Doesn’t it feel as if everyone has a start-up these days? There are certainly more than there were when I started my first “service company” – collecting tuck money and sprinting to the front of the line, as the bell went for break time, to bulk-buy and deliver food for a nice margin.
This is said to be the most “entrepreneurial generation” of all, sidestepping the conventional career paths held in esteem by Gen X and boomers.
They were the generation that saw internet upstarts uproot and eradicate established industries entirely, within an alarmingly short space of time, and know that career success depends on your ability to be nimble, independent and yes – entrepreneurial.
But despite this fact (or perhaps because of it), there are many who see entrepreneurship as the domain of app developers and millennials and prefer to stew in their cubicles with great ideas and plenty of excuses, believing that going into business independently is simply not an attainable goal.
This is usually because of a few common misconceptions.
To be an entrepreneur, you have to be inventive
Having a unique product, service or idea is sometimes a gateway to great success.
Sometimes, it’s actually the source of failure. You can have a great product and a great new technology and fail to make a single cent.
Consumer 3D printing-related sales, once lauded to be “the next big Thing”, is dwindling despite huge capital investment and the market is still in shambles. On the other hand, AirBNB decided to take renting out spare rooms and holiday houses (something people have been doing for as long as there has been noticeboards) and digitise it, effectively changing the way the world travels.
You don’t need a brilliant tech idea or engineering degree. You can create tremendous value by doing something that has been done for years and doing it differently – being innovative, rather than inventive.
You have to be an expert
There are a huge number of successful individuals out there who entered their respective industries without knowing a whole about it.
But you don’t have to be a developer or a lawyer or an engineer to start a business – in fact, sometimes knowing too much about a certain field means knowing all the reasons why it’s not even worth trying to do things differently…an outsider’s perspective can be extremely valuable.
You need Yeezy Sneakers and an Apple Watch
You don’t have to be young and trendy to become a successful entrepreneur.
Everyone is battling for the boomers’ business, so age may very well be in your favour. True – in your twenties you might be less settled and have less to lose, but having more experience in life and in your chosen industry can very well count in your favour.
You have more contacts, more people skills. Ray Kroc bought MacDonald’s when he was 59 years old, and lived to see it become the world’s first mega-restaurant chain. One of the fastest growing segments for new businesses are over-fifty-five year-olds.
You have to start a company
Not every entrepreneur becomes a business owner.
In fact, I would encourage every one of my employees to develop the mindset of an entrepreneur – coming up with new ideas and ways of doing things within the company. It’s the only way businesses today are going to thrive in a highly competitive market.
You need tons of money and should quit your day job
You don’t need access to mounds of venture capital to succeed.
Half of the Fortune 500 companies in the United States today were started with less than $5,000 – under R70 000. With crowdfunding it’s even easier to start your own business.
Zaheer Moola, who founded Z-Creations in Johannesburg and recently spoke at the Google International Small Business Conference started his business by posting single headboard on Gumtree – he quit his job six months later and today runs a six-figure interior design company. Entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily risk takers – they are risk minimizers.
At the end of the day, the biggest barrier entrepreneurs face is psychological. You have to be prepared to be contrarian, to go against the norm. And you have to value yourself and your ideas. You can be an entrepreneur and a mom, you can be an entrepreneur and a full-time accountant, you can be an entrepreneur without a degree.
Our business is founded on the principle that anyone can make money – wherever they are, without being “ready”, without being tech savvy, without any prerequisites. The ones who are proving us right are the ones who take action, no matter how small. It’s time to join the club.