I should have paid more attention to the fact that my parents and their friends were rather tipsy from the wine they were drinking when they proposed an idea for a new product. However, being 21 years old, having just finished my business program at college, full of energy and looking for a world of excitement in business, I thought the idea for this novel product to keep wine cool on a warm summer night, might be just the thing to set the world on fire.
Over the next few weeks and months, I worked on fleshing out the concept. My brother Rob suggested that we use a new material that the astronauts used to keep warm in space. I had a seamstress create some samples. I drew up a budget, made a prospectus and pitched some investors to the tune of $10,000. After raising the money, I got in my Honda Civic, drove 500 miles to find a factory to manufacture the product and packaging. In the subsequent months, I hit the road to sell the product to retailers and consumers.
Entrepreneurship is hard work. For many months over the next couple years, I spent hundreds of long days from morning to night trying to flog my Winetux. I had meetings with my investors to keep them up to date, bought and boxed my product, I worked trade shows and consumer shows, made cold calls to prospective buyers and ordered product based on my projections.
The work was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Due to the amount of work to build the business, I seemed to have little time for my family or friends. I believed that if I could push harder, I would achieve a breakthrough that would enable me to be a hero to my investors and build something that generate an income. However, no matter how hard I worked, I never seemed to be able to achieve that colossal success that I had pitched to my investors.
While my friends and family thought I was on my road to becoming a millionaire, I knew a different reality. After a few months of struggling to grow sales, I realized that because the cash flow was tight, I would have to get a part-time job to supplement the income so that I could pay my rent and put gas in the car. Luckily, I didn’t have a family to support at the time.
The reality of entrepreneurship is often different than the one we dream about. We think that if we start a business, we will enjoy easy money without the scrutiny of a boss, working the hours we want and spending plenty of holidays on the beach. The truth is that owning a business is usually very hard work. Perhaps we don’t have one boss but we have many. We need to report to investors, customers, and suppliers who all want to know how things are coming along and more importantly, when they are getting paid. As owners of the business, we are usually the last to get paid if there is any money left over.
Fortunately, the rewards of entrepreneurship do exist. We live in countries where if we can figure out the maze of business ownership, we can live handsomely on its bounty. As entrepreneurs we do have the ability to follow our dreams and do what we are passionate about. Yes, there is risk but there can also be a nice reward. Unfortunately for many, the reward isn’t quite what they dreamed however, if your business has the ability to survive for three to five years, you may be at the cusp of success with only a few changes to the business model.
Business ideas can come after a bottle of wine or after a brainstorming session with your team. Businesses and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. Not only do we need entrepreneurs to have the vision to start a business but we need entrepreneurial attitudes within the business to ensure long term success in changing marketplaces.
- Dave Fuller, MBA, is an Award-Winning Business Coach and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Have an entrepreneurial story to tell? Email firstname.lastname@example.org