Every entrepreneur’s journey has to start somewhere and those early days can be tough as you find your feet. It’s easy to forget that many of the world’s best-known entrepreneurs had to find their feet too – starting out at a place not unlike your own. Their successes weren’t a foregone conclusion and, in many cases, only came after a string of missteps and failures. We’ve picked out six of our favourite contemporary entrepreneurs to help guide and reassure you if those ‘is it really worth it?’ doubts start creeping in.
Find your determination
“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
Author (OK, not an entrepreneur per se, but now worth close to a billion pounds)
It’s all about stamina
“I did long-distance running at school. And you only succeed by doing a huge amount of training and then having great stamina, understanding that other people are also feeling tired. So when you feel tired, you should accelerate. That’s when you start winning.
“So, I’ve learnt that with developing new technology, that when you feel like giving up is precisely the point everybody else gives up. So it’s at that point that you must put in extra effort. And you do that, and then success is literally just around the corner.”
Break the rules
“One of my favourite quotes is, ‘if you want to understand entrepreneurs, study the juvenile delinquent because they’re saying, you know, this sucks, I’m going to do it my own way’. And that’s what the entrepreneur does. They just say this is wrong. I’m going to do it this other way. And that’s the fun part of business actually. I love breaking the rules.”
Get close to your customers
“We used to travel and actually stay with our customers. We called it enlightened empathy. By being so close to our customers we were able to design a product that they loved.”
Hustle, hustle, hustle
“In the middle of my meeting with her, I could tell I was losing her. And I just knew it was my one shot. So I said, you know what, Diane? Will you come with me to the bathroom? And she just paused. She goes, excuse me? I go, I know, I know, it’s little weird. Will you just please come with me to the bathroom?
“I want to show you my own product before and after. And she said OK, and she walked down the hall with me. And I went in the stall, and I had on my cream pants – that were the reason I invented this – without Spanx on.
“And then I went in the stall and put Spanx on underneath and came out. And she looked at me, and she goes, “Wow, I get it. It’s brilliant.” And she said, “I’m going to place an order, and I’m going to put it in seven stores and see how it goes.”
Less money = more creativity
“I had £500 left to launch the product. How can you launch a product with £500?
“Well, you can. You can compete with these other brands that spend millions and millions of pounds.
“The less money you have the more creative you become. That is a fact because your determination kicks in.
“So, what did I do with £500? How did I make Ultimo the biggest bra launch in history, getting 59 million pounds worth of press?
“I wrote my own press release. Sent it out to all the editors. I said that this bra launch was taking place on this date and at this time. I went down to London and hired twelve actors and I dressed them up as plastic surgeons. I had them shouting “ban the Ultimo bra, don’t go in and buy it, it will give you a cleavage, and put us out of business.” Everyone thought they were actual plastic surgeons! It was a massive stunt and it got around all the news desks. Within half an hour I was live on Sky News.”
Enjoy the ride
“We started from a market stall. Our first day we sold 24 bottles to our local sandwich shop and built the business up organically from there. We were doing it for the excitement, for the thrill of friends working together, of having a mission, having a cause, having a belief – it was an adventure, a vehicle to drive through life on.”