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Early Success: 7 Entrepreneurs Who Got Rich During or After College

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Not all entrepreneurs wait until they have years of experience to start out on their own. Many have the confidence in their abilities and ideas to get an early start. The seven entrepreneurs below did just that. They either dropped out of school and found success quickly, or did so shortly after graduation.

1. Matt Mullenweg – WordPress

In 2003 Matt Mullenweg was a 19 year old freshman at the University of Houston. This was also the year he co founded WordPress. He’s also the cofounder of the Global Multimedia Protocols Group. That’s only the beginning. He also spent time at C-Net.

Thanks to these and other ventures, Mullenweg is now worth over 40 million dollars. He supports several charitable foundations including The Innocence Project and efforts to provide clean and safe drinking water to emerging nations.

2. Jen Rubio And Steph Korey – Away

Steph Korey was busy working on her advanced degree at Columbia university when her friend Jen Rubio approached her with an idea for a travel business. Rubio had been traveling when her suitcase failed in the middle of a Zurich airport. She reached out to friends via social media for recommendations on replacements. What she found was that nobody really had any. Apparently there simply weren’t suitcases that millennials found to be functional and affordable.

Jen got Steph on board and they launched Away, a luggage company dedicated to selling suitcases and other items directly to consumers. Since it was formed in 2015, they’ve raised 31 million dollars in capital and hired 66 employees. According to Rubio, “We were very lucky. My background is in branding and creative. Steph’s background is in product and supply chain and operations. Between us, we had a lot of things covered. We didn’t have to go outside for a lot of those things for a long time.”

3. Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook

Likely the most well known name on this list, Zuckerberg is still worth mentioning as an example of someone who decided to stop procrastinating and pursue their goals. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in 2004 while he was a student at Harvard. He and his friends created the social media platform to help other Harvard students connect with one another. Then, they began distributing the platform to other colleges and universities.

Zuckerberg left Harvard as a sophomore to continue building his enterprise. By the time he was 22, he became a millionaire. Since then, in spite of having many challengers, Facebook remains the premier social media platform. That, along with other platforms also owned by Facebook, including Instagram, show no sign of slowed growth.

 “Don’t let anyone tell you to change who you are.” – Mark Zuckerberg

4. Isa Watson – Envested

Isa Watson was working at Pfizer and well-entrenched in an MBA program at MIT Sloan when her father was tragically killed in a car accident. When she returned to her home city of Chapel Hill, her life began to take a definitive turn. Instead of following her dreams to head to Silicon Valley, she decided to stay in Chapel Hill and start a business with the goal of getting millennials to invest in local charitable initiatives.

To accomplish her goal, Watson along with other collaborators created Envested. This is, in essence a platform for local charities. Not for profits post profiles,  hold fundraising challenges, and tell their stories. At the same time, givers can sign up, learn more about local charities, and donate. Envested has even gamified charitable giving a bit with friends being able to see what one another is donating. Envested has raised 760K in funding.

5. Kyle Smitley – Barley And Birch

Kyle Smitley founded Barley and Birch in 2008. By 2009, the company had $400K in projected revenue. Her business, which produces an organic clothing line for children, quickly became popular with celebrities. In fact, both Jessica Alba and Sheryl Crow dressed their children in Barley And Birch. In addition to earning a sizeable profit early on, Smitley also committed to charitable giving.

After covering payroll and paying down a business loan, over half of Barley And Birch’s profits went to charity. What may be most impressive of all is that she launched this successful clothing company while she was a full time law student.

6. Lisa Q Fetterman – Nomiku

Fetterman graduated from journalism school at NYU, and immediately started a series of jobs in fine dining restaurants. She also worked as a journalist for several publications. However, it was a trend she witnessed in fine dining that would inspire her to start her own business. Fetterman noticed that several restaurants were using sous vide, a technique involving cooking meat and vegetables in a relatively low temperature water bath while vacuum sealed with herbs and marinades. Customers loved the result.

She and her future husband built a home sous vide unit on their first date. Then, they began assembling DIY kits for friends. This eventually grew into a business. Lisa Fetterman was only 26 when her business launched. Eventually, they raised $600K to launch Nomiku. The company now produces smart units that can be monitored and controlled via app. Their venture was also funded even further when Fetterman made an appearance on the show ‘Shark Tank’.

