Empowered by Experience

A group of seasoned entrepreneurs share the critical startup lessons they learned


When it comes to starting a business, there are lessons that can’t be learned in a book. Some critical insights can only be gained through experience. Recently, Comcast Business sponsored “Learn by Doing: Lessons From the Front Lines,” a moderated virtual discussion between three entrepreneurs working in vastly different industries hosted by Inc. and Fast Company. Among other topics, they discussed their winning strategies for securing funding, launch prep, seeking help, and how to stay motivated.

1. For funding, look beyond the bank.

Entrepreneurs looking for startup capital have more options than traditional bank loans. From Small Business Administration loans to venture funds looking to invest in specific types of businesses, entrepreneurs should cast a wide net in search of the startup capital they need.

Begin by looking to local resources. “Being in Harlem, there was always a lot of initiatives to bring small business into the neighborhood, so our first loan was from the Upper Manhattan Development Zone,” said Nick Larsson, co-owner of Sugar Hill Creamery, an ice cream company with three locations in New York City.

Chloe Songer, ceo and co-founder of SuperCircle and co-founder of Thousand Fell, which makes recyclable sneakers, also benefited from funding targeted to specific groups. “The first venture team that invested in Thousand Fell was a female-focused fund called Built by Girls Ventures,” she said. “I was really fortunate to be in New York when there started to be new funds focused on supporting female entrepreneurs.”

Each business will have different funding needs. Lean on consultants, business mentorship organizations, and other entrepreneurs to learn more about what resources are available so you have a better chance of choosing the right fit, said Renee Ventric, owner of Cork and Keg Tours, which offers brewery and winery tours in Loudoun County, Virginia. “Trusting others who had been there before were a really big part of our success in getting the loan that we needed, using it properly, and becoming debt-free within just a few years,” she said.

2. Take your time pre-launch.

With funding secure, you may be itching to launch your business as soon as possible. But before you open for business, make sure you’ve addressed other crucial pieces of the startup puzzle, including building a solid supply chain, a dependable team, and a sturdy roadmap to guide the first year or more of your operations.

For her part, Songer felt pressured to kickstart her business after supply chain disruptions forced the company to move its manufacturing from China to Brazil. She made the decision to launch in April 2020, less than a month into the pandemic. The timing was less than ideal, but Thousand Fell survived--and eventually thrived. Looking back, Songer realizes she might have benefited from a more patient approach. “Once you launch there’s so much more going on,” she said. “Even though it’s still a small business, it’s so much harder to make changes or to steer the ship. I would’ve probably taken a step back, been confident in the team I had, had a plan for the next 12 months, and not rushed that initial launch.”

3. Divide and conquer.

Getting a small business off the ground requires a lot of moving parts, and it can be tough to go it alone. Surround yourself with knowledgeable people who can provide critical advice. “We knew that there was a lot we didn’t know, so we built an advisory board, and I think it was one of the best things we did,” Songer said. “We found somebody from design, someone from supply chain, someone from finance. Five years later, we still talk weekly to almost every single person on the advisory board weekly.”

You may also consider taking on a business partner who can help take on tasks and implement your business plan. “Having somebody who really complements and contrasts with your skills is huge,” Ventric said. She splits responsibilities with her partner and husband, Don. Ventric handles tasks such as marketing and front of house, while he takes care of accounting and legal issues.

4. Think big picture.

Even with a lot of support, building a business can be a real challenge. Focusing on the bigger picture--whether on a global, community, or individual level--can help you stay motivated when times get tough. For Larsson, his motivating factor is the chance to make positive change in his community. He employs 30 young people from the area. “It’s great seeing them grow,” he said. “When they come in, it’s usually the first job they’ve ever had. I get joy seeing the impact that we have in Harlem--that’s what keeps me going and doing it the right way.”

For Ventric, it’s about focusing on and developing small, personal relationships--connecting with individuals helps her navigate the toughest days at work. “We are a part of really special moments for people,” she said. “It’s been a lot of fun and opened so many other doors for me.”

Get your new business ready to do business with connectivity from Comcast Business. Click here to learn more.

Originally posted on Inc., https://www.inc.com/comcast-business/empowered-by-experience.html

Lessons from seasoned entrepreneurs on how to lead and succeed as a startup.

Locked Content

Click on the button below to get access

Unlock Now

Or sign in to access all content on Comcast Business Community

Learn how Comcast Business can help
keep you ready for what's next.