As some of you might know, not only do my husband and I both work full-time jobs, we’re also the co-founders of a start-up called Animal Lover Funding. This is basically a crowdfunding website that assists people with sick and injured pets pay their medical bills. While we also offer spots for animal related businesses and organizations, the sick/injured animal category is really what attracts most of our users.
As young entrepreneurs, we were enthusiastic, hopeful, and indestructible as we started this. Everyone we spoke to let us know what a great idea we had which left us feeling encouraged and confident that this could be an overnight success. However, we were also extremely naive.
Starting our business was clearly not an overnight success as I’m still working my day job. In fact, we’re still working on getting consistent web traffic that benefits our clients. Through it all, though, we’ve learned a few things. Take it from me and don’t fall into the same traps we did. Here are the three biggest mistakes we made as a start-up.
- Assuming having social media fans (i.e. Facebook/Twitter) translated into having clients. When we started our Facebook page for Animal Lover Funding, we went from one fan to thousands of fans almost overnight. We were pleasantly surprised how quickly our fan base was growing. The day of our launch we had close to 20,000 fans on Facebook and over 800 followers on Twitter. “Yes!” we thought. “This is going to be an amazing launch!” Then, it came and went and was pretty lackluster. We had a relatively small group of people start to use our site and it has been growing ever since. But, to this day we’re kicking ourselves for not being slightly more proactive on other fronts. Popularity does not equal influence!
- Not having a press packet (business cards, brochures) made up in advance. I remember receiving an e-mail one Thursday morning inviting us to a fundraiser at our local emergency vet that evening. This was the perfect opportunity to talk to the people who would, hopefully, be sending us clients. But, we had one problem. We had no business cards, or brochures, or anything! In general, we just weren’t prepared for an opportunity like this. While it all worked out fine and I was able to make us some stellar contacts, I could have benefitted greatly by being a little more prepared. Silly me to think that an internet business can be done solely through the internet.
- Underestimating the amount of work that truly goes into a start-up. Now, let me explain. We knew it would be a lot of work, but we didn’t fully understand just how much effort it takes to create your first start-up. Here we are, both with full-time jobs, thinking we can simply come home each night, do something here or there, and it’ll all be great. Well, that realization that that simply won’t work hit us like a punch in the stomach. Now, it’s like we both have two full-time jobs, but we make it work. And it’s fun and exciting, but it’s tiring.
So, as your business plans start to mold into real, actionable ideas remember that it’s not going to be as streamlined and perfect as you think it’ll be. In fact, it’ll probably be the exact opposite and you’ll be stressed and Googling how to get out of crazy business situations you found yourself in. But don’t worry too much! Every entrepreneur has gone through this at one point or another. Consider it part of the initiation into the Be Your Own Boss club!
Now, it’s your turn! What mistakes did you make when starting your first business?