January is known for announcement of the previous year’s “The Best Of’s”. Today I’d like to talk about Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneurs of 2012 awards. They had thousands of applicants, which were narrowed down to three. Each entrepreneur has a completely different story, background, and idea that fueled their business.
These entrepreneurs do everything from selling do-it-yourself tech kits to toilet paper with coupons on it. You are probably asking yourself, “Toilet paper with coupons on it?” Yes, you read it right. It may be hard to believe, but something as simple as coupons on toilet paper can be a successful company. Here are 5 things I picked up from reading about these entrepreneurs:
- Limited capital is better than no capital: Find a loan can be really hard when you are a start-up company. Luckily you don’t always have to find a bank loan to start your business. Each of these entrepreneurs started with less than $10,000 from money they had saved or borrowed from family and friends. My father even invested the little money he had into buying homes, fixing them up, and then renting them out to married college students. He started off having to manage everything himself but as he acquired more properties and rented them out he was able to use the extra cash to hire a third party to manage the houses and apartments, which was the end goal all along. Don’t let something like “I don’t have enough money” get in the way of starting your company. That is why it is called a “start up company” you are at the beginning of your journey with an end goal at mind.
- Knowledge is power so keep learning: We stress education so much in today’s society. Most people would respond by saying, “I’m going to school to get a better job.” The best answer would be “I’m going to school to learn.” Knowledge can be gained through many different sources, not just school. You can learn from books, shadowing someone, and even making mistakes. I truly believe that as an entrepreneur you need have to a passion for learning where you can.
- No idea is too crazy as long as it makes sense: Sometimes the craziest of ideas pay off. When Star Toilet Paper’s, Bryan Silverman first heard the idea of toilet paper that you could print on he thought his brother was crazy. It got less crazy as they won a competition giving them more money to invest into the company. The reason why this is so successful is because many people like to read when in the bathroom and you typically can’t avoid using toilet paper. Don’t dismiss an idea just because it sounds unorthodox.
- Its not broken but lets build something better: Where many start up companies fall short is they have found a product that sells and they don’t bother to invest resources to find something better than what they currently have—they only focus on how to improve sales. OrigAudio didn’t plateau like the companies that aren’t innovating; what’s more, they actually have doubled their sales every year since 2009. They may have started off by building a collapsible speaker,but it sure didn’t end there. Collapsible speakers lead to creating the Rock-It, which allows any hollow object (a cup, pizza box, or cooler) to be turned into a speaker when attached to it.
- Listen to your customers: I don’t believe the customer is always right but you should still listen to them. In Limor Fried’s case, not only were they right but they also helped her start her business, Adafruit. Fried started out by having a website dedicated exclusively to do-it-yourself instruction’s for simple tech gadgets. Her followers hounded her to sell premade kits so they wouldn’t have to go find all the parts themselves. After months of requests she finally gave in and began selling premade kits that went hand-in-hand with her DIY instructions.
These Entrepreneurs started business believing in an idea they didn’t know would actually catch on and make them money. They started off with limited capital from their own wallet or from their friends or families wallets. Instead of hiring someone else to do a job they didn’t know how to do they cut their costs by educating themselves on how to do it. Finally they didn’t just stop there, they improved or made better products by simply listening to the demands of their customers or creating a solution to a problem.
What problem does your product/service solve?