Growing up, most of us still believe in the American Dream – that by getting a college education and building up our resumes with internships and relevant professional skills, we’ll be able to graduate and walk into a high-paying (or at least stable) career. But with nearly half of the nation’s recent college graduates working jobs that don’t require a degree, a college diploma is no longer a golden ticket.
This harsh reality, paired with the “celebritization” of entrepreneurship, turns everyone into an aspiring entrepreneur. But the road to successful entrepreneurship is by no means easier that the traditional American Dream. In most cases, it’s harder — and it takes a lot of time, effort, energy and more often than not, money.
So whether you’re brainstorming how to make it on your own or are a seasoned entrepreneurial vet, here are three tips for today’s generation of entrepreneurs.
The system isn’t built for entrepreneurship; you have to work it.
The system is still not designed for you to be an entrepreneur. It’s designed for you to work for someone else. Once you understand that, you can begin to look at your situation through a different lens and realize that this will be the one of the hardest things you will ever do, and one of the most valuable and rewarding experiences in your life.
Being an entrepreneur is about doing things you never thought you could do and having great perseverance while doing it. You need to have great confidence in your idea(s) and what you have set out to accomplish. Be prepared to work the system to make it work for you. It may not happen overnight, but stick with it.
Learn to leverage new technologies for your business.
It’s safe to say that I’ve had the entrepreneurial bug in me since I was a kid. I started a video game newsletter when I was 11 years old. Back then, I used a Logitech handheld scanner to help me scan images and used Prodigy and AOL to help promote my newsletter on gaming message boards. By using the latest technology, I was able to gain retail distribution in the Northeast and in-book advertising from a handful of national brands. I can only imagine what I could have done if I were 11 years old today.
Moral of the story: Learn how to leverage technology to fast-track your personal knowledge of your industry and your business’ resources. It will allow you to grow fast while keeping overhead low. Here are some great resources for new and experienced founders and CEOs:
- Graphic Design: Check out 99Designs.com, a crowdsourced graphic design marketplace that helps you run a design contest open to a community of graphic designers all over the world. The best part: You only pay once you select your preferred design(s).
- Turnkey E-Commerce:Shopify.com is a customizable and affordable hosted e-commerce platform.
- Legal Resources:LegalZoom.com is my favorite online resource for basic legal document services and legal plans for small businesses. It’s especially good for startups. They have great templates that you can customize for your needs.
- Email Hosting + Management: I recommend Google Apps for Business. It’s no longer free, but I think it provides the best bang for your buck. It’s easy to set up (no IT experience necessary) and provides instant comfort level thanks to user login via Gmail.com.
- Web Publishing:WordPress is the de facto choice for millions of web publishers, but I recommend that you look at Squarespace as well. The best analogy between is that WordPress is like an Android phone while Squarespace is like an iPhone. The templates are basic, but you can customize WordPress to look and act as needed; Squarespace comes shiny out of the box with little room for customization.
Know where your customer is going next.
Don Coleman, founder, chairman and CEO of GlobalHue, the largest multicultural marketing agency in the United States, recently told me how, as an entrepreneur, his focus is on knowing and being where the consumer is going.
“Whatever we are doing as marketers and consumers, we need to focus on where the consumer is going,” said Coleman.
For Coleman, that meant leveraging GlobalHue’s multicultural legacy and deep cultural insights to offer their clients a total market solution in order to reach the changing consumer demographics in America.
This is a principle that today’s entrepreneurs must apply to succeed — whether your business is service-oriented (like Coleman’s ad agency model) or product-oriented. Identify how your business model can offer a client solution based on where your consumer is today, and even more importantly, where they will be three to five years from now.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by Andrew E. Larsen