Why start your own business? The motivation behind having your own startup and the difficulties.
It was not uncommon for our grandparents to stay with the same company from graduation to retirement. More companies had "career track" entry level positions and training programs - a foreign concept to many young workers. Recent college graduates may rely on "internships" to work their way up the ladder and gain job experience, and they do not usually stay with the same employer.
The conversation matter amongst my 20-something peer group often turns to jobs, and how we either don’t have them, or have them but are looking for something more.
“Why don’t you start your own thing?” is a question that often gets thrown on the table.
Being self-employed and running your own show has a lot of perks, one of which is being able to pursue that ‘something more’ that drives the scheming entrepreneur. What is it that’s not being fulfilled, either in the world (a neighborhood lacks access to healthy food), the market (a new facebook app is always a hit), or within the entrepreneur (someone may just have an inherent desire to start a flower arranging business). But starting one’s own business and being self-employed is also very difficult and risky.
I was curious what drove so many of my acquaintances to entrepreneurship and self-employment, and what the major hurdles they had encountered were.
So I asked some friends, who either had their own business or were on track to start one, and realized that their responses all had a few major themes in common.
Why start your own business?
The reasons people gave me for starting their own business seemed to fall into two categories: internal and external motivation.
1. Working for oneself is more empowering and satisfying.
The individual is attracted to the feeling of “empowerment” and the “freedom” one has being one’s own boss. Being a one-person operation also drives the entrepreneur to excellence, as there is no one to hide behind.
My friend Gaby, who is an aspiring private chef told me:
“I also feel like, working for myself, everything I did was a representation of me, and I wanted it to be good, all the way down to cleaning the floors and the beneath the table after meals. If there were ants crawling around down there, it would be my fault!” Having complete ownership of a job drives the entrepreneur to be more motivated to turn out excellent work.
Luke, founder of GroAction, found the ‘unknown’ of starting one’s own business an exciting and curious adventure.
“There is limitless possibility in starting your own business because there is no set path.” Indeed, no one but you can write the job description.
Aaron is an entrepreneur who says he finds more job satisfaction working on his rooftop agriculture business Sky Harvest:
“Being an office drone for a company helped push me to take the leap. I was not happy there even though I was making decent money. The outcomes did not seem very tangible, and I wanted to be putting my time into something that I could ensure made a difference.”
2. The entrepreneur sees a way to fill an unmet need or service in the market.
The entrepreneur sees an “unmet need” in the market, and has a vision for how to solve it. One interviewee phrased it:
“Having a real solution to a real problem that hasn’t been done before.”
These are the essential conditions that must be met to be successful. As much as an entrepreneur may have a burning desire to do certain work, if the market is not there they will not stay afloat. This may mean that one has to refine their business plan – but that’s all part of the challenge! Being flexible and resilient in those first years is essential to the success of a start-up.
“Having a business is like having a baby” one interviewee told me. “But the best way to learn is to just jump in there and do it!”
What are the major difficulties of starting your own business?
The number one response to this question of course was financial demands; supporting oneself financially during the start-up of the business is difficult.
Aaron, Skyharvest: “I have been focused on my project for several months now, without additional income. This allows me to keep my focus and really put in the time required to start my particular venture, but it is a challenge to keep living without any source of income.”
Some people I talked to were still working their full time job while crafting their own business on the side. For them having the time to develop their business plan was a major issue as well as raising start-up capital.
2. “Wearing all the hats”
The beginning entrepreneur hosting his/her one person show has to wear all the hats, meaning they have to fill the role of Director, Communications Outreach Manager, Accountant, Web Designer, Fundraiser, Intern, and anything else it takes an organization to get off the ground!
Luke, GroAction: “The most difficult thing and valuable skill has been becoming incredibly proficient at accomplishing the copious tasks. With my business, few of the tasks are "difficult," it's just a matter of creating systems and processes that accomplish them effectively.”
Indeed, an individual can run her business from a laptop - but familiarizing oneself with the tools available is a challenge itself. One interviewee mentioned that she was unsure how much she should recreate for her business from scratch, or how many "out-of-the-box services/utilities" she could pull in from elsewhere. And for some people, just mastering the art of Twitter requires research.
A way to overcome the difficulty of wearing all the hats could be to take on a business partner, though this could bring on a different set of challenges. The catch is to find the right business partner who is truly invested and has the same vision.
Gaby, Private Chef: “I am playing with the idea of starting my own business, a food business”…”The challenges are that I cannot do it alone, and I will need to find the right partner, the right collaborations.” But “it is harder to do things with more than one person because we must learn to fuse styles.”
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Driven by a Vision
No one that I talked to was motivated by money. Their major reason for starting their own business was not because it would make the big bucks. They were all driven by a vision, and were very much attached to the work itself.
The Colorado Department of Education summed up the conditions of being a one-person business entrepreneur nicely in their publication: The Basics of Working for Oneself. If you've got the vision, and you're debating starting your own business, then ask yourself the following three questions:
- Do you want to be your own boss?
- Do you expect more out of life than just a good salary and a steady job?
- Are you willing to take chances?
If the answer is yes to all three, well then start writing your business plan.