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Start-up Advice

11 Steps to Starting a Successful Business in Your 20s

Your 20s are meant for hustling.

Jason Parks

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Your 20s are meant for hustling. While your friends are enjoying “Sunday Funday” and going out on a Thursday night, you can be growing your own business and laying the foundation for your future success.

Millennials and Gen Zers have an amazing opportunity at their fingertips. While our parents’ generation had to put in the time and work their way up the corporate ladder, the iGeneration and Net Generation have a quicker (and more fun!) alternative. Since we grew up with technology, we have a competitive advantage to build brands that rely on digital marketing and technology.

Whether you want to create the next Snapchat, start a marketing agency or become an Instagram influencer, it’s time to stop stalking others’ lives on social media and get to work on your own business.

1. Start a side hustle.

Most people underestimate how much time there is outside of work if you have a standard 9-5 job. If you are working at a job you dislike and want to be your own boss, stop complaining about your current terrible job and take action. Grab a cup of coffee after work and start hustling from 6 p.m to 2 a.m. on your new business venture.

If you are an artist, start posting YouTube videos about the details behind your painting process. Open up an ecommerce store on Shopify. Promote your products on Instagram. All of this can be done as a side hustle while you grow your business. Best of all, you are still collecting a paycheck from someone else.

2. Stop boozing.

If you are truly passionate about entrepreneurship, you will quickly understand that the weekends are the most productive time to get work done. You literally can put in 20 hours of work on the weekend to grow your brand.

This isn’t going to happen if you are going to the bars on Friday and Saturday night. First off, you are going to drain your bank account from buying shots for all of your buddies. Secondly, you are not going to be productive when you’re hung over.

Start setting your alarm clock and for 6:30 a.m. on the weekends. Put in a full day of work. You won’t have any regrets about missing a night or two out when you’re in your 30s and have a million-dollar business.

Related: 5 Ways To Validate A Business Idea, Right Now

3. Wake up early.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “The sun has not caught me in bed in 50 years.” Apple CEO Tim Cook is known for getting up early and sending out company emails at 4:30 in the morning. The youngest CEO in the NBA, Brett Yormark, gets up at 3:30 in the morning in order to get to the office by 4:30.

When it comes to business, the early bird catches the worm. You can actually be playing offense rather than defense, which will allow you to work on growing your business.

Make sure to put your alarm clock on the opposite side of the room, which will force you to get out of bed and not hit the snooze button. Do 50 pushups within 5 minutes of turning of your alarm clock to truly wake yourself up. If you need extra motivation for waking up early, follow Before 5 AM on Instagram.

4. Build your personal brand. 

It blows my mind how much time people spend on social media promoting themselves yet they don’t have a website that gives people more information or a place where people can get in contact with them.

Everyone should see if their first and last name is available for purchase on GoDaddy. If you have a common name, insert your middle name and your craft as part of the URL (example: SarahSmithNYCArtist.com). The next time you go into a business meeting, you’ll be amazed how much more impressed people will be by your professional website.

5. Become an expert by contributing content.

In addition to owning a marketing and app development agency, I am also the partner of an ecommerce skincare website that sells dermatology strength products. We are constantly trying to get media mentions from Glamour, Bustle and Teen Vogue. Do you know what I discovered? A ton of the writers on these nationally recognized sites are college students!

If you love sports, start reaching out to sites like YardBarker to become a contributor. If you love fashion, what’s holding you back for writing for Teen Vogue? This will boost your personal brand, establish credibility and present new opportunities you never imagined.

6. Talk it out. 

When you are an entrepreneur, you live on a lonely island. Nobody will ever realize just how much hustle you put in on a daily basis. Your friends who work a 9-5 job won’t understand how your business means the world to you.

Since entrepreneurship can be lonely, make sure you have someone you can air it out with. Whether it is your girlfriend or boyfriend, mom or dad, or just a mentor you can trust, in order to grow, you need to be able to have a sounding board along the journey.

Related: The 5 Stages Start-ups Must Go Through to Make That First R1 Million

7. Have patience.

The issue with the digital age that we live in is that people are impatient. They expect results yesterday.

Bill Gates was famously quoted saying, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

In order to build a business, you need to be patient for the long run. Don’t think about where you want your business to be in a year; think about your goals for 10 years down the road and how you are going to execute to make all of your ambitions come to fruition. If you are in your 20s, what will differentiate you as an entrepreneur is patience. Make sure to move fast on getting stuff done but be patient for the long-term gains.