“When you’re ready to quit, you are closer than you think.” – Bob Parsons

7. Ryan Williams – Cadre

Williams entrepreneurial drive became clear when he was still a student at Harvard. There, he created technology that could track foreclosures. He and other students then used the information they mined to purchase and flip homes. After graduation, he spent time at Goldman Sachs then Blackstone. However, by the time  he was 26 he was ready to strike out on his own again. This time he founded Cadre. This is a platform that allows buyers and sellers to trade in nontraditional assets like they would stocks. He believes that this will create accessibility in areas such as real estate, oil, and energy where it did not previously exist. Currently, real estate is the primary focus of Cadre. Ryan William’s firm has currently earned north of $68 million in funding.

Conclusion

There are so many business ideas that started in college dorm rooms, or emerged shortly after. The entrepreneurs listed here are just a few examples of young people having great ideas and then putting those ideas into action. There are so many more, especially considering that a young entrepreneur can be successful without creating six or seven figures worth of revenue.

What did you learn from the stories of these entrepreneurs? Comment below!

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Igor Smirnov

    Mar 7, 2018 at 4:55 am

    Great Article. Article has inspired me.

  2. Amir Ayaz

    Feb 24, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Great Article…

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Entrepreneurs

9 Support Networks All Entrepreneurs Need to Succeed in Business

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Entrepreneurship is a lonely, but rewarding venture but you don’t have to go at it alone. While new business owners are advised to have an accountant and lawyer on their team, there’s rarely mention about the support networks you need as you start and grow your business. The people in these networks keep you focused, motivated and accountable. They are sources of encouragement, ideas, referrals and resources. Additionally, they give you feedback, constructive criticism and guidance.

Regardless of which stage your business is in, you’re going to need support. It’s best to establish your support systems as soon as you consider starting your own business. Then, cultivate those relationships as your business grows. Following, are the 9 support networks entrepreneurs need to succeed.

1. Mentors

A mentor is someone who has experience in the area in which you need help and is willing to help you. They provide direction and guidance, and shorten your learning curve by months, even years. Mentoring relationships can be formal or informal, in-person or virtual. Generally speaking, the mentor gives more than the mentee. However, the mentee can reciprocate by checking in periodically and asking if he or she needs anything. When contacting your mentor for advice or check-ins, be respectful of his or her time.

2. Accountability Partners (AP)

Accountability partners are the most important support person in your network. They hold you accountable for completing short-term projects. This is either a free or paid virtual relationship that requires commitment from both parties.

Here’s how this relationship works: You tell your AP the project you’re working on, the estimated completion date and desired result. Send a tentative outline of the steps required to complete the project. You both set a mutually convenient check-in schedule.

During check-ins, you will give an update on your progress, discuss challenges and next steps and ask for advice, if needed. You could also brainstorm ideas. Your partner can be a mentor, coach, friend or colleague. Essentially, it is anyone committed and invested in your success.

3. Coaches

Coaches help you develop personally or professionally. You hire and pay them for a set amount of time, although the time could be extended upon agreement by both parties. You can work with multiple coaches simultaneously. Be sure the people you’re considering hiring are qualified to help you before investing in their services. Also remember that you can fire them if they don’t provide the service and support you need.

4. Mastermind Groups

Mastermind groups are small groups that help you move forward professionally and keep you accountable in your endeavor. The group meets on a regular basis and each team member has a turn to discuss his or her successes and challenges, brainstorm ideas and consider possible solutions based on suggestions from team members. They meet in-person or virtually over a long or short-term period. These groups can be formal or informal and with paid or unpaid memberships.

5. Online Groups

Online groups are very convenient when you need help, especially when you spend most of your time online. Most groups are either on Facebook or LinkedIn. The most effective groups have active moderators that post frequently and hold members accountable.

The benefits of these online groups include, but are not limited to, meeting new and cool people, giving and receiving help and accountability. In addition, you’ll develop relationships that may grow offline.

In order to benefit from these groups, though, you have to be active. Don’t just appear with the expectation of getting help or drop in periodically. Be prepared to share your knowledge and experiences consistently. Memberships to online groups are typically free.

