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5 Lessons I Learned After Opening My First Business at 21



Starting a business

People establish businesses for different reasons. It could be because they wanted to monetize their passion, saw an opportunity in the market, or to simply be their own boss. I’ve always aspired to build a business that revolved around what I loved so the responsibilities wouldn’t feel like a burden when it gets tough.

My partners and I didn’t have any experience in the Food Industry, and the only thing we knew was that we loved Japanese and Hawaiian food. We opened the restaurant fueled by nothing but confidence in ourselves and lessons from our ongoing college education.

Though opening day was one of the happiest days of my life, it didn’t stop there. In fact, it was only the beginning of my journey in the ups and downs of being a business owner.

Here are 5 important points I’ve realized while keeping the business afloat:

1. Loving to learn can go a long way

Given the fact that none of my partners and I had any professional experience in the food industry, we didn’t believe we were doomed. We hired a Professional Consultant who has been in the industry for a respectable amount of time that taught us what we needed to know such as where to get the necessary equipment, proper employee shifting schedules, where to get our suppliers, and even some leadership training.

He also referred a highly-competent Japanese Chef who taught us all the basics in a restaurant setting. Growing up unexposed to the kitchen, we had to allot a few days for the chef to teach us, especially me, first-level skills such as dicing, julienne, etc.

I didn’t allow my inexperience in the kitchen to stop me from making my dream come true. I kept trying until I knew more than enough, and to this day I’m still learning.

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” – Helen Keller

2. There will always be naysayers

Before the restaurant even opened, there were already naysayers. Even the photographers during our first food photoshoot doubted us. Whether it’s family, friends, or strangers, it’s important to remember why you started. The naysayers challenged me to push harder to work on the business to the point that I thought I was going crazy.

Our vision and mission echoed in my head and it overpowered the negative comments of those who doubted the business. Now, we serve customers daily and some of them have reached out to us to appreciate what we offer. That’s one of the things that keeps me going and believe me, it’s almost the best feeling.

3. People will step on you if you let them

A month after we opened, we were falsely accused of food poisoning and threatened to post on social media. As a restaurant owner that is one of the worst things to be accused of. Our staff were harassed almost every day for a week by this person who was asking for an apology for something we didn’t commit.

We investigated, stood our ground, didn’t apologize (it can be used against you), and informed the person that we forwarded this matter to our lawyer. We never heard from them ever again immediately after that. Some people are just looking for ways to bring your business down and you shouldn’t let them.

4. First-mover advantage shouldn’t make you complacent

Although the concept has existed in Western countries, it’s entirely new where I’m from (The Philippines). This was a calculated risk we were willing to take knowing it’s an untapped market. As the first in the country, it was an audacious endeavor where anything can happen. Being the first-mover meant that we could commit mistakes faster, thus learning instantly, and then improve.

There had to be a constant will to innovate even if we had no direct competitors yet. Eventually, we had competitors and this compelled us to brainstorm new strategies and ideas to promote our business.

I’ve never even heard of Guerilla Marketing before! We resorted to those methods with the mindset that being the first doesn’t matter. What matters is being the best and we continuously develop our concept to achieve that.

“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” – Mary Tyler Moore 

5. Staying close to people that support you is important

My core group of friends since high school are one of the biggest fans of my restaurant. We would have group chats on Facebook Messenger and suddenly one of them will say they’re craving for food in my restaurant. Soon, all of them wanted it.

Now, they’re not saying they like it just because they’re my friends, but because they genuinely believe in me, the concept, and see my potential to grow. This continues to be one of my sources of inspiration, and for that I am forever grateful. In a sea of people who doubt you, find the few who believe in you through thick and thin.

Have you started your own business? What was your experiences? Leave your thoughts below!

Nicah Caramba is an entrepreneur who is passionate about public speaking and travel. Aside from chasing the next adventure, she is constantly looking for ways to help people communicate their ideas better in her blog! Sign up for her FREE Minimal Fear Course!

