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3 Lessons I Learned From the Failure of My First Startup

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startup failure

You’re exhausted. You’ve put countless of hours into an idea that you believed in so much. Literally almost blood, sweat and tears were sacrificed for this vision to be accomplished. You had hoped and expected for a lot of things, and was excited to have plans for the future.

A few months ago, I wrote an article here titled, “What I Learned After Opening My First Business at 21.” My restaurant was doing well that time, and writing that article made me feel on top of the world. I thought that it was going to be that way for a long time, yet not so long after that, sales started to become stagnant and then declined.

As I write this today, my restaurant has already stopped operations. It stopped a few days ago, but a couple months back, I knew it was bound to happen. We couldn’t keep up with the bills we needed to pay, and they kept accumulating day by day. With a heavy heart and chaotic mind, we knew we had to close it down.

I couldn’t believe this was happening barely one year after starting operations. But if you were to ask me that if I had the chance to start over, would I do it again? I would still say yes. Despite its failure, there were still very important (also expensive) lessons that I learned that I would never have acquired otherwise if I didn’t start the business.

Here are a few lessons I learned after failing my first startup:

1. Entrepreneurship requires resilience

You cannot ever be successful if you haven’t developed resilience. Whether you like it or not, something will turn out wrong in your business. Maybe sometimes not to the point that it needs to be shut down, but something that could make your decisions critical to your organization goals.

You could give yourself time to grieve, but it shouldn’t stop there. Life goes on. And you need to get back on your feet if you still want to make a difference. The biggest companies that are successful right now all experienced a massive amount of failure.

But they never stopped trying. Because with every failure comes a lesson. Anyone with common sense would learn from that failure, and start again with more knowledge on what to do and what not to do.

Whenever I thought about the accumulated debts of my restaurant, I would have this sinking feeling in my chest and stomach. I knew that I would have to liquidate the assets. So I continued to search for buyers of the assets.

Instead of grieving for a much longer period, I knew I’d have to pick myself back up again so I could pay the debt. It might be hard at first, but if you call yourself an entrepreneur, quitting is not an option. We fail, we learn, then get back up.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

2. Learn to listen

Being a first-time founder, I had a very idealistic attitude. I had no experience in the food industry and established the business with only the belief that my partners and I would make it. I was wrong.

Aside from not being able to make it with that business, I realized what the naysayers had been telling me all along. But you have to be careful here. There are naysayers who have no credibility to back up what they say and want to bring you down. But there are also ones who speak from experience and are genuinely concerned for you. You must learn to discern the right voices to listen to if you want to succeed.

Taking risks is good, but make sure those risks are calculated and not reckless. We took a risk that wasn’t entirely reckless, but not all aspects of them were calculated. We were unsure of some parts of the business, and just “winged” it. Look at what happened to winging it!

Know when you need to jump with both feet or just one, but also listen to the voices who tell you when to put your feet in the water. Trust me, you never know when you will value their input.

3. Your failures do not define you

I never thought this would take a toll on my self-esteem, even when I knew I had to get back up. On the outside I looked normal. Going to school, work, and social settings looking like nothing had happened. But inside I was a wreck and didn’t want to admit it.

I would feel guilty whenever people would praise me about how “successful” I was at such a young age but that wasn’t true. For a while I thought that I was the failure. My insecurities started haunting me again and my browser history was filled with questions on what to do.

That was when I discovered that successful people failed more often than they succeeded. Even the ones with smaller businesses had their fair share of failures before finding an idea that worked for them.

But their failures never got to their heart. They weren’t the failures. The business failed, not them. So they tried again until they got it right. Maybe this business didn’t work out for me, but that doesn’t mean I’ll never be successful. The sooner you believe your failures don’t define you, the more the weight will be lifted off your shoulders.

People fail every single day. The difference between the ones who succeed and those who don’t is persistence and the drive to continue even after failing. It’s much better to try and fail than never having to start and learn nothing.