I’ve owned my company for seven years now. I know that 96 percent of businesses fail before turning 10. I keep that statistic in my mind each and every day because I want to be part of the 4 percent that succeed past 10.

Each year you celebrate your business anniversary, your muscles will continue to grow.

8. Make money. 

I can’t stand all of the people who claim they are entrepreneurs. One simple question separates the contenders from the pretenders: “Are you generating revenue?” There are so many people out there who claim to be crushing it with their “entrepreneurial journey” but when you dig into it, they aren’t generating a penny in revenue. I’m not even getting into the details of generating a profit, which is what every business must do to survive.

If you aren’t making money with your business, you need to start and you need to start soon. Just like a hockey team needs to score goals in order to win a game, your business needs to make money to actually be considered a business. Stop with the pretend stuff and start selling your product or service.

9. Start meeting with millionaires.

On a monthly basis, start meeting with a millionaire for coffee. You’ll be amazed that there is no secret sauce to succeed in business. You’ll learn that hard work leads to better luck and success. You’ll also become inspired and motivated while listening to someone who has succeeded in the business world.

If you try and meet with Evan Spiegal from Snapchat, you aren’t going to have much luck. You’d be amazed, though, how many CEOs of billion- and multi-million-dollar companies would be willing to meet with you if you are persistent.

Don’t think for a second that you are the only one gaining value from the meeting. The CEOs and founders that you meet with — who will likely be in their 40s, 50s and 60s — will be asking you a lot of questions. The reason? Their customers are most likely your age, and they understand the spending power of millennials and Gen Zers.

10. Become an SEO and paid advertising expert. 

Do you want to know a more efficient way to grow your business than attending outdated networking events? Rank towards the top of Google so people will contact you directly for business inquires. Whether you just graduated from law school and plan on opening up your own practice or you are selling customized dog collars, SEO and paid ads can literally help any business.

This is one of the main reasons I’ve been able to grow my marketing agency quickly and efficiently. In the Columbus, Ohio markets, we crush it for terms like “social media company” and “SEO Company.”

There is no college degree or class you have to take to become an SEO or PPC expert. You just have to get your hands dirty, read articles and watch videos. If you are starting a business, you need to be well versed in this area so you can generate leads and sales online each and every day.

Related: 10 Things You Can Expect During Your First 10 Years Of Business

11. Be cheap.

Earlier in the article, I talked about how you can save money by not going to the bars every weekend. Do everything you can to be frugal with your money. You never know when the economy will turn south or when your biggest client or customer will drop off. If you are spending lavishly, you won’t be well prepared for tough times.

Start eating more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and eat out less. Stop buying clothes at Nordstrom and start shopping at TJ Maxx.

Every dollar is so important when you are starting a business. There’s a reason Warren Buffett has lived in the same house in Omaha, Neb., that he bought for $58,000 in 1958. The real winners in business are smart with their money.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com

Jason Parks is a proud Columbus native and the founder and CEO of The Media Captain, a digital marketing agency. He has been featured in the New York Times, Yahoo News, Search Engine Watch and AOL on digital-marketing topics and success stories.

Start-up Advice

Entrepreneurs! Do You Know What Your Customers Want?

Take off those rose-tinted spectacles and start looking at your business the way your customers do.

Chris Ogden

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Do you know what your customer’s need? Have you really looked at their problems and challenges and asked yourself how your product or solution helps solve them? Do you even know if your business addresses any one of the myriad pain points they face every day in their personal and professional lives? If your business talks to other businesses, are you speaking in the language they want to hear? If you don’t answer a definitive YES to every one of these questions, then you need to start paying attention…

Put in the effort

Research, research, research. Find out what people need through all the myriad of digital and physical research channels available to you. And when you engage with your customers in person, ask them questions and write those insights down. Listen.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Your Business Is Losing Customers

Bad feedback is great feedback

If clients are unhappy, they talk to you. This is good news. Use this feedback to build solutions that change these issues into advantages. This is when you should consider building an open feedback loop or mechanism into your business to ensure that you are getting the best possible insights from your customers. I

It’s also a good idea to check their criticism against reality before you spend thousands on fixing a problem that doesn’t really exist. For example, if they complain about poor customer care, assess your process and see how many complaints you have. It may be that one customer happened to deal with that one unhappy employee.

Understand their business

Your client has their own clients who have their own clients, and so on, and so forth. Take the time to get to know their business and their market. Often entrepreneurs don’t get to know how their client’s businesses work and they miss a crucial trick. By spending time with them and listening to them you get to understand their pain points and their needs. This way you can be the one who helps to fix their problems properly.

