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From what we see on TV, on the Internet and by checking our social networks, the founders of startups are young men who live in Silicon Valley . But according to various studies , the average entrepreneur opens his first business at age 40. The Kauffman Foundation found that in recent years, older people started more businesses than younger ones, and another study found that 70 percent were married and 60 percent had at least one child when they launched their first business. And the reasons for doing so include everything from becoming millionaires to not wanting to work for someone else.
And this is not just a “moment” for older generations, feeling trapped in corporate life is a feeling that has been building for years.
According to a 2013 Gallup poll , two-thirds of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers do not feel engaged in their work, and the main reason for this disconnect is not feeling tied to the mission of the company.
All of this culminates in many people from those generations wanting to move into the entrepreneurial world, and I include myself.
In 2010, after being diagnosed with lupus at 45, I decided to change my eating habits, including being more creative on family nights. We had a tradition of ordering pizza on Friday nights, but the processed dough was doing me a lot of damage. So I started experimenting with cauliflower. Three years after presenting my experiment in a local market, my Cali’flour Foods brand now has a presence in Whole Foods, Albertsons, Safeway, Walmart and Kroger, among other stores. In 2018 we were selling a pizza dough every six seconds in our digital store.
And while being a big entrepreneur has its advantages (such as more financial backing, a stronger network, and experience), it also has its own challenges.
For all those looking for a first adventure in the entrepreneurial world, here are some ways to prepare and avoid the most common mistakes.
Start working on your business while someone else keeps paying you
Do you want to make sure you don’t have to go back to the corporate world that you hate? Then get ready. Get started on your business while being backed by a 9 to 6 job. Take small steps to ensure your idea resonates, really pays off, and has a niche in the market. This may mean spending your weekends in front of the computer (instead of eating with your family) or spending your nights researching things (instead of watching Netflix), but it will help you a lot when the time comes to quit.
For example, if you have a service business, you can start building your customer base. Something that I see a lot is people working for free at the beginning to have clients. The reason is that these new clients will give you their feedback on what you are doing well and what you are not, as well as acting as a reference and offering testimonials of what you offer.
If you are a product business, launch your store. Start looking for people who interact with your business. Do small tests to see where your customers are on the Internet. This will help you know where to invest your resources and time.
Create a business plan
I know that not everyone wants to sit down and do a complete business plan, but trust me, this will give you a lot of information and perspective.
Giving yourself the time to think about everything from marketing to technology to finance allows you to see the areas of opportunity.
This is not done in one afternoon; Building a solid business plan may take weeks (if not months), but it will help you figure out what your business needs to have to be successful. It has to be a work in progress, and the business owner must be flexible and willing to learn from his mistakes rather than get frustrated and demotivated. I really believe that a mistake is an opportunity for growth, and that we must open the door to mistakes. It may seem paradoxical, but the more mistakes we make, the more we grow. It was something quite strange and something that we definitely had not planned in our original business plan.
I would also recommend that an experienced advisor review your plan. I know enough to know how much I don’t know, so it’s important to surround yourself with people who know more than you. This is the wisdom of Solomon Short who says “Half of your intelligence lies in knowing the things you are stupid about.” Since I had limited experience, I hired a very experienced CFO to review our plan and his experience was helpful.
Add your family
This decision is not just about you. If you have a partner and / or children you need their support, if not, things at home will be very stressful.
Since I started Cali’flour Foods, my family has been involved. They are everything to me, so it was essential that they agree. In the beginning, I made deliberate efforts to include my husband and children in every aspect of the business, from company name to product development to selling in local California markets. And to this day, they are still involved.
Even if your family is not part of the business itself, they are part of your life. When you start thinking about leaving your corporate job you need to communicate this wish to your family. To get their support, tell them about your plan. Tell them how you are going to do things, including how you are going to make money (either through business or by looking for freelance work while your business takes off) and why this is important to you. If there is something that is going to change in their daily routine, explain the change and how you plan to handle it. The more comfortable they feel, the better the transition will be.
Prepare yourself financially
This is a big thing and it can be the difference between making or breaking your business – prepare yourself financially as much as you can.
Although you now have more financial stability, you also have more responsibilities. Make sure you have all the pieces in place.
When I started with Cali’Flour Foods, I was lucky to have savings that I could use as capital. Later, when we were more established, he had built a line of credit that he could draw on.
But much of the start of my business was built on credit cards and we lived hand in hand. It is a mental challenge to operate in this way, especially when you have a team working with you that depends on you for a salary.
Having a backup plan is essential. It could be that you get a job as a freelancer or teach classes or whatever while making your business profitable, or seek other sources of capital. We went with Shopify and Amazon, both of which offered loans. Additionally, our local bank was extremely accessible and we partnered with them for certain financing efforts.
When starting your business, consider all of your options. Consider generating a robust budget, meet with a financial advisor, and attend workshops while you save.
Also think about changing your habits. How much do you spend and how much could you reduce that? You need to plan this because as they say, if you don’t make plans then you plan to fail.
Set dates … to return to work
The world of entrepreneurship is a roller coaster. There will be impressive ups and downs, and if you do it, it will all have been worth it.
But there are many businesses that fail (some say 90 percent in the first five years). What do you need to achieve with your company to avoid having to return to the corporate world? What profit do you need to make to survive?
Although many people take things from day to day, when you have other financial obligations (a house, the children’s school, etc.) this is not a good plan (and honestly, it is not a good strategy for anyone).
Decide how much you need to earn per month to do it as an entrepreneur. Take into account your lifestyle, your expenses and what you have to contribute to your home. Go back from there. Set measurable goals that you can achieve and that bring you closer to that amount. Then set dates and check them every now and then. Make adjustments if necessary, but hold yourself accountable.
Lean on your network of contacts
Perhaps the greatest advantage you have as a large entrepreneur is that you have to build a large network of contacts. Use it.
When you start thinking about quitting your job (or if you just quit), tell your friends, colleagues, and acquaintances and ask for their support. This can be simply presenting your project, when partnering, asking for financial support or simply asking for advice. The people around you will be the ones to help you keep moving forward.
When I was just developing Cali’flour Foods, I joined the Specialty Food Association and found a counselor at one of the seminars (which I keep going to). He has been one of the keys to our success, as well as surrounding me with other like-minded individuals. These industry experts prevent me from falling or help me meet the people I need to score my next win.
I also met Bob Burke at a seminar, and he has become a great mentor. He has more than 30 years of experience in the sector and is very well connected. He taught me a lot about commerce and introduced me to key people in the industry. Since then, I have invited him to be a part of our board of directors, something that has been a great blessing to both me and the business.
Finally, I highly recommend investing in workshops and seminars. These experiences offer industry knowledge and provide a strong network of contacts to support you as you grow.
Have the right mindset
I often hear from large entrepreneurs worried that they cannot compete with their younger counterparts. This mindset can be detrimental to your success. It is important to know that you have experience and use it to your advantage.
Pain and obstacles are a fact of life, and it is in these moments that you should most have a “warrior mentality” and change your perspective towards success, have guts and resilience, and go through adversity to come out better and stronger.
I believe that the warrior mentality grows stronger thanks to experience because you learn to overcome obstacles and how to navigate and handle them in a more meaningful and positive way.