“Success is not a good teacher, failure makes you humble.” – Shah Rukh Khan

Have you ever started a business that eventually failed? What did you learn from it? Please leave your experiences below!
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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Mel Taylor

    Oct 3, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks for a great article coming from one entrepreneur to the next, a lot comes from failure, like you said failer is really a teacher for success, nothing comes easy, embrace failure and keep pushing to the top.

  2. Ask Writing UK

    Jul 26, 2017 at 12:25 am

    I want to do a startup of my business in field of IT, because I am doing job in related field almost five years. That’s why I am deciding to startup my own business someone tell me or give me best suggestion related to my startup?

  3. Nicah Caramba

    Jul 7, 2017 at 5:01 am

    You’re very welcome, Kamau! 🙂

  4. James Elliot

    Jun 30, 2017 at 5:44 am

    I have been there too. It is true that failure teaches one very valuable lessons in life. It develops a natural urge to self help. It humbles one and shows the world in a light which you might have missed if you were ever successful. It is very important to not just try but retry every time.

  5. Kamau

    Jun 29, 2017 at 6:49 am

    Thanks. Very Informative and inspiring

  6. Sija Mafu

    Jun 23, 2017 at 6:47 am

    Thank you, Nica. Some valuable lessons there. I’ve been working on a building a network marketing business for almost 5 years now and it hasn’t taken off. I realize my own mistakes and now doing things a little differently having learned from them.

    • Nicah Caramba

      Jun 28, 2017 at 4:40 pm

      Hi, Sija!
      Don’t give up! But do consider being more open to other strategies so you can figure out what works and what doesn’t.
      I’m glad you realized your mistakes and doing things differently now.
      What’s important is that we make mistakes and learn from them, then apply it on our business.
      Wishing you all the best! 🙂

  7. Andrea Torti

    Jun 19, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    These are great lessons for everyone, indeed.

    Yes, our failures don’t define us – the way we react to them can, though 🙂

    • Nicah Caramba

      Jun 28, 2017 at 4:41 pm

      Your insight is on point, Andrea!
      Our failures shouldn’t get to our hearts.

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Startups

5 Ways to Deal With Startup Uncertainty

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how to deal with uncertainty in your startup
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Starting your own company may sound like a dream come true in your mind, on social media, and to all the people looking on in envy from their office jobs. But when the fantasy fades, you realize how much uncertainty you now have in your life. The inherent risk in any startup is that you are trading the certainty of a normal job for real growth and freedom. What people get from office jobs is much more than a steady pay check and free coffee. It’s a sense of certainty that their lives, work, and finances are in order.

You will have to give up certainty to fully take on the risks of this lifestyle. It will be roller-coaster and something you need to prepare for. Logically, it’s easy to know that. But emotionally, there are so many ups and downs in an entrepreneur’s life. Stress, frustration, and decreased motivation are inevitable.

Here are 5 ways you can deal with startup uncertainty:

1. Stick to a morning routine

There’s many ways to start a morning routine. What’s important is to have a stable, predictable routine. This centers your mind and gives you some order to your day. You manage your business and you can do whatever you want. No boss and no one telling you what to do, it can be mix of productive to outright messy days. By giving yourself some stability, you start the day off in a predictable way so that you can jump into work each day.

It’s as easy as taking your dog to the park, having a cup of coffee, and listening to a motivating audiobook for 20 minutes. You may need meditation to get into the state. Whatever it is that you need to get from a sleepy/hungover mindset to that of taking on the day.

“If you win the morning, you win the day.” – Tim Ferriss

2. Make time for high performance books

Speaking of audiobooks, everyone – especially entrepreneurs, need motivation. Get a few motivating books from other business leaders. This will do incredible things for your mindset and the way you think. Most of them help by keeping you excited for bigger goals. Look for classics from Jim Rohn and Tony Robbins. Or the newer motivational personalities like David Goggins and Rachel Hollis. You’ll be surprised at how much hearing someone’s hardships on their journey will help you on your own.

3. Schedule your week

It’s easy to get a packed calendar working an office job. Everyone else in the company seems to be demanding your time for one meeting or another. Pointless meetings are even the reason some people leave their jobs in the first place. The issue with having your own startup is that while the pointless meetings are gone, so too is any semblance of structure from a filled up calendar.

