Words of wisdom: What I learned about entrepreneurship

Female Founders

We asked our students to sum up what they learned about entrepreneurship this year.  What they said will inspire you.  Here are 110 things they want you to know about being an entrepreneur:

  1. A good idea is not enough.
  2. A strong work ethic is important.  Don’t be satisfied with the idea of creating something.  Put in the work to make it happen.
  3. An entrepreneur is open-minded.  Don’t be dismissive.
  4. Anyone can create a business, but scaling it takes planning and precision.
  5. Ask for advice. Build a good advisory team.
  6. Be nice.  Be nice to everyone you meet.  Be approachable.  Be likeable.
  7. Be open to change.
  8. Be open to compromise.
  9. Be relentless.  Do not take no for an answer.
  10. Be specific on strategy.
  11. Being a leader does not mean making all of the decisions.
  12. Being a leader is not easy.
  13. Being an entrepreneur is not a job. It is a way of life.
  14. Being an entrepreneur means handling the highs and the lows.
  15. Burn the business plan. Write it, because the process is important, but then be prepared to toss it because the trajectory you think your company is on today will not be the same path tomorrow, next week, next month and next year.
  16. Business plan competitions are important ways to raise first funds for your venture. Work hard to get pitch ready and compete.
  17. Businesses don’t fail. Entrepreneurs do, because they give up.
  18. Change can be a good thing when you are prepared to pivot.
  19. Communication is easier said than done.
  20. Create a business plan, but don’t treat it as the Holy Grail.
  21. Customer acquisition is very different from customer retention.
  22. Customer discovery is critical.
  23. Do everything with a purpose, whether it is professional or personal.
  24. Don’t be afraid of setbacks. Use challenges to drive innovation.
  25. Don’t be too conservative on your financial roadmap.
  26. Don’t create new products because you love your idea. Solve a problem.
  27. Don’t do customer discovery with your friends. You will get false positives.
  28. Don’t give up.
  29. Don’t limit possible partners.
  30. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
  31. Don’t try to boil the ocean.
  32. Don’t wait until the last minute, or you will usually end up doing it alone.
  33. Entrepreneurs are creative, decisive and energetic, and great networkers.
  34. Entrepreneurs are not risk-takers. They are risk-managers.
  35. Entrepreneurs have great stories to tell.
  36. Entrepreneurs know a lot about sacrifice.
  37. Entrepreneurs need to know when to pivot.
  38. Entrepreneurship is about finding answers to the questions you don’t even know to ask.
  39. Entrepreneurship is alive and well at Syracuse University.  I cannot believe the number of incredible student startups on campus.
  40. Entrepreneurship is not a linear process.
  41. Entrepreneurship is simple, but it is not easy.
  42. Entrepreneurship is stressful. That is part of the journey.
  43. Even if you think you have a good idea, the market may not be interested in it, so you need to test it. And be prepared to let it go.
  44. Even if you work at a corporate job, you can still be an entrepreneur
  45. Failure is ok. It happens.  It will happen to you.  Entrepreneurs deal with failure, learn from it, and see it as a teachable moment.
  46. Finances are hard. Ask for help.
  47. Grinding it out will be worth it.
  48. Have some fun along the way.
  49. Having a good pitch is important. It is your story, and conveys your unique value proposition.
  50. Hire slow. Fire fast.
  51. If something needs to be done, be proactive and DO IT!
  52. If you are not passionate about your company, then it is going to be difficult to succeed, and devote your full energy to it. Passion is necessary.
  53. If you are not starting early, you are not starting on time.
  54. It is important to be open to change and suggestions.
  55. It’s a journey. Have fun with it.
  56. It’s important that your team is as passionate as you are.
  57. It’s important to know the difference between a trend and a fad.
  58. It’s more work than you think.
  59. It’s not going to be easy.
  60. It’s ok to ask questions. Do not be afraid to admit that you don’t know.
  61. Know your values.
  62. Learn to accept and manage risk.
  63. Learn when to stop asking for advice, and move ahead.
  64. Listen.  Your ideas may not be the best answer.  Listening can help you find the right answer and avoid problems.
  65. No problem is too small.
  66. Not everyone needs to have a C-suite title on your startup team.
  67. Others have gone through what you are going through and want to share their insight.
  68. Patience is key. You and your team members WILL disagree.
  69. Pause long enough occasionally to reflect on your achievements.
  70. Pay it back.  Then pay it forward.
  71. People invest in you, even more than your idea. Be that person who builds confidence and trust.
  72. Persistence is key.
  73. Seek discomfort.
  74. Seeking out and utilizing mentors is crucial.
  75. Small feasible goals are what drive a company forward, allowing them to reach lofty ambitions.
  76. Social media is not a marketing strategy. It is a tool.  It is only a platform.  You still need a plan.
  77. Sometimes you just have to say, “Screw the status quo.”
  78. Startups need a roadmap.  But be prepared to take detours along the road.
  79. Stay positive, even while embracing mistakes.
  80. Storytelling is the best way to sell your product, service or technology.
  81. Stubbornness is not helpful, but persistence is.  Keep fighting, but bend when necessary.
  82. Surround yourself with good people. Especially good advisors.
  83. Surround yourself with positive people.  Build a support system that will get you through the tough times.
  84. Syracuse has one of the best entrepreneurship programs. I had no idea!
  85. Take constructive criticism.
  86. The Blackstone LaunchPad is a great resource to kick start an idea.
  87. The Blackstone LaunchPad is dope.
  88. The Blackstone LaunchPad is so helpful. Use it.
  89. The business is about the customer.  Remember that.  It is about solving the customer’s problem.
  90. The secret to success is building the right team, and knowing what to look for in team members.
  91. The success of your entrepreneurial venture depends on how badly you want it to be successful.
  92. There is a lot of time spent eating ramen noodles.
  93. There is no one way to become an entrepreneur.
  94. There is no reason not to give 100%. If you are not, you should not be an entrepreneur.
  95. Things may seem 10 x harder than they really are, but once you organize, it is easier than it seems.
  96. Things will not always go your way.
  97. To foresee market trends, look beyond the horizon and around the corners.
  98. When stress starts to overpower passion, remind yourself of why you did this in the first place.
  99. While it is important to be a leader, it is just as important to delegate. Build a strong team and let them do their jobs.  Lead by example.
  100. With your team, trust is important.
  101. Without passion, entrepreneurship sucks.
  102. You are not alone when you start a venture at SU. You have peer entrepreneurs, alumni, faculty and resource centers like the LaunchPad to support you.
  103. You can’t say “thank you” too much.  Say it whenever you can.
  104. You do not need to be a unicorn to be a successful entrepreneur
  105. You need to have drive as well as passion.
  106. You need to put in the time and sleep on an air mattress. Alternatively, the couch in the LaunchPad, because it is open 24 hours when you pull all-nighters.
  107. You will never know if you can be an entrepreneur unless you try it.
  108. Your idea is just a starting point. It is the foundation.  Build on it. Then iterate, iterate, iterate.
  109. Your story is your sell.
  110. Your venture is most likely to fail if you let it fail.

These gems of wisdom came from the spring 2018 Whitman EEE370 class taught by Blackstone Executive Director Linda Dickerson Hartsock.

Photo:  Blackstone LaunchPad Female Founders Julia Haber, Kate Beckman and Tay Lotte.