10 Lessons I Learned Starting My Own Business

starting my own business

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If I could go back in time and do a few things differently when I was starting my own business for the first time, I would, but hindsight is 20/20 and I learned so much.

I started working on my first real business when I was still in university. I say real because I always had little ventures going on as a kid, from lemonade stands to selling stationery door to door.

The first business was the hardest one. It was an epic fail that stung for awhile, but it also taught me some of the most valuable business lessons I’ve learned.

If I could go back in time and give some advice to myself when I was starting my first business, these are the 10 lessons I would share:

  1. Your first attempt at this business is going to fail. But DO IT ANYWAY because you’re going to learn a lot that will make the next attempt very successful.
  2. Don’t listen to the haters. A lot of people are going to tell you your ideas are stupid, you’re too young to start a business, you should get a real job, most businesses fail, and a whole bunch of other negative comments to make you feel small.
  3. Listen to constructive criticism your mentors and supporters give you but don’t feel you have to accommodate all of their feedback. You still have to trust yourself.
  4. Being an entrepreneur is tough; perseverance is key. Pin your vision on your wall and look at it every day to remind you what you’re working towards. Don’t even think about giving up.
  5. Pour your heart and soul into creating something impactful and awesome without getting a dime, and the money will follow. This may not make sense to you right now but doing so is going to lead to a lot of exposure which will bring in revenue and opportunities that you wouldn’t have had if you had just focused on your paycheck.
  6. Help other people shine even if there’s nothing in it for you. Reach out and help others when you can. People notice the little things you do even when you don’t think they do.
  7. You crawl before you walk. You walk before you run. Things may not always move along as fast as you’d like but businesses are built one step at a time.
  8. You can’t please everyone. There will be people you just can’t please and those people aren’t worth your time.
  9. Don’t be afraid to take risks and make major changes if something isn’t working. Entrepreneurs must be dynamic.
  10. Follow your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Intuition is a powerful force that you shouldn’t ignore.

I would love to hear from you in a comment below: What would you go back and tell yourself when you were starting your first business?

Disclaimer: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.

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29 thoughts on “10 Lessons I Learned Starting My Own Business

  1. Love it, Natalie. Funny, I just wrote about lessons from my first business failure as well- I was also still in college! I think your tip about ignoring the haters is crucial, especially for young entrepreneurs. People will always try to find an excuse for why now is not the right time for you to go for your goals. There never is going to be a perfect time, so we have to just go for it!

    1. It’s so true, it’s all about living, and doing, and learning along the way! Great to hear you started your business while still in school too. I don’t believe there’s a perfect time to start a business, but the earlier the better, and I think more young people with entrepreneurial ambition should take the leap. Cheers to continuing to take on the world xo

  2. Hello, Ms. Natalie!

    First, I like the new OB! 🙂

    Second, this video is really an inspiration for me right now because I’ve just started my simple biz. It reminds me to trust myself, my heart. I realized that “the beginning is always the hardest,” and despite the ruins and revisions along the way, I should carry on because it’s exciting to see the better version of me and the extension of myself, in the form of my products and services, soulfully bloom. It’s something I want to work hard for because I use my craft to help not only myself but other people.

    It’s fulfilling, it’s freedom, it’s passion.

    Thank you for building this wonderful place online!

    1. Amazing! Keep trusting that you are exactly where you need to be. Thanks for being here and being part of this wonderful place online Lyn! 🙂

    1. The more I support other’s, the more my business grows 🙂 Thanks for your comment Emma, I love that you stop by every week!

  3. Natalie I totally love this! Especially #1.

    I finally feel like I have a business that is truly on its way to success, but I was outlining a few of my previous failures the other day to a friend and I just kept connecting the dots… on how business #1 taught me how to be better at planning, how business # 2 taught me to be better a creating a better model, etc. etc. I see my “failures” as integral to my success now and honestly, the failures make for pretty hysterical stories as well:) (i.e. needing to pack and ship 1900 samples of a skincare product (that had seven components to pack) to a Midwest supplier, in under 48 hours, after Hurricane Katrina hit NYC and the post offices were closed. It was literally the worst business failure I’ve ever had, but when I think back on my old self, sitting there furiously packing samples and racing against a clock I knew would win, I literally laugh out loud. Poor thing I was. But I’ll never make those mistakes again!)

    Thank you so much for this! I love it!

  4. Yessss, it’s so true! And there are studies that show entrepreneurs experience 3.2 failures before success. My first business was an education, one that my business degree had NOT prepared me for in any way. I’m glad to hear that things are moving onwards and upwards for you now! I hope to see you around here at shetakesontheworld.com more often!

  5. I would tell myself, “Do it! Right. Now!” I was so scared when I realized that my gut was telling me to start my own business. I never thought I’d start a business, but I was in B-school when I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. I was surrounded by peers who were all looking for jobs or already had jobs lined up, and I was just too scared to break from the crowd and strike out on my own after school. Looking back now, though, I realize starting my business while I was still in school would have been the perfect time. When your gut is telling you something, just go with it. And never let fear or peer pressure hold you back.