6. Meetups

Check out Meetup.com to connect in-person with people with similar interests in business, hobbies or fitness. In addition to meeting people and learning new things, there may opportunities to conduct presentations and workshops. You may also connect with potential partners for business projects. Most meetups are free to attend however, some events require a small fee.

7. Professional Organizations

These member-based organizations cater to professionals in specific professions and industries. Continuing education, updates on industry news and laws, and networking opportunities are just a few benefits they offer. You have to pay annual dues, as well as registration fees for monthly meetings and other events.

8. Friends

Friends are your foundation. They will listen to you, encourage you, and be honest with you, even if you don’t like it. When they may not know what you’re talking about. They may even ask clarifying questions and offer suggestions. Most importantly, they will comfort you during challenging times.

9. Business Development Centers

Your business growth is their priority. They have counselors and partners to help you at all levels of business. They hold workshops, seminars, conferences and networking events, sometimes in partnership with organizations who want to reach business owners. They offer opportunities to pitch and present your business to investors and banks for funding. And they connect you with other business owners who can become clients or partners. Counseling services are free, but you do have to pay for workshops, conferences and other special events and services.

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5 DIY Skills That Will Take Your Entrepreneurial Journey to New Levels

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An entrepreneur can be any person who builds and operates their own business. Entrepreneurs take on a greater risk than that of people who are employees of a business. Because of risks such as financial uncertainty, business oppositions and career stability, entrepreneurs possess unique skills not everyone has.

Make no mistake, entrepreneurs aren’t always born with these skills. Many obtain their business expertise by learning and growing in their industry. Whether you are struggling with your startup plan or wish to make your startup standout, you’ll need a specific set of skills to thrive.

You may already know some of these skills but you simply need to improve them. Take a look at these 5 DIY skills every entrepreneur needs:

1. The Ability to Communicate Eloquently

Every entrepreneur needs to be an effective communicator whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or you run a company with over 600 employees. You need to understand how to communicate effectively with business partners, customers and employees you deal with on a daily basis.

If you have underdeveloped communication skills, the growth of your business will suffer. Your success at getting your point across clearly can be the difference between sealing a deal and missing out on a potential opportunity.

When you’re an entrepreneur you should be able to express yourself concisely in the following scenarios:

  • Clearly explain policies and procedures to customers and clients
  • Answer any questions about your products and services
  • Public speaking during conferences or presentations
  • Friendly but fair demeanor towards your employees

Effective communication can foster excellent relationships with customers, employees and business partners. In turn, your relationships with everyone involved in the business will improve morale and efficiency.

Here are a few ways you can improve your communication skills: Active listening, understanding non-verbal signs, maintaining eye contact, assertiveness and dealing with different points of views.

2. A Talent for Sales

Having a talent for sales is a skill that will help you go far as an entrepreneur. This is especially true if you’re a merchant. If you’re selling goods you need to be able to sell anything and be knowledgeable about your product. As an entrepreneur, you’ll also need to know how to sell your business ideas to potential investors

Sales representatives are known for their tenacity. They’re extremely persistent in their pursuit to sell. Persistence is important in a business because a sale rarely happens on the first contact. Such resilience is vital to entrepreneurs who have to experience failure before succeeding.

Having a talent in sales will make you a successful entrepreneur because you’ll excel in these areas:

  • Share ample knowledge about products and services
  • Strategic prospecting
  • Building rapport with clients
  • Sourcing new business effectively
  • Gaining customer loyalty

Sales reps care about results but the way they achieve this is by being relentless and never giving up on their target.

3. Excellent Problem Solving Skills

In any business, there will be a few obstacles you’ll need to overcome in order for your business to grow. The good news is there will always be a solution to every problem; you simply have to think outside the box.

In order to solve problems effectively, you need to be extremely decisive. Sometimes this will require you to make decisions on the spot when a problem arises. As a novice entrepreneur, know that it’s acceptable to make mistakes; sometimes your decisions won’t be the best but they will help you grow your problem-solving skills.

Not everyone will agree with your products and services but this is a good way to test your problem-solving skills. For example, you’ve started up a food business but people may not be happy that there are no animal-free options. The way you can solve this problem is by implementing vegetarian and vegan dishes to your menu.