Spend one evening and fill the upcoming week as much as possible. I recommend Sunday afternoons to think about your goals. Plan big tasks every day throughout the week. That way you always know what you should be working on and stay on track.

4. Hit the gym

This one is actually part of my morning routine and it’s benefits can’t be overstated. Exercise helps fight off anxiety and stress. There’s no better way to funnel your business frustrations more than into the weights. By the time you’re done, your body and mind will be much more relaxed. A necessity when it comes to the tension of being an entrepreneur. Whether that’s staring at your laptop or making sales calls.

“Daily exercise is an insurance policy for future illness.” – Robin Sharma

5. Be grateful

Gratitude was one of the feel good things that I always used to skip whenever it was mentioned. I wanted cold, calculated strategy or tools I could use to build a business as fast as possible. Many brilliant minds in not only self help but also in business, speak about the need for gratitude.

Here’s why it helps me when the business is going through growing pains or everything seems like it is going wrong. I get filled with doubt and uncertainty and gratitude is the quickest way to relief.

Yes, starting your own business is a massive effort, but there is always some job out there. You decided to launch something of your own because you don’t want a baseline existence. You want to grow and build with the freedom someone can only give themselves.

That alone is enough to be grateful. But if you need more, how about that most people are too scared to do what you’re doing. Or that you are taking the time to believe in yourself and live a life of taking chances.

That speaks to your character and self-worth. Much more than the life of quiet misery so many people in the world allow to decide their entire lifestyle. Be grateful you have this opportunity and make the most of it.

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Startups

The Best Side Hustle You Can Start Today In Just 15 Minutes

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The best side hustle you can start in 15 minutes is blogging.

It can be writing, making videos or speaking about topics you love through a regular podcast show. All of these acts are a form of blogging.


15 minutes is not long

That’s why blogging is a good choice.

A video that’s less than 15 minutes is easy to make and will work well.

A short piece of writing can be written in under 15 minutes.

A 10-minute audio conversation on one single question will give people heaps of value and detail in one particular area.

Starting is not where the power lies. Doing this side hustle every single day is how you get what you’re really looking for.


Many successful people are doing this

Whether it’s Hollywood actors like Will Smith or writers like Tim Ferriss or musicians like Ariana Grande — everyone is doing it.

Why is everyone doing the side hustle of blogging?

  1. It’s how we connect with each other.
  2. It actually works.
  3. It’s a way to create an audience which can become a business.

I didn’t invent this side hustle

I just tried it for myself and saw how powerful it was.

It got me:

  • New clients for my 9–5
  • A new 4 day a week day job
  • Clients to coach via Skype
  • Features in major publications like CNBC
  • The opportunity to meet amazing human beings like LinkedIn influencer Michael Chapman

The side hustle of blogging gave me meaning for my life

Before this side hustle, I was washed up, uninspired, negative and pissed off with the world.

Spending 15 minutes to start the habit of blogging got me out of my head. It forced me to search all over the internet and find things to talk about. Pretty soon I was spending 2+ hours a night researching personal development and figuring out what I wanted to blog about.

Blogging led me to want to help the homeless, share my very private battle with mental illness, come to grips with my startup failures and share the lessons, and even overcome my fear of public speaking in the process.

Now I have a meaning for my life thanks to the side hustle of blogging. I reckon it can do the same to help you grow and get you to the next level. You can blog about whatever you want and then watch it grow from there.


Why is blogging the best side hustle?

It’s how you be creative.
It’s how you express yourself.
It’s how you grow.
It’s how you attract the right people into your life.

There are many side hustles you could choose. Blogging is one of many. In my opinion and based on my experience, it’s the best. There are so many avenues you can go down.

Attracting what you want in your life has a lot to do with what you’re putting out into the world”

Blogging is a fantastic way to put out more of what’s important to you, into the world. Like a magnet, blogging attracts more of what you put out into your life.


Oh and don’t forget the income

Investing, giving back and making an income are all possible through blogging too. Part of my monthly income comes from blogging.

