I often get asked, “Do I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?” Truthfully, if you’re asking that question, it may not be the right fit for you.
Being an entrepreneur requires you to have an idea that changes a system or creates a new experience. In essence, you are changing behavior. Steve Jobs did this with the iPhone, not only by creating a product, but a completely new market for smartphones along with it. Meanwhile, Elon Musk is taking us to new levels of sustainability and style with Tesla and to the moon with SpaceX!
What helps entrepreneurs like Jobs and Musk succeed? Let’s go over what you need to do — and what you don’t.
What You Need
1. Think about how to change your own experience — then change it for others.
You should find something that doesn’t work how you want it to, and fix it. My inspiration occurred in Mexico when I was twelve. For the first time, I saw extreme poverty that engulfed young children, leaving them begging on the street. I’ve volunteered to help change that situation ever since. Now we’re changing it for others through my nonprofit, helping thousands of people make a difference through international giving and volunteering.
2. Solve a problem.
Your idea needs to solve a problem. It needs to change the norm, making something easier, faster and more engaging. A great example is Henry Ford’s car. People needed to travel more quickly to expand their business or to get to remote areas. Horses and carriages were slower, more volatile in bad weather, and less safe. “Feeding” a car is certainly easier than feeding a horse!
This gap may be something that people don’t recognize. Not many people were demanding phones with Siri, slide screens and cool icons. But they sure were happy when Jobs handed it to them. Within the first year, around 1.4 million iPhones were sold.
When I began my journey, the concept of social entrepreneurship was not yet developed. That meant there were no social entrepreneurship job listings, programs, or conferences. As a result, I found myself in odd jobs like working in sales and PR, waitressing and instructing in aerobics. It felt like I had no path.
I went back to the drawing board, and reflected on my early experience in Mexico, witnessing poverty. I volunteered all over the world, doing microfinance in rural India, sustainable farming in Guatemala, and computer training in Cambodia. I thought about my love of volunteering, and how I wanted to bring that to others. All of this led me to UniversalGiving. It took ten difficult years for my dreams to manifest, but I was driven to make my ideas a reality.
3. Build a team.
You can’t ever forget this, and I am sure every entrepreneur will state its importance. Your team is the greatest executor of your vision.
In 1991, I pursued my first startup, a Gift Basket company that would give back to nonprofits. I had the business plan, the products, and the sales targets. Yet I didn’t have a partner. I had to shut it down before it started, and I was devastated. In essence, I didn’t have the right team.
Even if it’s a small team like a group of volunteers, that’s enough! Get the people who are inspired long-term to make your vision a reality and reward them for it.
4. Leverage your natural drive.
Drive, perseverance, the nights you go to bed exhausted but are energized the next day — you can’t teach these. You can’t give this to someone. You have to have a natural drive to see your product get out to the marketplace.
What You Don’t Need
I’m not going to say ignore it. It’s nice to have it, but it isn’t always necessary. Biz Stone, one of the founders of Twitter, needed to make Twitter take off. He didn’t spend six months raising funds. He listened to what users needed: a concise way to express themselves and receive information, globally. He just launched the software and it took off.
2. A Physical Product
Entrepreneurs of today are creating experiences, not products. Instagram isn’t a product — it’s a new experience. The color, tone and sizing create a new atmosphere which makes the viewer feel a part of the trip or moment. You’ve transformed a photo into an experience.
Surprisingly, you don’t always have to scale. Entrepreneurship is not about creating a global company. You could set up one restaurant or one great dry cleaning shop that offers the kindest client service. Not everyone is or should be an Apple or Target. Small businesses make positive changes and are the backbone of our economy.
Being an entrepreneur is challenging — filled with obstacles, but also joy. You have to be in love with your product. For me, I am inspired each day to help more people volunteer. I am wealthy in spirit. If you decide to become an entrepreneur to help the world, you’ll make the world a better place, and you’ll become wealthy in heart, mind and spirit as well.
Read more: Forbes