Since I started Crave for Crafts I set the goal of attending at least two networking events per month. Why? Because I soon realized that if I wanted to succeed in this crazy entrepreneurial adventure, I needed to surround myself with new friends I could relate to. I had to find people “who had been there before”, not just to learn from them, but also to keep the motivation high, especially in times when you are earning zero to nothing, and struggling with insecurities and doubts every other day.
Because these are my facts:
- I don’t come from an entrepreneurial family. This is tricky in two ways. First, no one in my extended family has ever set up a business. Therefore, I haven’t grown up with real life examples of what to expect when you work for yourself. Second, the values I was raised with were around financial security, stability and risk aversion. But when I deep dived into my own values, I realized that for me, flexibility and freedom are above security and comfort (this realization has been a journey itself, thanks Patrizia Santoriello for your priceless coaching sessions!)
- I have never worked at a small company. My previous experience has been at big companies, with big budgets, proofed processes and procedures and jobs where I could only see a tiny part of the business.
- On the same note, my friends also come from the corporate world. So I can’t ask them for advice on what to do to grow my social media following, best software for book keeping or how to set up Mandrill (my latest nightmare).
- I studied Business Administration at university but my formal education has not prepared me to administer a business in real life. Not even close. I can do my accounting and book keeping but how do I grow my business? How do I run effective Facebook ads? Should I invest in them or should I not?
Through these events, I have met a community of entrepreneurs (and friends!) here in Brisbane that has helped feel more confident on what I am doing and why I am doing it.
Imogen comes to these events sometimes, but it is harder for her due to babies requirements.
The event with Dan Norris
Anyway, back to my latest networking catch ups and learnings. A couple of weeks ago, I attended an event with Dan Norris, the founder of WP Curve, the 7 Day Start Up, and co-founder of Black Hops Brewing. You might have heard of this guy, or not, but his story was super motivating. After working at a company for a couple of years, Dan realized his job was too predictable and boring. So he quit and started setting up a business as a website developer. From his own words, the business was a disaster. He wasn’t making any profit, as the pricing structure was wrong, and after a while, he was not even enjoying his own business anymore. He then tried different business ideas (over 7 years!) but none of them really took off to be really successful, profitable or sustainable.
After these 7 arduous years, when he was just about to give up, with no money left in the Bank and almost forced to go back to a traditional job, he had a light bulb moment and started the WP Curve in only 7 days. The WP curve provides 24/7 live support to WordPress users through a monthly subscription structure (this idea is super awesome if you ask me).
Photo credit: http://dannorris.me
The business became a massive hit within a month and he did not have to come back to a ”normal” job. Since then, Dan Norris has founded other super successful businesses and written 2 books. My take away from this networking event were:
- Failure is part of the journey, and it is inevitable. You will make wrong decisions, set up wrong pricing structures, and this is part of the game. The reality is that no one who starts a business has any freaking idea of what they are doing. However, the key is to recognize when things are not working to identify the issues, pivot and re-direct. (Dan Norris business philosophy is aligned with the Lean Start Up)
- Don’t over think. Take action as soon as possible. If you wait until the business is perfectly set up, you might be investing time and money in an idea that might not work.
- Focus on making money (and profit margin!) asap. Cash flow is the only metric that matters when you are starting.
- Don’t listen to what people say. Over the “failure years”, his mates were doing much better than him, and kept asking him what he was really doing with his life. He did not pay attention to the noise and kept working hard to make his businesses succeed.
- Listen to your customers, listen to what people really need. Part of his previous failures was that he was offering services that people really didn’t need, such as website analytics that Google offers for free. The WP Curve offers an instant/affordable solution to entrepreneurs struggling with WordPress (like me!)
- Have fun with what you are doing. If you are not enjoying what you are doing, it will permeate through the work you do. It will show.
- Build an email list asap and use it to provide valuable content to your audience. This is how you build trust over the years.
Do you attend networking events and what have you learnt?