Founder Series #1 – The Beginning (Part 4)
I was never the kid who set up a lemonade stand, sold baseball cards, or ran a business at 6 years old like many of the CEO of billion-dollar companies. I always wonder why this has been a standard narrative for entrepreneurs. The truth is, I don’t think that you can only be a founder of a company when you start practicing being an entrepreneur as a child. I believe anyone in life can be a founder or run a company at any period in life. The real practice happens when you are in business.
As a child, I grew up in a world surrounded by my barbie dolls and occasionally hanging out with the neighborhood kids. There was no entrepreneurial desire because I didn’t even know that it existed. Whenever I visited my friends’ parents who ran a convenience store or restaurant, they looked like cashiers or waitresses in my young mind. I was too young to understand all their work behind the scenes to run a business and make a living.
When I was in my teens, I also found my friends to be far more entrepreneurial than I was. When we had a fundraising event selling candygrams in my town, my friend was really good at meeting and exceeding her target. She would pick neighborhoods that she knew none of our classmates lived in and would have the town mapped out where she would target and sell. In my mind, I was thinking about how many I could buy because I was too shy to go out to meet strangers knocking on their door asking for their money. One would think this doesn’t sound like a promising future for a potential founder. But today, I am running a startup business. The narrative that we have to somehow be born with entrepreneurial talent doesn’t fly. We are not defined by our past, and we can change and evolved.
The roadblocks of not being born with entrepreneurial skills, money, or resources are the negative mindset that needs to be removed to push through the beginning phases of running your business.
Show me the money
Often we feel held back in life because we don’t have a wealthy family and friends to fund our idea. This idea can be very frustrating because many business resources will tell you to get your family and friends to support your business as a natural path of an entrepreneurial journey. This notion is often portrayed as you are progressing. Some startup community expects you to follow some predefined order in life. How one is expected to date, get married, have a baby, and then look forward to retirement. In the startup world, getting fundings from friends and family is usually the first step. Not everyone has these resources. It can cause founders and visionaries to get stuck, especially if you do not have a rich uncle.
I had struggled with this something and come to learn, and for anyone looking to start a business knows that you can overcome these financial challenges.
You hear people say that money is not everything, and in the Startup world, that can sometimes be true. There’s no shortage of stories where founders raised billions of dollars for their company, and the company has nothing to show for it.
This is what happened to a company called Better Place. They were positioned to build an electric car industry infrastructure and ambitious plans to create an electric car ecosystem. Their project included gas stations, software for analytics, electric vehicles, and even charging pods. They were also able to raise 1 billion dollars for their idea. Still, more money didn’t help them overcome the challenge of having resources. It created a new problem and difficulty building a profitable business. Better Place spent far too much money on innovation and didn’t understand their constraints – what money can’t buy.
Have you heard of the story about a Canadian man turning a resource like a paperclip into a house? In the early 2000s, a man went on an experiment to see what he can get trading a paperclip for something else. He would then take that something else and trade if for another object or thing. He kept on going until he got a house.
Find value in what you have.
If you were to research how life was back in the day when paper money didn’t exist, this behavior was similar to what our ancestors were doing to make a living and survive with what they needed. If you think about the definition of money, it is really about value. If I buy a can of coke (which I don’t drink, by the way) for $2.30. At that moment, I value my thirst to be $2.30, and I am willing to pay the full amount of $2.30 to open a can of coke to drink and not get thirsty. Coca-cola values my money, and they need the cash to run and produce more coke cans to sell. The cash that I give them is money that Coca-cola can use back in the business to make more drinks.
Before 9000 BC, we exchanged resources with whatever we had at home in similar ways to today’s paper money. We traded what we have for what someone else has, and everyone wins and gets what they want. After that, humanity decided to use animals, such as cattle, as a form of money, and then many centuries later, we developed paper money. We think of paper money as a thing, but really, what it is just value. Value can fluctuate from person to person.
As a startup, we need to look at our own resources and see what is valuable to other people. Some of the resources we have maybe obvious, and others may not be obvious of what will be useful to others. It is an exercise for an entrepreneur to keep on searching for what resources we have.
Due to the stigma that we face having a hearing loss, we may struggle to find more things that we have of value. Often we think of ourselves with less to offer because we adopted what society thinks of people with hearing loss. The negative beliefs make it hard for us to realize the abundance that we have.
When we start to believe or adopt the mindset, we often think that what we have is not good enough and that we need to find it out there somehow. Without realizing it, we’ve become dependent on others. We can put our lives in situations where others control us because we can’t see any way out. Similarly to those who rely on the government who can’t get off employment insurance because they are hooked, unemployment is high among the deaf and hard of hearing community. It becomes a vicious cycle that we get trapped in without realizing it. The negative mindset gets passed on from generation to generation until someone breaks the cycle. I believe we can breakthrough by creating a new perspective and belief. Begin by knowing what we have to offer will indeed be how you can get anything from where you are now.
Worship the roadblocks
When you find yourself stuff unable to get started because of the lack of money, time, and skills. They shouldn’t stop you from starting your own business. As strange as it sounds, these roadblocks are the gems that you need to move forward. They provide you more opportunities than you can realize in front of you. It is your job as a founder to develop that muscle to find those skills to overcome the roadblock that you need to move forward. Trust me, it’s all that we can do—especially where many of us grew up with our own challenges with our hearing loss. We learned either consciously or subconsciously ways to adapt to the hearing world. We know that there’s no other way. When I started my business, the only resource I had was me. I had no immediate savings, no experience running a business, and no wealthy family to tap on. I used what I had to grow the resources that I have today.
You are resourceful too. It will take time to build your resources portfolio but remember that you have what it takes right now. Go out and start your exchange to begin to get what you need.
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