4. An Aptitude for Negotiations

Entrepreneurs face many challenges, especially when presenting innovative ideas to help expand the business. One skill needed which can guarantee the success of any entrepreneur is the ability to negotiate. Excellent negotiation skills can help you close deals and gain a positive reputation. While not all entrepreneurs have negotiation skills you can learn if you apply yourself.

An effective negotiation skill is to always be prepared. Have all your documents in place when you’re having a meeting and be equipped to answer any questions or inquiries effectively. When negotiating, always keep your emotions under control. Know that everyone has different opinions and you must be responsive in a professional manner when dealing with these views.

Make sensible compromises when negotiating. This means you shouldn’t give away anything unless you’re receiving something in return. Both parties need to understand this concept and need to accept any changes going forward.

If you’re negotiating because a problem arose with your products or services, try to write up policies and procedures for your company. Make them visible to all people connected to the business so you’re always covered legally.

5. Be Knowledgeable in your Field

No one will do business with someone who doesn’t know their own products and services. That’s why it’s imperative to have ample knowledge of the products and services you sell. You can then answer questions on the spot and give your clients in depth detail about what you can offer them.

A successful entrepreneur knows all the ins and outs of his or her business. This includes how products work, the materials used to manufacture them and if they’re safe to use. Make sure you know the process of your business and how you conduct your services. This will build excellent rapport with your clients.

Becoming an entrepreneur is something many people wish they could achieve but not everyone is brave enough to take the risk. What people don’t realize is that the skills are within reach if you’re only willing to learn. Simply tap into them by expanding your knowledge and build skills through experience.

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The Secret to Becoming the Most Desirable Person to Do Business With

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Marketplace distinction is a very important factor in business today. You might have discovered that several other businesses offer the same or similar solutions that you do. This creates tough competition to get customers.

Being first to the market often gives an initial edge but that doesn’t last as innovation and marketing strategy changes the expectation and taste of customers. Blockbuster Video was once an industry leader but now it is eclipsed and out of business because of Netflix. There was a time Blackberry phones were at the top of the smartphone world as well. Now they have been outclassed in that market.

You must have noticed also that the companies with the best products and services are not always the ones with the best business. In fact, it is a common notion that smaller companies often offer better services than their larger competitors. This perhaps is because of the fact that they have smaller clients and can offer more tailored solutions and customer service. However, the majority still keep rushing to the largest companies in the industry. The common assumption is that the product or service is better, but in several cases, it’s not.

Becoming the company with the best business in the industry depends on how desirable you are to do business with as an entrepreneur. And if the business is a large corporation, the business depends on how desirable the managers and company representatives are as well.

We live in a day and age where clients and customers are emotionally driven towards making a purchase and then create a logical reason to back up their emotions. Nobody buys if the logic says yes but the emotions say no. This is why several companies today are trying to associate their brand with known social vices. You do remember the Nike ad with Colin Kaepernick and the Gillette ad that sparked a lot of discussion on social media. You don’t have to go that far if you don’t want to as there is another way.

“Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.” – Kevin Stirtz

There is a local community I once had to live with. The community was famous for its spiced roasted meat. It was sold on the street by the locals. When people come around to buy from them and speak English, they sell at their usual prices. But if you approached them and spoke their native language, they will be beaming with smiles and you can walk away with as much as a 50% discount. Why? The most beautiful thing to the ears of any person is their own language, especially when they least expect it.

This can be flipped into the business world too. Instead of triggering an emotional downpour on social media, you can target your audience and make them yours. It is the way to become the most desirable person to do business with. Speak the language of your customers.

Below, are the 2 steps to becoming the most desirable person to do business with whether you have a big company or are a one person operation:

1. Identify where your customers are

It’s difficult to know who your customers are without knowing where they are. A smart way to learn where the customers are is to conduct a survey of the customers you have already and find out how they learned about your company. The survey will seek to understand their reason for doing business with you and it might not be what you think.

The survey should also seek to understand what all your current customers have in common. It might be another product or service offered by another company complementary to yours. It might be a certain location. It might be a specific industry. The purpose of this is to pinpoint a waterfall of potential clients.

