Best advice to avoid startup failure

Mar 25, 2022

startup advice

1. LOVE is a MUST!

Running your own business is not an easy ride. Chances are it will be a lot harder (and more rewarding) than you ever could have imagined so make sure you’re working on something you love and care about. Instead of going after any old market opportunity, try to solve a problem close to your heart. If you’re only in it for possible financial gains, you will lose stamina and won’t persevere through all the setbacks you’re bound to encounter. However, two things are worth mentioning here:

  • When you’re running your own startup, a great chunk of your time is spent on tasks such as sales, marketing, customer service, networking, strategy development, figuring out logistics, and  administrative tasks like invoicing and payroll. So, even if your business is solving a problem you’re passionate about, be prepared to spend a lot of time on things you might not love so much. As a business owner, you MUST get comfortable being uncomfortable and be willing to embrace uncertainty.
  • It’s important to love what you do, but don’t fall madly in love with your own idea. You and your business are better off if the object you love is the problem you’re trying to solve, not the idea. Get feedback early on and iterate on the idea. Listen to your customers and the feedback – don’t take things personally and be willing to learn.

2. Cashflow is key 

There is no such thing as an overnight success and getting steady income from your startup will take time. Having sure stream(s) of income will save you from many sleepless nights and unnecessary stress.

Once you have calculated the expenses related to your business idea, prepare to double, triple or quadruple the number. It’s likely you will face unexpected costs, so it’s good to be both financially and mentally prepared.

Besides making a budget for your business, spend time making your personal budget. If possible, you might want to hold on to your day job, do freelancing/consulting or get a part-time job before giving your all to the new business (this may be tricky, particularly for women who tend to bear the brunt of childcare and household management. See more on that below).

As a small business owner, it’s crucial to get to grips with managing cashflow. Track where your money is going and ensure you can justify every expense. The investor Mark Cuban says “never buy swag. A sure sign of failure for a startup is when someone sends me logo-embroidered polo shirts. If your people are at shows and in public, it’s okay to buy for your own employees, but if you really think people are going to wear your branded polo when they’re out and about, you are mistaken and have no idea how to spend your money.” That might sound a bit harsh but serves a good reminder to track your money and be savvy with your expenses – you will have a lot of them.

3. Work-life balance 

You may have several priorities to manage, such as childcare or household management responsibilities, which make it difficult to bring in extra money or find enough time for everything you need to do when you start your own business. If you have a (romantic) partner, make sure you discuss how to find ways of making it work during the inevitable ups and downs before they happen.

Just as important as discussing money is looking at how you manage your time as a couple or family. If you are a woman, this is extra important:

These factors are not only costly in terms of time that could be spent earning money or on your business, but emotionally draining too. The value of these services and how to distribute them fairly should be part of any (particularly heterosexual) couple’s discussion on how to support a new business in a way that ensures the greatest chance of success in both personal and professional terms. There are many ways to approach this, but you may find this article helpful as a starting point.

If you do provide unpaid care to a family member such as an older person or someone with a disability, then do try and share this with other members of the family (challenging as this might be if there is an expectation for you to provide it) and investigate whether there are other resources available to you from elsewhere which may help. For instance, in the UK the charity Carers UK provides advice and resources, and other countries may have similar.

4. Get out there

If you want to run your own successful business, be prepared to put yourself out there and get over the fear of public speaking. Attend events, use social media and offer your help to others (might sound counterproductive but often pays off and leaves a positive lasting impression).

You might also want to consider, for instance, starting a blog or creating video content. No matter how great your idea is, chances are it will not sell itself so make yourself and your idea known.

Develop your communication and public speaking skills, tell people about your idea and get comfortable selling. Also, aim to build relationships instead of just chasing transactions.

Building a network of likeminded supporters will also help buoy you up during tricky times and give you the confidence to keep on going. Look for entrepreneur support groups – whether that’s in your local area, or online bringing together a particular niche that you relate to. This is particularly important for entrepreneurs who are women and/or from an underrepresented background (BAME, LGBTQ, those with disabilities or any other marginalised group), as these groups face unique challenges.

4. Knowledge is Power


Before getting started, it’s useful to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. You should understand what’s ahead of you and have some understanding of general business concepts. Beyond doing lots of reading, a great way to get started is to talk about your idea/concept to as many people as possible. Many entrepreneurs feel the need to be secretive about their idea, but most people
don’t start businesses, and there is a big difference between having an idea and actually executing it. The benefits of talking to people – friends, family, industry experts, potential customers, people you look up to, researchers – will be immense: they help expand your
thinking and develop your network. So, don’t be shy, reach out to people and get started!

Read more at: startupmanual.eitfood.eu

Programmes

Apply to participate in one of our funded flagship programmes

LAUNCH - Seedbed Incubator

ACCELERATE - EIT Food Accelerator Network

SCALE - RisingFoodStars

Our Community

Empowering startups to create impact in the agrifood industry

Our Community

News & Events

Alumni Spotlight

Startup Training

Our Programme Hubs