Recently, we had the opportunity to learn about what it takes to be an entrepreneur at the FOUNDERS Young Entrepreneurs Conference 2018
This event was conceived as an annual conference with the aim to encourage young entrepreneurs, especially college and university students, to pursue their business dreams.
The conference was graced by William Lim of Aforadio Marketing, Suzanne Lim of The Picha Project, Eddie Tan of Cake Tella
and Alvin Sinclair of Kulture Group
, who were the organisers behind FOUNDERS.
The speakers each gave 30-minute keynotes to the students of Taylor’s University on the kind of mindset you should before launching and growing a business, and these were our main takeaways from the session.
#1 Listen to the negatives
We know what is on your mind right now. You must be thinking that you often hear people telling you to do the opposite instead, you know, with the whole positive life and whatnot.
But here’s the thing, listening and believing are two completely different things. You hear what the naysayers are saying but you don’t necessarily have to believe them.
On the contrary, Afroradio Founder and CEO William Lim learned that listening to the negative drives you to do better because that negative emotion sparked within you can turn into motivation instead.
As they say, prove ‘em wrong!
#2 Have grit and determination
The running theme across all four speakers was how important it is to work hard. However, you can’t work hard without true grit and determination. So, what exactly is this grit we’re talking about here?
Grit is defined as courage, resolve and firmness of character, and to have an indomitable spirit.
The Founder of Kulture Group Alvin Sinclair himself doesn’t believe in the term ‘don’t work hard, work smart’.
“Everybody wants to be an entrepreneur but nobody wants to put in the work,” he said.
Cake Tella Founder Eddie Tan also agreed that he had to work extra hard to build his business, especially coming from a family where he is the only one who went against to norm to study culinary arts.
So, if you want to start your own business, you must be ready to work extremely hard and fight against the odds (as well as failures). After all, talent is only a small part of success.
#3 Follow your heart and gut
Passion is essential when you’re about to start something from scratch. You must love what you do, otherwise, your company is going to start feeling like a chore and that doesn’t sound very fulfilling, does it?
William said that “building something from nothing is very interesting” and the sense of fulfillment and achievement that comes with it cannot be compared.
But it is truly important to follow your heart and inner gut feeling. Don’t think about becoming an entrepreneur just because everyone else is doing it and you want to join in the fun too because it “looks cool”.
Seriously, if that is the mindset you have before jumping into unchartered waters, forget it.
Eddie followed his heart to pursue culinary arts instead of the usual “more professional” industry that Asian parents typically perceive. He persevered through all the obstacles and challenges, especially having to turn his home kitchen into his workspace, and built Cake Tella to what it is today because of his passion.
The same goes to Suzanne Lim from The Picha Project, a company that helps sells food prepared by refugees. This company started from such a meaningful cause that couldn’t have been done without the heart behind it.
Find something you’re absolutely passionate about and work from there. You’ll be amazed what results it can bring when you have the heart for it.
#4 Don’t go against the big boys
By ‘big boys’, we’re talking about tackling your competitors. Contrary to popular belief, William thinks that starting a business may not always be about killing your rivals. It is good to know your competition and let them do their own thing because, hey, the more the merrier!
If you have a business idea, don’t start thinking about taking on the biggest company you can think of in the market. While it is good to aim as high as the sky, it is also important to be realistic.
You don’t always have to be the only one selling what you’re selling or doing what you’re doing. Just find a niche and stick to it.
As William said, “the market share is so big, there will always be space for everyone”. If anything, learn from their success and failures instead.
So, it is totally okay to have friendly competition!
#5 Have a great team
The speakers couldn’t stress this enough during the talk. As much of a genius as you are, you can start something and see through its success all on your own because, hey, teamwork makes the dream work!
You should always have a handful of people working with you to start off with, and most importantly, trust these people to do the job. Becoming an entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you have to put your hands into every little thing.
Well, sometimes you may have to, but not all the time. If this happens too often, find a replacement.
Having a great team is vital, especially for startups. You need people for ideas, suggestions, solutions, simulations, experiments, the list goes on.
So, find a good team of people who share the same goals, and you’re ready to take on the world!
These are some important lessons we picked up from the Young Entrepreneurs Conference with FOUNDERS. If you want to learn from the best founders in Malaysia and hear their stories, be sure to look out for the next annual session at a college or university near you.