreneurship the right choice for you?

2.)  What is the most important piece of advice you would give to someone considering entrepreneurship?

Ken Moire

Why entrepreneurship was the right choice for me:

Two years after kicking around the idea of starting a company and introducing the individuals that would eventually form Spry Digital, I can’t imagine doing anything different. Entrepreneurship is a calling – you can do all of the planning and predictions on spreadsheets, but at the end of the day, you start a company because you believe in your product, you think it will benefit people, and it’s what you have to do.

Entrepreneurship has been the right choice for me because at the end of the day, I know that my hard work has helped another entrepreneur, small business owner or nonprofit make a difference, and that provides a tremendous amount of pride and satisfaction.

What is the most important piece of advice I would give to someone considering entrepreneurship:

Stick to your mission, and do not accept failure as an option.

Julia Koelsch

Why entrepreneurship was the right choice for me:

I became a software developer because I like solving problems.  When I was a kid, I was addicted to logic problem puzzles. My love for software development grew from that same desire to apply logic to solve problems.

Risk-averse by nature, I didn’t jump into entrepreneurship right away. But when my partners and I started talking about joining up to start our own company, I realized it was the perfect opportunity to help solve problems that face many smaller organizations. Working with nonprofits and small businesses is extremely rewarding because the impact is immediate and apparent. Starting my own business has given me the opportunity to use my skills and passion to help organizations who are equally passionate about their own mission.  Getting a business off the ground isn’t easy, but the rewards far outweigh the risk and hard work.

What is the most important piece of advice I would give to someone considering entrepreneurship:

Don’t underestimate the effort and time needed to start and grow a business. You often hear about “overnight” business success stories, but few articles focus on the amount of work involved in achieving that success.  You need great ideas and passion to succeed, but you also have to work hard to make your passion a success.

Stacey Lindgren

Why entrepreneurship was the right choice for me:

I have always enjoyed a fast-paced environment, challenging work and the ability to constantly learn.  I also liked stability though, and realized the risks of entrepreneurship. There were two things that tipped the scales for me when considering making the leap into entrepreneurship.

First, the opportunities for personal and professional growth were most readily available to me in starting my own venture. The risk factors inherent in being an entrepreneur only helped me be more fully committed to my goals. Second was the ability to choose my mission and drive towards it with a true and deep passion.  You may find another company that is a ‘dream job’ for you, but often you don’t have the authority to fully outline and follow your own path when working for someone else. Passion helps unleash the confidence in yourself, especially when you know that you are doing the right thing, for the right people.

I am rewarded, literally everyday, with the interactions that I have with my current and prospective clients. Knowing that I am not just doing a job, but adding true value to the world, gives me tremendous peace of mind.

What is the most important piece of advice I would give to someone considering entrepreneurship:

Think about your customer before you ever even have a customer. Understand what they want and need that they can’t get or aren’t getting elsewhere. I also recommend not just chasing the money of entrepreneurship. It may never materialize. Instead, follow your passion with intelligence and vigor and know that the rewards will be there.

Sheila Burkett

Why entrepreneurship was the right choice for me:

When I started my career, the company I worked for was very pro-entrepreneurship. As the company grew, I grew as an individual and leader. Along the way, self-discovery uncovered that my personality was that of an entrepreneur. After 21 years, I leapt into the entrepreneur world.

What are the common personality traits of an entrepreneur? MoreBusiness.com thinks a motivation to achieve, a habit of hard work, nonconformity, strong leadership, and street smarts are all traits that make an entrepreneur successful. John Baldoni wrote for the Harvard Business Review that three key traits of successful entrepreneurs are practical, purposeful, and impatient. In a Harvard Business School article, three professors discuss how entrepreneurship process can be taught. I find that I recognize these traits in myself, and that makes starting and running my own business interesting and exciting.

What is the most important piece of advice I would give to someone considering entrepreneurship:

I encourage anyone thinking of striking out on their own to really understand themselves, their support structure and their financial situation. The ability to motivate yourself is critical, but believing you have something to offer others is just as important. You must have the encouragement of your friends and loved ones, as there are times that self-motivation just isn’t enough. Make sure to have savings you can use without regret and that you are living within your means. My final piece of advice is understand what other people value in your product or service, not just what you think it is worth. Then GO FOR IT!

Leave us a comment below telling us why entrepreneurship was the right choice for you below.