Once you've had your Eureka Moment, and have taken the plunge, it's important not to ever lose sight of that start. The Eureka Moment is not only about realizing something you want to do, but also about deciding to take the initiative to do it. There's magic in that moment, and it serves as a great motivator. Your journey may twist and turn, many businesses end up in entirely different markets and industries throughout their evolution, but what's important is to never lose sight of the impetus.
Original Hot Shoppe Root Beer Stand opened by J.W. Marriott in 1927.
Designers are actually really well-positioned to start new businesses. We're wired to solve problems, so if we approach starting a new business as a design brief, we can start to apply all the tactics we usually use in the process of a regular project. Identifying needs, exploring options, innovating ideas, executing a solution, and optimizing the process or making improvements. The only difference is that the project never really ends, unless you end it by terminating the business, of course.
You give up a lot of things when you start a business--stability, support, structure, capacity, and capital, but what you get, is an experience like no other.
So here are the top three things that make the trip worth trekking:
Sketch Furniture by Front.
#1 Creating Something from Nothing
Perhaps the most appealing aspect for striking out on your own is that you are creating something from nothing. Your imagination takes the reigns. An entity takes shape in your hands and you have total control of it. Company name, logo, brand strategy, positioning, advertising campaigns, research and development, product management – it's all yours! It's the type of creative freedom that you can only have with starting from scratch.
If you are a person that likes challenges, this is the thing for you. Whenever we start a new marketing-related project at Knoend, the joke is that the budget is as close to zero as possible. Try being creative with no budget. A website, viral video, tradeshow booth, email campaign, catalog--do it all, and make it cost as close to zero as possible.
Of course, if you get your start-up funded, then you could breathe easier. That's actually the smarter thing to do, but the "as close to zero" exercise is quite fun. OK, maybe not really fun...but kind of!
Thomas Meyerhoffer's innovative surfboard design now available after four to five years of development through Global Surf Industries.
#2 Experiencing Passion
I definitely question whether the experience is worth it every once in awhile, but the answer has always been yes, although at times it's more hesitant than emphatic. What keeps me going is the anticipation of new designs, ideas yet to take shape, imagination on my own terms, and the evolution of what I started. I've worked hard in school, in some of my previous jobs, but I have never worked harder than I do now.
I don't wake up every morning with a great feeling--I explained in the previous post--mood swings are wide and frequent. No matter the mood, I now know the meaning of passion. It's innate; you have to have it to continue. You don't have to be an entrepreneur to experience passion--people are often passionate about their hobbies. However, if you experience passion through your work, you achieve a different level of envelopment; you get to do something you truly believe in and have it be a focal point for you every single day. If that zest ever loses its luster, then its time to move on, but at least you'll know what it is.
American graphic designer Paul Rand, best known for his corporate identities including the logos for IBM, UPS, Westinghouse and ABC.
#3 The Sense of Validation
For many entrepreneurs the most poignant memory is their first sale or check, for others it's a TV appearance or a news article, an industry award, or a key milestone in the company's history. For me, it was an Italian man that clapped for about 15 seconds and yelled "Bravo!" while he was in my tradeshow booth this past April. We didn't have a real conversation about the project I was presenting, he simply asked, "Is this your idea?" and then started clapping and yelling when I said, "Si." I just kind of stood there as he clapped, dumbfounded, not knowing how to react. As he left the booth, I remember him giving me a thumbs-up and saying, "Stupendo," which means wonderful. The moment still echoes as I write this post today.
No matter the form of recognition, this is the glue that binds everything together. This is the fuel that drives ambition.
The challenge is not for everyone, most people are much better suited to established infrastructure. Those who give it a shot will learn more about their strengths and weaknesses than you can ever learn in any other setting. I guess, that's what they call, "building character." If I ever get off this ride, I'll know exactly where I can contribute most effectively in another organization or next endeavor. The lessons I've learned have given me more insight into who I am, and that's something that is truly invaluable.
In the third and last part of this series, I will get into socio-eco ideals for the entrepreneur and why I feel the timing is right to step into the green economy.
Ivy Chuang is the founder and design director of Knoend, a San Francisco-based studio with sustainability and innovation at its core. She is a nomad, surfer, cook and occasional artist.