Advice for Entrepreneurs in 2021
Don’t let the wrath of 2020 scare you away from that business idea you have always wanted to pursue. 2021 is a new year and a new opportunity for you to be your own boss. The IASourceLink team has reached out to our small business community partners to seek advice for entrepreneurs starting in 2021. Read through these pieces of advice to find inspiration and direction as you take on 2021.
“Right now might seem like an incredibly challenging time to start a new business - and in some industries you are probably right. But for most of us and our entrepreneurial dreams, the timing will NEVER be perfect. There is an old Chinese proverb that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and the second best time is right now. It's no different with most of our dreams. Get started, take the first step, and then the second - diamonds aren't made overnight.”
- Dan Beenken, Sr. Program Manager, Advance Iowa, LinkedIn
“The key in starting any business is to know and understand customer discovery.”
- Mary Spitz, Administrative Assistant NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial and America’s SBDC Iowa, LinkedIn
“Consider the Shop Iowa platform as an option. Not only is it free for businesses to join, but we do not take a commission on their orders. It is a great way to easily sell online with support from a team that helps to review their store settings, product review and feedback, order management, and provides customer service. If they only sell online, we collect and remit taxes, so there's another step saved.”
- Cherie Edilson, CEO/Co-Founder Member Marketplace, Inc. LinkedIn
“If you have an idea but don't know how to bring it to life, look at the successful businesses in your town or check out your favorite shops' social media. Having a ‘role model’ is a great way to give yourself a direction. Observe what they do well. See what you like and dislike about their marketing and customer service. Pull the best examples and use them as a framework for your own business.”
- Sophie Troxell, Center for Business Growth and Innovation, LinkedIn
“Entrepreneurs considering starting a business in 2021 should make sure they take time to do business planning. Concentrate on the planning and market research and concept viability as opposed to just writing a business plan from a template. The business plan is merely a document that communicates your concept while you are fundraising, etc. Utilizing a process like Business Model Canvas will take the business through an important process that helps identify the target market, value proposition, and other pieces that lead to creating a solid, well researched business model. When that is complete, the business plan or a business pitch can be created to help communicate to lenders, investors or other key partners.”
- Sue Pitts, Regional Director Iowa Western SBDC, LinkedIn
"My first suggestion would be to understand who you are and what your individual values are...mine are Maturity, Courtesy and Honesty. Live your life by these values and you will be happy by the way you live your personal life, your faith life and your business life. Secondly, constantly learn, especially how to solve problems factually. The 5 W’s: who, what, why, when and where. Answer them factually and numerically, it will help you gain discipline as you continue to apply it. You only need to answer two more of the W’s to solve the challenge usually. Practicing this will help you continue to improve and help you become the problem solver who can teach others. Thirdly, don’t be afraid to fail, we learn a lot more from our failures than our successes."
- Bruce Tamisiea, President Tecton Industries, LinkedIn
“To be a successful entrepreneur, what matters the most isn’t your product or idea as much as it is your ability to take your product or idea and mold it into a value proposition that customers want, need AND will pay for.”
- Candi Karsjens, Director of Innovation and Acceleration NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, LinkedIn
“Get a domain name and business telephone number as early as you can. As you grow, it will be difficult to manage customer service if all of your customers email your personal address or call your personal cell phone. It will cost you $10-$20 per month but save you countless hours as you’re growing your business.”
- Dave Weis, President Pro Network Solutions, LinkedIn
“Anything in the service industry is a win, specifically coming off of a pandemic, people will pay to have things done. Low costs to start a business, sweat equity goes a long way. Also, make it second nature to use your own creativity and innovation. Finally, do not fall “in love” with your idea. I listened to a podcast from Mark Cuban and loved the advice he had for young entrepreneurs. “One thing in life you can control is your effort. If you have a goal and are trying to get there, go for it. Worst case you can learn something, best case…you crush it!”
- Kelley O’Rourke, NIACC School Partnership Entrepreneurial Coordinator, LinkedIn
“When you're creating and writing the story of your story, don’t let someone else hold the pen. Be careful who you listen to and take advice from. They’re not paying your bills. Definitely listen to what they have to say but at the end of the day it’s your choice to make the executive decision with every move you make to create whatever life fulfills you. Everyone has a different vision of success or happiness. Only you can see what makes you happy.” Shared from Will Sayasenh, UNI JPEC Alum & Owner Just the Beginning Films
- Laurie Watje, Associate Director University of Northern Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, LinkedIn
“There are two kinds of opportunities: Direct & Indirect. Direct opportunities will present themselves rarely and are exhaustible. Indirect opportunities will present themselves more often, potentially in patterns, but will be inexhaustible. In business, you may be presented with big opportunities, but they will likely leave just as fast as they came. Though these big opportunities can get you places fast, the small ones are more reliable and will bring you success in the long run.”
- Kyle Coogler, Founder of Tritect, LinkedIn
“Starting a new venture can be exciting and terrifying at the same time! There will always be unknowns as you build your business, so addressing those things you can know is important. For example, is your legal foundation in place and do you have a good understanding of the documents and agreements that are required for your specific structure? Do you have a solid working knowledge of the financial statements you will need, especially a cash flow statement? Gaining understanding of business concepts such as these might not be as exciting as creating your branding or pitching your product, but they are an important part of the planning process needed to ensure your business has a strong foundation to grow on.”
- Amy Kuhlers, Iowa Economic Development Authority, LinkedIn
“Regardless of when they're launched, businesses are more likely to grow and be resilient when they start with a good foundation: a solid business plan, a detailed marketing strategy and realistic financial forecasts. However, 2020 reminded us that all the planning in the world cannot overcome the need for adequate operating capital, current and accurate record-keeping overseen by flexible and creative leadership. Launching when hindsight truly is 20/20 (2020) might be the best time of all.”
- Amy Dutton, Regional Director University of Northern Iowa SBDC, LinkedIn
"Talk to people about your idea, start conversations, and have an open mind to receive feedback. The more you talk about your idea, the more it seems real and obtainable. You never know where a conversation or relationship can lead you. Building a support system with a strong network will make all the difference."
- Sami Schupanitz, Founder of Sami’s Sock Monkeys, LinkedIn
“Even the most idealized entrepreneurial journeys are best with setbacks and failures. Grit is the resilience that makes a person determined to bounce back. Some Social and Cognitive Psychologists may even go as far as to say this ability to adapt when one door closes is the very definition of intelligence.
One of the world’s leading experts on grit, Angela Duckworth’s (2014) research suggests that success does not depend on talent. It depends on intensely focusing on a goal with passion and perseverance. Rather than being merely motivated by external rewards, fame, and success, this kind of work ethic is grounded in intrinsic motivation, a self-belief that drives a person forward through setbacks and failures with a deep motivation to change things around us.
True grit is developed through practice, and through mindfully reflecting on experiences and failures. Do not look at a failure or setback as final. Find alternative solutions and paths if one solution does not work. Happy experimenting in 2021!
Photo credit: Abraham Lincoln statue, Neenah, WI.
Correction on plaque: Abraham Lincoln won his congressional race in '46, and didn't run for a second term in '48. And yet his plaque still got posted. So, Tip #2 & #3: Recognize which are the small details worth sweating, and oursource what you can."
- Lindi Roelofse, Academic Program Manager - UNI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, LinkedIn