Related: How Well Do You Really Know Your Customers?

Don’t stop innovating

Don’t fear the ability to change something to suit a client’s needs. Your products and services have to evolve constantly as your market and consumers are changing constantly. You need to add value, change features or adjust your services dependent on the business you are in. Pay attention and innovate.

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Start-up Advice

Why Failing Is A Necessity Proven To Guarantee Success

We should always have this at the back of our minds whenever we have that nudge to give up on our dreams.

Matthew Mordi

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There comes a time, especially after a terrible defeat, when we feel like giving up or even quitting. The defeat clouds our minds and make us forget completely what victory feels like. We forget the successes and judge ourselves solely on the defeats. This feeling isn’t unique to a single individual as even the most successful businessmen, inventors, politicians, world leaders have experienced failures at different points in their lives.

We all love success stories. It’s a matter of fact that behind every success story is a large amount of failed attempts. The notion of overnight success is a myth. It took the Wright brothers between four and seven years of scientific experimentation and several failed attempts before their maiden flight covering a distance of 852 feet which lasted a mere 59 seconds was achieved.

History is replete with instances of individuals who were written off after a terrible fall from grace. These individuals, against all odds, didn’t give up.

Related: Having The Perfect Product Isn’t Enough To Keep You In Business

Tiger Woods, for example, has for the most part of his adult life being in the public eyes. That’s why when he went to his very public divorce, tales of womanising, dabbling with prescription drugs. Also plagued by injuries, his golf was seriously failing and in danger of being a “has been,” analysts advised he should just retire. It was obvious Tiger had a different plan up his claws by winning his first PGA tournament in five years.

His recent resurgence in form is testament to the fact that no one has the stop button to our life or life’s dreams and ambition. No one but you. It’s only when we stop innovating and trying that we’ve failed. Having lost a business deal that had the chance to change our lives positively forever isn’t the end of the world. Hence we need to reinvent and innovate.

If achieving success was easy, the vast majority of people would be successful. We have to put in the work and our skill to be able to achieve success because the most worthwhile things don’t come easy.

Defeats, if seen from a positive perspective, bring out the best in us. Victories don’t. Victories swell our egos, fill us with the air of invisibility, and this is dangerous. Hence we need a large dose of failures and defeats to bring us down to earth, to make us learn and better appreciate success the moment we’re able to achieve it.

What then do we do when we experience a poor run of defeats that make us doubt our abilities. Being fixated on the defeats for one, isn’t the solution. It has the tendency of making us forget what it felt like to win and totally derail us from our set goals. This, in itself, is a problem as it may lead to a state of unhappiness.

Related: Why Small Businesses Are Unable To Pay Staff Salaries

The bad results we might have experienced isn’t an indication of our inabilities, it’s an opportunity for us to look at the venture from a different perspective and take necessary action to improve or try a different approach towards achieving our aim.

Defeats can be depressing when we have dependents who rely on us for guidance and in some cases sustenance. Dependents could be in the form of a spouse, children, wards, parents, even staff. The pressure can be enough reason for some to give up and settle for the safer option.

With the decision to settle comes the likelihood of regret which may be more depressing than the expectations of dependents. Fortune they say favours the brave and nothing worthwhile was ever achieved without the possibility of failure.

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Start-up Advice

Why You Need Smart Legal Foundations For Your Start-up

The legal background to a start-up might not be the most exciting area for an entrepreneur, but it’s your foundation for growth. Are you aware of everything you need to have in place?

Kyle Torrington

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One of the best parts of what we do is helping start-ups — the right legal foundations can mean the difference between a start-up that’s geared for scale, and one that needs to retroactively put agreements, checks and balances in place. If you’re aiming for growth, you want to get these foundations right from the get-go.

When Benji Coetzee launched EmptyTrips, a hot up-and-coming start-up 16 months ago, Legal Legends was on the ground floor with her. Although your start-up trajectory may not be identical to that of EmptyTrips, many of the foundational principles canvassed in this article will apply at some point in the lifecycle of your business. They highlight what you should be thinking of from the word go.

Laying the right legal foundation

By the time we were introduced to EmptyTrips, they had already registered their entity as a company and had started to prepare for their first beta public launch in April 2017. When our dealings with the start-up began, the business had already enjoyed a quick and accelerated cycle.

As with all start-ups, the founders had a clear vision and objectives. Unlike too many start-ups however, Benji understood how important the right legal foundations would be, particularly as the business matured and required different support structures.

