I’ve heard every excuse in the book from my students about why they’re unable to turn their ideas into reality. But the only way to succeed at becoming an entrepreneur is to have the courage to take that first, small step.
Unfortunately, most of us tend to focus on everything we think we can’t do, rather than what we can do. As a result, we never even get started. It doesn’t have to be that way! I’ve listed (and rebutted) some of the most common excuses I hear below — do any of them sound familiar?
1. I don’t have any experience. The truth is that you need less experience than you think. I bet most successful entrepreneurs would tell you they learned by doing. In fact, I think lacking experience can actually be helpful, because your fresh eyes allow you to see things differently. When I started a guitar pick company, I had never worked in the music industry before. I asked a lot of questions, used the internet to do research, found mentors in the business and recruited a partner who did have experience. But I was able to see opportunity when others couldn’t, because they were too close to the industry. They were artificially constrained by what they thought was a given — I wasn’t.
2. I don’t have any time. Starting a company is a big commitment, I agree. It takes an incredible amount of time. But there are other ways you can bring your product ideas to life that require very little time, such as licensing an idea. I always tell my students: Don’t quit your day job, because you don’t have to. (Of course, to do so would be unnecessarily risky.) You can successfully license an idea by dedicating your lunch break and some time before and after work and on the weekends. Your licensee is going to do the heavy lifting. You just need to figure out how to get your idea to them.
3. I don’t have enough money. Today, there are a lot of options for starting a business. If you work smart, there is always a way to do something efficiently for less. I have been cutting costs for years, from hiring college students to do graphic design work to filing for a provisional patent application myself, using excellent (and affordable) software. You can bootstrap your operation — and still be very successful. With crowdfunding, it’s never been easier.
4. Protecting my idea is expensive. Yes, filing patents is very expensive. But that’s not your only option and it shouldn’t be a major deterrent. I cannot give legal advice, but filing a PPA is a great way to start out. (If you make less than $150,000, you can file a PPA for $65.) Filing a PPA allows you to label your idea “patent pending” for up to a year. A year is more than enough time to test the waters. Maybe you can find someone who is willing to pay for your patents.
5. Prototypes are expensive and hard to make. Before you start thinking about needing to create a prototype, you need to determine that there’s interest in your idea by crafting a sell sheet. A sell sheet is a one-page advertisement that can be used to gauge interest in your idea. It’s very basic — just your one-line benefit statement, a rendering of your idea drawn by a graphic artist and your contact information. ELance is a great affordable resource — I’ve hired graphic designers to draw one of my product ideas for less than $100. (Always have them sign a nondisclosure agreement.) I show my sell sheet to potential investors and licensees. If they’re interested, I go about proving my idea can be made.
There’s really no good reason not to get started if you have genuine enthusiasm. Don’t let your fear of failure hold you back. If you want it bad enough, it is possible.