2. Identify what your customers want to hear

You have probably heard of trigger words. Yes, they do exist but they vary depending on the type of clients or customers you serve. You learn the words by listening to them. The purpose is not to manipulate the customers but to create an emotional connection with them when you talk about the solution you offer them. There are clients who walk away from the solution they need just because they did not connect with the one offering the solution. So make sure you are listening to them and figuring out a way to create an emotional connection.

The decision of the client to do business with you is not hinged on how awesome your product or services are, rather it is based on how well you understand their problem. They are going to know how well you understand their problem with how fluent you speak their language. And that is the secret to being the most desirable person to do business with.

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3 Ways You Can Get Back to Basics While Accelerating Your Business Growth

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Young kids are a living, breathing, walking and talking reminder of how important the basics are. They usually underestimate simple everyday tasks and create new chaos in the process. This creates a real time reminder for themselves, and everyone around them, of how important getting back to the basics are. If you have ever watched a baby try to walk or eat, something you do every day, this is very clear.

A growing business is much like a growing child. Rapid growth during the first few years, independence and confidence as the idea grows into a profitable business, and eventually adolescent rebellion once the taste of success comes in. As a business grows, change becomes inevitable, and can very often be unmanageable and overwhelming.

A business can also experience growing pains. From adding staff, to something as simple as time management, the growth of a business can sometimes be more stressful than the death of a business. Success hinges on adaptability, but it is equally important to take time to recognize what got you started when the business was just an idea.

Here are some of the stages your business may be going through, and the way to adapt and grow effectively and efficiently:

1. The terrible twos

As your company grows, the expectations of it and you will change. You are no longer the new kid on the block with limitless potential. Sticking to your core values and adapting to change becomes a full-time balancing act. Very often this early onset of success allows you to hire more people and expand your reach. Especially in companies experiencing hockey stick growth, you may have forgot to create a corporate culture when it was just a few of you in a garage.

Even if you are in an early stage of your company it is important to document the work you are doing and create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and expectations of every task you are completing alone. Once you hire someone, it will be much easier to train them if you can hand them a document telling them this is how you do it.

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement and success have no meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin

2. The tween years

People can get so busy working in their business that they forget to work on it. Be sure to notice the borders of your company and plan how to broaden them. As a company now with profits, employees and resources, you’re keeping busier than ever, but not sure what is next. Much like a child still needs their parents for some of the basics like food and shelter, during this stage of business, coaches and mentors are so important. Be sure to surround yourself with people who are where you want to be and learn from them. This is the make or break point for many businesses so make sure you are working and surrounding yourself with the right people.

3. Entrepreneur adolescents

Many teenagers feel like an adult, because physically and mentally they feel like they are there, but socially and economically they are not even close in most cases. Success can be blinding and create this same false positive for a growing company. Success can create a comfortable bubble that can distract from further growth. The comfort can create slip-ups and mistakes. Be mindful, and don’t let progress slow you down.

During this stage of business, coaches and mentors are still a key factor to success. They may not be the same ones you had in earlier stages, but the great thing about today’s market place is you can find someone out there to get the advice and guidance you may need. In this phase it very well can be a peer or someone on the same level. 

So, what can you do about this day to day? Read below:

1. Back to the Future

Go back to old emails, files, photos, and reminisce. Every venture has a beginning. The photos and emails you have recorded and collected can be just as much an inspiration as your current goals and challenges. Make sure you have the TimeHop app on your phone, this will help jog your memory.

2. Get feedback

Talk to clients and get feedback. We get many chances to talk to new clients, but make sure you go back and question old clients to understand their perspective on your work and business. Ask them about the changes they have noticed and whether the same kind of qualities are still there when they started with you.

“No company can afford not to move forward. It may be at the top of the heap today but at the bottom of the heap tomorrow, if it doesn’t.” – James Cash Penney

3. The Social Network

Networking is key as well, both on and offline. Listen to new people and new customers. You will see plenty of new faces along your journey up, make sure you are receptive and accepting of the new kinds of ideas these people bring along with them. Rigidity can kill a business. Make sure you are networking with the right people online via social media. During all stages of growth, it is so important to be networking in person locally, and make sure you get on a plane and go to an event!

Remember, a business is run by people, and as a CEO and Entrepreneur, you are a person. Make sure you keep growing your business, because if you’re not growing your dying.

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