1. Just Start Somewhere.
The most expensive time that one can spend is the time you spend in your head. Put your thoughts on paper, and start building an action strategy. I’ve had conversations with many of my classmates who’ve had far better ideas than me; years later, their ideas are still in their heads.
2. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone.
Most high school students have a specific white-collar career path in mind before they ever step foot into a classroom. They are at a disadvantage. Starting a business entails not only product design, but also branding/marketing and CRM skills. Keep your mindset flexible.
3. Get Access to Industry-Standard Tools.
Although our initial designs for Siesta Wrap were on pen and paper, we had to learn how to use CAD to create ANSI-standard drawings for our manufacturing partners. We also used Adobe Photoshop to mock up our merchandise photos before we received our fresh new colors, which saved us time and money. Beat the learning curve on the tools you anticipate you’ll need in your line of work!
4. Find a Business Partner with Complementary Skills.
A great partner will bring out the best in you. While it’s okay to fly solo, it’s often beneficial to bring a partner on to keep you motivated and accountable. Consider which values, skills, and principles are important to you before signing anyone on, and always keep a non-performance clause in your contract.
5. Combine your Passions and Add Value.
When we started Siesta Wrap, Rosario and I had a common problem -- sleepiness. At the time, I was studying neuroscience, and he was studying mechanical engineering. To tackle our shared problem, we approached it with our respective strengths to create a unique sleeping solution that the market hadn’t seen before. When you combine different passions to infuse your product with, you tend to create a robustly unique product.
6. Believe in Yourself.
As an aspiring neuroscientist, I got a lot of flak for starting a pillow business, even though our product was scientifically designed for optimal sleeping. However, sticking with this business has put me in conference rooms with Fortune 500 executives. When people see the drive and passion in you, combined with the progress that you’ve made, they will take you seriously.
7. Filter the Noise.
As an entrepreneur, you will get solicited (and unsolicited) feedback on your product and business model. Distinguishing the quality of advice you receive and choose to implement will save you time and money. Everyone has their own implicit biases, including you. Be mindful of how they impact what you’re seeking and receiving.
8. Don’t Make Assumptions.
Even the smallest assumptions can be costly. You may think you have the best idea on the planet, and people still might not show up to buy it. Before investing in costly tooling, branding, and infrastructure, test everything you do with a minimum viable product to mitigate your risk before scaling.
9. Stick to Your Values.
Values are a set of rules, guidelines, or beliefs that individuals and organizations cross-reference their decisions with. They will help you keep your actions consistent with your words and foster trust with your clients and strategic partners. People admire values, and values help people become role models. Before starting a business, deeply reflect on the values you want to embed in your venture; they will help with your decision-making and brand image.
10. Be Humble.
Humility is a recognition of the truth that we as individuals do not have all the answers to every single problem. Being humble creates a space where vulnerability is welcomed and encouraged, allowing you to connect with individuals on a deeper level. It empowers other people to engage and contribute, and empowers you to stay accountable and self-reflect. People will help, respect, and support you if you remain humble.