Too often entrepreneurs think there is a secret algorithm for success. Time and money gets wasted searching for this secret, meaning that many entrepreneurs never move beyond their dreams. Aside from childbirth, starting a business might be one of the scariest, yet most rewarding experiences life can provide.
Ironically, childbirth and entrepreneurship have more in common than one may think - apart from the obvious pain involved in both. In both childbirth and entrepreneurship, you are bringing something into this world that is 100% dependent on you. The passion, love and responsibility you feel for your baby is what gets you up in the morning, fuels you through the work day and motivates you to break down the barriers that stand between you and success.
Being totally responsible for the health, growth and safety of a child or a company is a scary thought. In reality, there are few things more terrifying than being a parent or an entrepreneur, but the truth is -- there's nothing more rewarding.
My daughter, Dani, and I were inspired to start Wicked Good Cupcakes during a cake decorating class we took together. It was in our kitchen that we tested, perfected and, more often than not, burnt cupcakes. Somehow, someway from our little kitchen, Wicked Good Cupcakes has grown into a multi-million dollar baked goods machine in less than three years. So how did two women take a baked goods company from a kitchen in Cohasset, Massachusetts to the billionaire/millionaire investors on ABC's Shark Tank?
We took Mark Twain's advice. Twain said that "All you need in life is ignorance and confidence; the success is sure." Those two simple words -- ignorance and confidence -- certainly describe our path to success for Wicked Good Cupcakes. "Ignorance" inspired us to apply to be a contestant on the popular ABC reality show Shark Tank -- why not enter a contest with 40,000 other would-be entrepreneurs? "Confidence" pushed us out the door when it was our turn to present to ABC's toughest sharks and the 8 million viewers who tuned in each week to watch the number one Friday evening show on television.
As we approach our one year anniversary of our appearance on Shark Tank, I am so thankful for all the support and guidance we received along the way. But the old maxim, "you don't know what you don't know," certainly rings true. I would never pretend to know everything but I've learned a few things over these last few years. Now it's my turn to share what I've learned by offering aspiring entrepreneurs some words of wisdom and advice that I wish I had known when we first started:
#1: Surround Yourself with an Excellent Team: A mentor once told me, "be slow to hire and quick to fire." He was right. Don't hire for the moment, put together a team of talented and dedicated individuals who want to help build your company, not collect a pay check.
#2: Never Forget What Inspired You to Start Your Company: If starting a business were easy, everyone would do it. You are going to experience some difficult times. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed. Go outside, take a walk and remind yourself of what inspired you to launch your "baby." Trust me -- it helps.
#3: Accept that Mistakes are a Fact of Life: In order to be successful, you must be vulnerable. In your mind, failure should not equal shame. Instead, you must look at every situation as an opportunity. Learn from customers' feedback. Despite how much it may hurt when you read them, complaints can be helpful in understanding the needs of your customer. If you think you're doing everything right, then you are destined to fail.
#4: Disconnect & Take Time Away from Your "Baby": When first starting a business, you most likely play the role of the CEO, COO, CFO, CMO, & Director of HR. This leads to long hours and very little separation between work and home. If you take away anything from this post, it should be this: Set aside time to shut off your phone and take time to disconnect. You will be a better entrepreneur and a better human being by doing so.