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How to Manage Your Startup’s Finances More Efficiently

No matter how groundbreaking your product or service, your startup could quickly be on shaky ground without proper financial management



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Running a triumphant startup requires juggling numerous responsibilities. From managing operations and coordinating with team members to developing innovative marketing strategies and nurturing relationships with clients, the to-do list seems endless. (more…)

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5 Strategic Power Moves to Successfully Build Your Empire

Transitioning from idea to empire is a journey of strategic planning, execution, and constant evolution



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The journey from a fledgling idea to a thriving empire is both exhilarating and daunting. The Startup Launchpad is not just a process but also a strategic framework that enables visionary entrepreneurs to become market leaders. This framework comprises five power moves, each a critical steppingstone in building a successful business.

These moves—Ideation, Business Plan, Online Presence, Strategic Marketing, and Launch and Growth—are the blueprint for turning aspirations into achievements. (more…)

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How to Avoid Startup Clichés and Buzzwords When Pitching Investors

Using jargon can make you sound like you’re trying to fill space instead of providing meaningful data



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Entrepreneurs frequently seek startup funding through a variety of channels. Yet, none seem as challenging as successfully pitching to experienced investors. After all, investors are pressed for time and eager for opportunities. These characteristics make it challenging to motivate them, especially if you’re bombarding them with a pitch full of jargon. (more…)

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From Idea to Empire: 5 Power Moves for Your Startup to Thrive in Today’s Market

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that understanding market dynamics and choosing the right business model are crucial



How to thrive in the startup market in 2024

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that understanding market dynamics and choosing the right business model are crucial.

A few months into the startup, I was quick to gauge why it is necessary to go beyond the nuances of operational efficiency and the art of sustaining a business amid growing competition.

Collaboration is key.

The HR and the recruiting teams work with departments to foster a culture of collaboration, but what’s indispensable to business performance is the sync between the marketing and sales teams. What we’d consider as entrepreneurs is the need to ensure seamless collaboration to predict and achieve business goals together. In turn, this will help secure long-term recurring revenue for the business.

Besides, entrepreneurs need to focus on revenue as they gear up to take their startup from $0 to $1 million. The journey is filled with critical decisions, from identifying your target customer base to choosing the right funding strategy.

So, what next?

Read on… because here are five practical, results-driven strategies that you as a founder can implement to make a mark in their industry.

#1. Embrace the Lean Methodology

What is lean methodology?

It is all about pivoting resources to create more value for customers with fewer resources. 

This principle encourages you to be more agile and allow rapid iteration based on customer feedback rather than spending years perfecting a product before it hits the market.

Want to implement it?

Here’s what you can do.

Build “Measure-Learn” Loop: What I did was develop a minimum viable product (MVP), a simple version of the product. You can do the same since it allows you to start the learning process as quickly as possible. After launching MVP, measure how customers use it and learn from their behaviors and feedback.

Here’s what I can recommend here:

  • Identify the core features that solve your customers’ primary needs and focus solely on those to develop your MVP.
  • Know the feedback channels where early users can communicate their experiences, suggestions, and complaints.
  • Analyze user behavior and feedback to make informed product development and iteration decisions.

#2. Focus on Customer Development

Let’s talk about taking our startup to the next level. 

It’s not just about getting customers – it’s about really getting to know them. We need to dive into their world, understand their struggles, and see how our product or service can make a difference in their lives. 

It’s like we’re detectives, piecing together the puzzle of our business hypothesis by actually chatting with our customers

What would you ideally do here?

Understand Customer Segments: I’d say, start dividing your target market into segments and develop a deep understanding of each segment’s demographics, behaviors, needs, and pain points. The idea is to get into their shoes and really feel what they feel.

Ensure your Product Clicks: When starting up, think of what you offer and consider whether it clicks with what our customers need. My thought was “Does my product solve their problems? Does it make their day better?” Put yourself through a tough grilling session to show customers the value proposition and ensure that the product’s promise matches what our customers are looking for.