This allows me to back causes that help those in need, invest in stocks that provide me with a passive income and have money to spend on the occasional treat such as dinner dates and drinks with my co-workers.

That money comes from:

  1. Ghostwriting for other people
  2. Posting on Medium.com
  3. Coaching clients via Skype
  4. Consulting to businesses on how they can create content that aligns with their brand

There aren’t too many side hustles that can do that for you

Seriously, blogging is a game-changer. It’s a habit you can start in 15 minutes and repeat daily without much effort. Choose your poison — writing, video or audio — and then get started.

Do it for around twelve months and then send me an email with what you experience. I already know, having challenged lots of people already to start this side hustle, that it will work. It just requires patience and the habit of doing it daily.

15 minutes to start today.

And then 15 minutes every day for the rest of your life.

Try it.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Startups

You Are The Problem With Your Business

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A great way to screw up your company is to get into the habit of blaming your suppliers, the market, your staff or your product for your failures.

I recently heard a story of a business that had set up a website. They sold various products and services focusing on helping people with psychological issues. The business owner was smart. The product solved a problem.

Unfortunately, the company was making almost no money. They’d hired someone to help them with their digital marketing and it wasn’t working.

Plenty of traffic was coming to the site, users were having a look around and then not buying a single thing. Who’s fault was this?

Well, according to the business owner it was the person running their digital marketing. As a result, they wasted approximately eight months marketing a website that couldn’t make any sales. The reason the business was failing according to the owner was because of the keywords that were being targeted in the marketing campaign. This is a horrible excuse.

The reason your business fails is because you’re blaming someone other than yourself. It’s the quickest way to bankruptcy. Don’t do that.


Your company is a reflection of you.

It took me a long time to figure out that a company is a reflection of its founder.

One of the businesses I had, had a toxic culture and a bunch of people that were rude to customers, arrogant and not nice people. That was a reflection of exactly who I was at the time.

The company was reflecting the flaws of my own life and what I refused to admit.

In the case of the business owner above, what was obvious is that they were good at telling lies to themselves. It was easy not to change as a business owner and insist that the change needed was nothing to do with their vision.

The issue of their company was not the digital marketing strategy but their lack of understanding around what their customer wanted.

The thought that their products were too complicated, not solving a real problem or priced incorrectly was an admission of guilt they wanted no part in. Hence the eventual demise of their company.


Take responsibility and it will change.

When you own the business, everything is your fault.

You have the power to solve any problem you choose. It starts with you being brave enough to admit that there’s a problem, and then secondly, being bold enough to insist it’s your fault and that you can change it.

The problems in your business can all be solved. That’s what it took me a very long time to understand. When I changed as a person and faced up to my hidden battle with mental illness that I didn’t want to talk about, the odds turned in my favor.

Had I have not taken responsibility for my mental illness, I would have never become a leader in a business or started another side hustle. I would have been crippled by the big, bad world that I thought I could control.

Control came from responsibility, and responsibility solved the major problem in my business: me.


Change is a must.

Not with your digital marketing strategy.
Not with hiring new people.
Not with developing a new product.

Changing yourself is the *must* because YOU attract the problems and the solutions into your business”

You can’t find the solutions or stop the never-ending problems until you stop the cause of it all: you. You’re the problem with your business. The good news is that it’s entirely within your control to fix.

Change you.

Not the business.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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The Different Ways of Measuring the Success of Your Start-Up

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You’ve probably heard people use the term “unicorn” in a business context. This means a privately held start-up whose value has grown to at least one billion American dollars. Think Airbnb, Uber, and so forth. There is no doubt that some start-ups have been major financial successes. And many smaller-scale start-ups are doing great as well, working hard and turning a steady profit. But that begs the question of whether finances are the only way to measure the success of a start-up. As it turns out, they might not be. At least, not always and not on their own.

How to Evaluate Success

As anyone who’s been involved with start-ups knows, you need a fair amount of flexibility to do well in this environment. Take the division of labour for example – rather than strict roles, you’ll often see everyone do a bit of everything. The same principle extends to measuring success. It can be vague and mean different things to different people, and it can change over time.

