Bootstrappers, we don’t have it easy, but Magic Pens gives us hope!
Today’s post is a bit different… Not talking about any supply chain or job specifically, but I wanted to touch on something that’s been on my mind a lot recently with my co-founded startup Body Boss Fitness. That, and David Cummings has a great post about this: part-timing to build a product and company — great post and tough lesson (see article here). It highlights a few very important lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs especially the need to run full-speed on a project. That being said, I’d also like to point out a few take-aways specifically for those aspiring entrepreneurs (this list is not all inclusive nor exhaustive, just immediately on my mind).
- Building a business is tough. Taking the plunge is not for everyone understanding there are life circumstances and personalities that necessitate bootstrapping a project. Wheels may spin, and it’d be great to have that all crucial customer feedback soon and up front. The key, I believe, is continuous learning along the way even if it’s internally focused (learning how to code, dealing with the attrition of team members, etc.).
- Be ready to commit at the right time. Building on the preceding bullet, committing full-time to development of the product would be great, however, there are extenuating circumstances (yes, I’ll include “fear” here) that may necessitate bootstrapping. What will surely kill your startup is launching and doing nothing to nurture it. I learned this when friends and I launched ABigEffU.com. Huge failure. We developed it in 30 days, but after it launched, we just sat back thinking it would just take off. It was a stupid move, and one that I also didn’t commit to because it was more of a challenge if we could build something but I wasn’t passionate about it. There’s a big lesson learned — startups don’t go anywhere without care and attention (and some love). It’s kind of like having a baby… take care of the baby while in the womb, yes. You can still work, go out with friends (don’t drink, please), etc. while the baby’s in there. But when that baby comes, you better be ready to commit to parenting. (Maybe a bad analogy, but you get the point.)
- It’s about you. I love ABC’s show Shark Tank. Thank goodness I have a DVR so I can watch it and fast-forward through commercials. Anyways, you hear some pretty wacky ideas on there, and some pretty good ones. You can really tell who will succeed when you watch and listen to some of these presenter, nevermind their product. I remember when I was in the Boy Scouts, I was at summer camp. My friends and I started a “business” where we sold Magic Pens. Magic Pens were nothing more than sharpened sticks with charred ends. They let people write on the canvas of their tents and easily washed off. We even dipped the end of the Pens in wax as a sign of authenticity and quality! We sold them for a nickel with varying packages. We ended the week with $10 in our pockets — enough to buy several slushies at the Trading Post. Something so simple and silly that all of our customers knew how to make, but they still bought it to the tune of $10 (99% profit). I didn’t know all the kids who bought the Magic Pens. They bought because we did well marketing and selling charred sticks. It’s about you… not necessarily your product.
- Be resilient. And as David highlights, most startups fail. Heck, Venture Capitalists pick 10 really, really good startups to fund with the hope that ONE of them will make it big. However, a key deciding factor of how a company will make it (potentially the ultimate) is the people. Are they resilient? Do those on the SharkTank take the hits and despite not getting love from the Sharks, do they learn, and are they passionate enough to succeed? Spending weeks, months, or even years bootstrapping is one thing but once you launch, be resilient and focused to win. Hear your customers, investors, and choose what you listen to. Be resilient. Steve Jobs always had this notion that to succeed, you tell customers what they want. Of course, you won’t succeed if you always ignore. But you have to know which to listen to and what to file away. J.K. Rowling pursued 12 publishers who all rejected her manuscript for Harry Potter before finding Bloomsbury. I think she’s doing alright.
Like in grade school, “In conclusion…”, David’s got a great post about committing full-time to a project. But if you’re a bootstrapper, you’re probably a bootstrapper for a lot of reasons, but make sure you’re learning along the way and you’re pushing the company and product as fast as you can. This is especially true if you know this area is the next hot market — you don’t want to start competing against the world, afterall. Just know that at some point, if you really want it to grow, you need to devote your time, energy, and love full-time. The company is yours so it’s all about you and what you put into it, and how you can stay resilient to your product while knowing what to hear and what to listen to. Like David said, it’s “tough” but he never said impossible.
Strive for greatness fellow entrepreneurs!
 Body Boss is a performance tracking application for sports teams and organizations. Coaches can build customized workouts for their players to ensure workouts achieve fitness goals and beyond. Body Boss creates social competition, continuously motivating and challenging players while driving accountability. With Body Boss, coaches and players now have a competitive edge to win the battle off the field to deliver results on the field.Visit us at www.BodyBossFitness.com or contact us at email@example.com.
 David Cummings is a serial entrepreneur and investor in Atlanta, GA. Mr. Cummings founded Hannon Hill and Pardot. Recently, Pardot was acquired by ExactTarget for $95.5MM. You can view his blog here.