I’d recommend the following actions here:

  • Talk to them – through surveys, interviews, or even casual chats. The goal? To gather real, raw insights about what they need and expect.
  • Use the collected data to create detailed profiles for each type of customer. This way, everyone on our team really understood we were serving. I think this should help your startup as well.
  • Try out different versions of our product with a few customer groups. It’s all about feedback here – understanding if you’re hitting the mark or if we need to pivot.

#3. Foster a Data-Driven Culture

The digital world is highly data driven since it fuels key decisions in a startup. 

I believe it’s essential for us to build a data-driven culture. This means, you’ll move from making decisions based on hunches or assumptions. Instead, the focus should be on data analytics and insights to guide our strategies and improve our outcomes.

What can you do?

Use Data Analytics Tools: You should be using these tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data related to customer behavior, market trends, and our business operations. Here, consider the adoption of pipeline forecasting that leverages AI to find patterns in marketing data. 

In turn, you’ll get areas for improvement since it can analyze historical data and predict the outcome for you to plan your.

Action Items:

  • Pinpoint key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your business objectives and ensure they are measurable and actionable.
  • Next, you can consider training your team to understand and use data analytics tools. This might involve workshops or bringing in experts to build a data-savvy workforce.
  • Once everything is in place, regularly review data reports and dashboards. This gives us a clear picture of a startup’s health and helps adjust your strategies and predict future trends.

#4. Strengthen Your Financial Acumen

A good grip on financial skills is important to steer your business towards growth and making sure it stays on track. For this, you’ll have to understand the money side of things, which helps you manage your cash flow. Think of figuring out smart investment moves and sizing up any risks that come your way.

Here’s a tip on how you can get savvy with your finances.

Maintain Rigorous Financial Discipline: I’m really focused on cultivating a strong company culture, one that truly resonates with our mission. So, I’d suggest fostering open communication and encouraging a sense of ownership and collaboration among everyone in the team.

Action Items:

  • Get to know your financial statements inside out – I’m talking about the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. These are like the vital signs for your business’s financial health
  • Use financial forecasting that helps predict your future money moves. With this, you will have a heads-up on upcoming revenues, expenses, and how much cash you’ll need. Also, research on the available financial forecasting tools that can make predictions spot-on.
  • Don’t go at it alone. Regularly touch base with financial advisors or mentors. With them by your side, you’ll have a fresh perspective on your financial strategies to ensure you’re on the right path to hit your business goals.

5. Prioritize Team Building and Leadership Development

It is crucial to focus on building a solid team and developing strong leaders. This means putting our resources into the people who are going to propel our company forward. 

What you’ll aim for here?

Creating a culture where everyone collaborates and every team member has the chance to emerge as a leader.

What I would do:

Cultivate a Strong Company Culture: This culture should mirror our mission and foster open communication. It’s important that it encourages everyone to feel a sense of ownership and work together.

Invest in Leadership and Team Development: As founders, we’ll have to make way for opportunities for teams to enhance their skills, face new challenges, and grow in their careers.

Some concrete steps that you should consider taking:

  • Begin with clearly communicating your startup’s vision, mission, and values so that every team member is on the same page.
  • Conduct regular team-building activities and workshops to boost skills and strengthen a sense of unity and collaboration.
  • How about starting a mentorship program within our organization? The more experienced team members could guide and support the growth of newer or less experienced folks.
  • Alas… encourage feedback at all levels. We should keep striving to create an environment where open, honest communication is the norm and everyone feels safe to speak up.

I know it’s one thing to get your head around these ideas and quite another to actually make them a part of your everyday business life. But that’s where the real magic happens, right? It’s all in the doing. 

As a startup founder, this means more than just being a big dreamer. How about rolling up your sleeves to be the planner who pays attention to the smallest details. Ultimately, these tips and more tactics around it will help carve a leader in you who listens and cares and the learner who’s always ready to adapt

So, as you’re either starting out or moving forward on this entrepreneurial adventure, keep these practical tips right there.

May these be your guiding lights, helping you steer through the wild and exciting world of building a startup that’s not just a dream, but a thriving reality.

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