Chasing the Dream

Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. After all, owning your own company is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Unfortunately for many, the challenge is simply too much to undertake. According to a 2015 Forbes article, 90% of all startups fail. So, how do you become one of the 10% who succeeds? Five successful local entrepreneurs share their advice on how to tackle the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face today.

Amanda Varnell

Dish T’Pass1 

Working for an established company, there is a predictable rhythm to the work day – you are an expert that shows up with a job to do, operates in a silo, works an 8-hour day, and when you leave work, you leave. Entrepreneurship is nothing like this! It is a lifestyle. As an entrepreneur, you develop a philosophy and product, and you live it. You live it, and you have to build a team that lives it too. You have to become an expert in many things, and you must have a team that is willing to step out of their individual areas of expertise to get a task done, no matter what it may be.

Tara Plumlee

Entrepreneur & Event and Catering Expert

The creation of the idea is the easiest part. Implementing your idea and creating sustainable growth year after year takes dedication, sacrifice, and perseverance. Consistently reinventing your idea to remain competitive in your industry takes an incredibly strong person. You cannot be average. With each new business, the risk is much greater than before. While implementing each idea, it’s important to have clear growth goals and an exit strategy that can be introduced at the proper time.

John O’Brien

Partner and Director, Contemporary Healthcare Capital
Co-owner, High Point Climbing and Fitness

There are significant challenges for entrepreneurs, and many are different for first-time risk takers than for those who have a proven track record in starting up businesses. One obstacle that universally affects every new business venture is capital. For those with experience, access to bank financing may not be a barrier; however, deciding which project to make an equity investment in becomes a key issue.  I continually review new business opportunities and narrow down the list to those projects that I have a passion for starting up. Then, I determine which ones provide the best internal rate of return. 
A new startup takes a big sacrifice of time. If you are passionate about the business though, the effort can be enjoyable instead of burdensome when it comes to putting in those long hours. 

Miller Welborn

Chairman, SmartBank

I would encourage anyone to chase their dream! However, a new entrepreneur should certainly do a few very important things early in their process. 1. Set goals for yourself and your business. 2. Find a strong, experienced mentor that will speak openly and honestly with you about your progress or lack thereof. 3. Learn to accept constructive criticism. 4. Work a long, hard day every day, and then put in 3-4 more hours. 5. Never forget your family. 6. Pay yourself last…if there is anything left. 7. Make sure to include some fun every day. 8. Meet with anyone who is willing to meet with you, and then listen more than you talk. You can learn something from everyone. 9. Surround yourself with an extraordinary team of associates. None of these items assure success, but they certainly have helped me over the past 35 years.

Jack Studer

Interim Executive Director, CO.LAB

The biggest challenge is finding the right partners who align with you and your goals. Whether it’s co-founders, your first customers, or even investors, anyone involved in the beginning needs to be considered a long-term partner in your endeavor. Starting a business is like starting a family, and your partners are like your spouse. You need to make sure you find co-founders who share your vision. You also need to ensure you’re serving an industry with customers that you passionately value. If you have investors, it’s important they align with both your customers and your co-founders. Thinking about all of your partners with a long-term perspective is the only way to ensure you’re in the 10% that make it long term!


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