But amongst all that vagueness, one thing has become clear. Predicting the success of a start-up is very difficult for external observers. As a matter of fact, it’s often impossible. Therefore, in order to evaluate how successful a start-up has truly been, we need to know the goals of its founder(s).

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” – Marianne Williamson

The Numbers

When people think about business, it’s common to boil matters down to the finances. And it certainly is possible to use numbers to measure and predict the performance of a start-up business. Net worth, gross margin, customer acquisition cost – these can all be indicators of success. But, a start-up can post impressive numbers for a while, perhaps even attract large investors, and still shut down in the end. So does this make it a failure?

The answer to this depends. If the founders wanted to start a lasting business, then yes, they failed to meet their goal. However, that isn’t always the case. If they were looking for a short-term solution and came out with more money than they had coming in, a closed-down start-up needn’t be unsuccessful. It can actually be the opposite of that.

So, looking at the figures isn’t enough, and there are different perspectives to consider. When they start planning their business venture, start-up founders may not have any particular numbers in mind when it comes to profit. Instead, they can judge their success according to some of the following criteria.

1. Happy Customers and Solving Problems

The story of a start-up often begins with a problem. The desire to help people overcome a specific issue can be the spark which ignites the creation of an entire business. And in the end, that may be all that matters to the founders.

This is closely connected to the happiness of the customers. If the resulting product or service has made people happy by helping them solve a problem, that is all that may be required for a start-up to be a success. Now, no business wants unsatisfied customers. But in cases like this, happy customers aren’t the way toward the ultimate goal – they are that goal.

In other words, some start-up founders don’t just use financial reports to measure how much they’ve achieved. To them, the one metric which stands above all others is the quantity of positive feedback they’ve received. The main area of focus is customers who use the start-up’s products or services to solve a problem they were having.

2. Impact

Every start-up founder likes doing well in terms of revenue. But for some of these entrepreneurs, the profit is merely a side effect of what they actually set out to do – impact the world in a positive manner. You can see an example of this line of thought with Elon Musk. He said that back in college, he had wanted to be a part of things that could end up changing the world. The continuation of this philosophy is evident in his electric cars (which aim to reduce pollution) and the SpaceX program (which strives to break down some of the barriers of space exploration).

In both cases, the furthering of mankind is the ultimate goal. Many other start-up founders feel the same, even if they have smaller goals in mind. To these people, there is no greater proof of success than if their company has had a positive impact on society or even a small segment of it. In their view, to make a difference is to succeed.

“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.” – Tony Robbins

3. Freedom

For some, starting up their own business is less about getting rich and more about gaining the freedom to conduct their business the way they want to. In this case, financial success is just a means to an end. The endgame is to be your own boss.

The fact is, some people don’t do well when they’re constantly receiving orders. They are simply hardwired to be free thinkers and they require an environment that allows them to do things in their own way.

Being in a position where you hold all the cards can be exhilarating. The knowledge that your decisions are final is very empowering, and many strive for such freedom. If a start-up can allow such people to go from being a regular employee to being in charge of making all the decisions, then it has already achieved all the success that it needs to.

4. Time for Friends and Family

As many people know all too well, a job can easily turn into the focal point of your daily life. Instead of being a way to support your lifestyle, your work dominates your time. And when that happens, the time you have to dedicate to your loved ones becomes scarce. Combating this is precisely what some have in mind when they decide to take the leap and start their own business.

Now, running your own company is no mean feat and it will require a lot of effort. But the beginning is the most time-consuming part of the process. Later on, it can be possible to create a system which leaves you with a lot more time on your hands. You can spend this time with your significant other, your children, or your friends. A start-up which gives you this opportunity is perhaps the greatest success of all.

A start-up is an extension of its founders and so are that company’s goals. Some entrepreneurs are in it for the profit, but not all of them. In the end, there is no single way to measure the success of a start-up. It all comes down to the specific aims of those who established it. But if the founders can end their day on a happy note, then the venture is a success even if it doesn’t fit some standard definition of the term.

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