    1. Love it Kristina, and I’m glad you found your way back to entrepreneurship. Once you catch the entrepreneurial bug you’ll just never be happy working for anyone else 😉

  6. Hello Natalie,
    I love your work and have been admiring it for a while.

    I have a silly question on the surface, but one that you will provide a really good answer to, I’m sure. It has to do with lesson #1 and #4. If “this business” will fail, then how do you personally convince yourself that it’s worthwhile (if you go into this business with that mentality) and how do you not think about giving up when you know it’s going to fail, as you pointed out in lesson #1? Are you sharing this advice with everybody or is this advice something that you would share with yourself given that you know how your future turned out?

    I love lesson number 5… pouring your heart and soul into something is indicative of a great passion. Lesson #6 is so inspirational. There are industries out there that really don’t see/notice/are really grateful for the little things (or the big things that you do)…. so I’m glad to be reminded that the world is really like you say it is….. thankful.

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful insights. 🙂

    1. Hi Haydee, thanks for the kind words and for saying hello and leaving a comment! Now let me get my hands all over your question…

      I believe you are always where you need to be, learning the lessons you need to learn. When I was starting my first business a lot of people were telling me I shouldn’t, and that made me even more terrified to fail at it. I was scared to death of that business failing, and the lesson I needed to learn was that I can fail and the world wouldn’t come crashing down. My worst fear was realized, and my “what’s the worst that can happen” was something I could manage and rebuild from.

      Here’s the thing: While technically that first business “failed,” there are still elements and essences of it in my business today.

      For many entrepreneurs, businesses change. The business name, audience, and direction often changes after you realize what is working best, and who you love working with.

      So I don’t want you to go into your first business with the mindset that it is going to fail at all! Just know that it’s okay to change it up, pivot, and know you’ll figure it all out as you go. Maybe your first business will be the one that soars, or maybe 6 months down the road you’ll realize there is a very specific group of people you’re loving to work with and you say goodbye to the original branding and run in a new direction and redevelop the brand around those clients you love working with (this happens a lot with women I coach!)

      I like Deepak Chopra’s Law of Spiritual Success: “Detach yourself from the result and the outcome.” When I started my first business I wanted to control every little thing, and I was very attached to my milestones and outcomes. Now I’m in the flow, I know I’m where I’m meant to be, and I take a much more zen approach to my business.

      I hope this helped, and I’m cheering you on xoxo

      1. Thank you, Natalie!
        Awesome response. The older I grow and the more “life experience” I get, the more I know that you’re absolutely where you are meant to be at the exact moment that you’re meant to be there. So yes, as Oprah (I’m a fan, too 😉 ) would say, you show up, do your best and then sing “I surrender all..” And yes, Life often has a much bigger dream for all of us, if only we would listen to our intuition to accept it.

  7. I’m still pretty new at this but I would tell someone who is just starting out that it’s great to have a plan but understand as you go through the plan you will have new opportunities you want to move forward on and you will learn things that just don’t work, so remain flexible and allow yourself the funds to do so. Ex. Don’t order 1000s of sell sheets because it’s more cost effective, only to realize you need to change the offer.

  8. These tips are fab…I’m especially a believer in following your gut!! I’d say for me I’d love to go back and tell my newbie self that it’s no coincidence stuff happens when you take action! It sounds cliche but action really is the answer and the biggest things happen in my biz when I’m working my butt off (duh). I’ve wasted time worrying and over analyzing but clarity and results come from action. I’d just tell myself “keep moving forward because everything to do in your business will create results of teach a valuable lesson!” Thanks, Nat! Xo

    1. Great advice Steph. I see a lot of people make the mistake of over-planning and spending months on writing down every little step and detail, instead of just diving right in and learning as they go. Thanks so much for your comment, always great to see you here xoxo

      P.S. Did you see my side hustle video? http://shetakesontheworld.com/2013/07/day-job-and-side-business/ Your tribe might like it, and feel free to submit a post here sometime about hustlin’ 🙂

  9. Hi Natalie,

    Thanks for sharing such timeless advice. I’ve learned a ton from your videos, but this one really struck home. I’ve just started a copywriting business and am working on my first e-book and white paper. I can relate to rule #7. I totally feel like I’m in the crawling stage and I’m not sure when the walking stage will begin. EIther way I persevere knowing that each day I’m learning and following my passion. What an amazing blessing! Thanks for the inspiration.

  10. I love these tips! Or should I say reminders? I would go back and tell myself to make sure I can always over deliver. I’ve entered into things that I wasn’t quite ready for and wasn’t able to deliver. Now I know how to go above and beyond for my clients.

  11. I think the most important things for success is trusting yourself and stop listening to naysayers. There are lot of people around who will try their best to dissuade you because they don’t want you to succeed. Don’t listen to them and just believe in the voice inside you.

  12. Hi, I’m 18 years old and I have an idea to start up a bar and grill .. I can safely say I have no experience in this field except working front of house for a silver service restaurant, however the people I have around me and my ability to network is a huge advantage that levels the field considerably, but members of my family suggest that i have too little experience at this point in time to be starting up my own business, is there any advice you could give me?

  13. I love this, Natalie. It reminds me of a book I just wrote called “The Eight Things I Learned in the Ice Capades.” Number One: Everybody Falls. This is true without exception. Kudos to those of us who get up!

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