The following three actions are a good example of the legal foundations all businesses should consider, particularly if growth is a part of the founder’s vision:

1. Why you need trademark protection

Given that EmptyTrips is a digital solution, with limited physical assets, protecting intellectual property as ‘soft’ assets was critical to its differentiation and valuation given the recognition of brand value over time.

At first, we set out to ensure that EmptyTrips’ marketing materials and properties, such as company name, slogan, and product names were protected sufficiently from use by others. This was done by filing for various trademark registrations.

A trademark is a sign or symbol that is unique to your business, and which distinguishes it from other businesses. The most common forms of trademarks are business names, product names, logos and slogans.

By registering a trademark you are granted exclusivity over the use of the name, slogan or logo, and may prevent others from using similar names, slogans or logos in their business in the future.

Related: [PODCAST] Benji Coetzee, Founder & CEO Of Empty Trips – How To Disrupt A $8 Trillion Logistics Industry

When it came to EmptyTrips, they had already filed a trademark for their business name, so we focused on protecting the names of the different service offerings on the business’s platform as the solution evolved and pivoted. These included Trip Exchange; Freight Open Exchange; SureFox and RailFox. As the business grows and product lines are added, we will continue to update this list.

2. The importance of website legal documents

EmptyTrips is predominately an online marketplace solution to enterprises. It is a digital transport brokering agency that has been developed to source, match and market available transport capacity (empty space on trucks, trains, vessels and so on) to commercial freight with on-demand supporting financial products (insurance etc).

Our next task was to prepare the documents that would govern the relationship between EmptyTrips, its users and service providers. These documents, as with most websites, consist of both a terms of service and privacy policy.

Each company’s Terms of Service will be unique to that business, market and customers, but privacy policies are universally required by law.

A privacy policy is a written document available for all users to inspect on your website and which they are required to agree to. It sets out the different kinds of personal information that you collect, coupled with how you store that information, and what you do with it. A privacy policy is required by the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act No 4 of 2013, and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (EU) 2016/679 if you are collecting personal information from European citizens.

In the case of EmptyTrips, their pick up and drop off address, business information to cater for the pick-up and drop-off of goods by carriers, personal information such as the name of the carrier, and payment details, need to be recorded in the privacy policy. In addition, certain elements of the information, such as pick up and drop off locations being shared with potential transporters, need to be mentioned.

If you do not have a privacy policy in place on your website, Legal Legends has a cheap automated version available at the following link if you would like to order one: www.legallegends.co.za

3. The legal frame work around outside investment

Like many high-growth starts-ups, Benji and her team reached a point where outside investment was needed. This is an area where your legal partner is key. Apart from attending to various due diligence meetings and ensuring proper governance controls, we were tasked with ensuring that the contracts for external investment were prepared in a manner that sufficiently protected the interests of EmptyTrips and its founding members.

It’s common during a seed or series A round of funding for an investor to present the start-up with a term sheet detailing the nature or basis of the intention and extent of their investment, as well as all the terms relating to the governance of the company that they would like to put in place.

In this case, the institutional investor presented EmptyTrips with a term sheet that detailed the monetary investment that the investor would provide over a number of years, the monthly draw-downs of the investment that EmptyTrips would be entitled to, the number of shares that the investor would be issued for their investment, as well as the manner in which the governance of the company would be changed in order to protect their investment.

Often, and this applied to EmptyTrips, the terms contained in the term sheet require a new shareholders’ agreement and/or memorandum of incorporation in order to protect the interests of the minority shareholder (the investor).

A shareholders’ agreement governs the relationship between the shareholders of the company and their ability to administer the company.

A memorandum of incorporation governs the relationship between directors, shareholders, prescribed officers and the company.  A standard memorandum of incorporation is issued when a company is registered, but it will often need to be amended at a later stage if, for example, measures to protect the minority shareholders are introduced.

A memorandum of incorporation can regulate the same aspects as a shareholders’ agreement, however, the main difference is that it is a public document available for inspection by anyone, whilst a shareholders’ agreement is a private document.

In addition, if there is any conflict between a shareholders’ agreement and a memorandum of incorporation, the shareholders’ agreement will not apply and will be voided to the extent of its inconsistency.  This often means, as was the case with EmptyTrips, that certain aspects of the shareholders’ agreement that provided for protection of the investor required a redraft of the memorandum of incorporation so that the two documents were aligned.

A shareholders’ agreement might not be enforceable until a memorandum of incorporation has been aligned with it.

Read next: 5 Lessons From The Legal Legends On Pivoting

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