What I learned by starting a business in my 20s

When I look back at my first business startup I giggle.  Only an overly optimistic child could do the things I did.  But more than ten years later I look back and surprisingly, I don’t cringe at my inexperienced exuberance.  Instead I’m now trying to channel that crazy 27-year-old’s sprit.

I studied accounting after school. It’s not an easy course for a “creative person” to tackle and when I eventually passed and completed my articles I had a deer-in-the-headlights moment. Now what?

I had no idea what I wanted to do next.  I knew I didn’t want a career in finance but didn’t want to waste years of hard work in qualifying. So, after a few months of searching and moping, I met a recruitment agent who finally listened to me – I didn’t want to be an accountant. The agent suggested I tried joining an Investor Relations agency.  One needs a hybrid of skills for Investor Relations, the first is an understanding of numbers and the other is the ability to write.

After about a year at the agency I met an amazing woman who encouraged me to start my own Investor Relations agency which would be part of her larger marketing-services offering. She provided support in terms of infrastructure, mentorship and encouragement but the rest was up to me. A friend from my previous agency joined me and Chillibush Investor Relations was born. The business had five successful years, and we then decided to sell our stakes to the other shareholders. Our circumstances had changed, we’d gotten married and wanted to start families and, at that time, wanted regular nine to five jobs.

More than 10 years later I’ve quit my corporate job and I’m in the same place I was after my articles – deer-in-the-headlights! Life is very different, I’m now a wife and a mom but looking back I think I can learn from the 27-year-old me who took a chance and started a business.

 

JUST DO IT

Stop doubting yourself.  And stop procrastinating.

I remember how my partner and I would arrive unannounced at prospective clients’ offices to drop a brochure or a little branded gift.  We’d cheekily ask to speak to the CEO and believe it or not, sometimes they would see us.  We were always pitch-ready.

 

YES YOU CAN

Learn to see the glass half full.  See past the numerous barriers that are in the way of your success.

If a client asked if we could deliver something we’d never done before, the answer was YES. We believed we could figure out how to do it  – whatever it takes. (Of course, the request had to be reasonable and vaguely in the scope of our business.)

 

DO IT YOURSELF

One can learn how to do almost anything on Youtube these days. There are times one needs to invest, but don’t initially spend money unnecessarily.

We asked for input and favours and tried to limit our initial capital expenditure as much as possible. Spending a lot of money in the beginning of a new venture puts pressure on you to make money fast.

 

ASK FOR HELP

You’d be amazed at how people willingly give of their time.  Ask for help.

We asked acquaintances and friends of friends for advice on registering a company, drawing up shareholders’ agreements and setting a strategy.  People saw our enthusiasm and wanted to help us do things right.

I have a number of friends in their 30s and 40s who are in the same deer-in-the-headlights situation that I’m in again.  We’re trying to balance being a good wife and mom, but we have our own desires to achieve something for ourselves. Let’s put ourselves first for a moment, stop making excuses and find a way to achieve those things. Circumstances are different for everyone, especially in our county, and it may not be as simple as I make it seem. But is it not worth being positive and giving your dreams your best shot?

 

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