This post is adapted from a guest post I wrote about a month ago that can be found here.
As I work with hopeful entrepreneurs and those in the early stages of their startup, I am continually inspired by their unwavering commitment to pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, I’m often discouraged to see their enthusiasm squelched when they find themselves to be outsiders trying to break into a startup community that only caters to a specific type of entrepreneur.
We owe it to aspiring entrepreneurs to be diligent in creating more inclusive startup communities. First, let’s make it easier for entrepreneurs to turn ideas into successful startups. Second, creating strong communities of support for startup businesses must become a top priority. Let’s see how we can make progress in accomplishing these two tasks.
Stop Giving Entrepreneurial Assessments
Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. Jeff Bezos of Amazon has a totally different set of skills than the lady who runs the bakery down the street. Steve Jobs’ personality is completely different from the local IT consultant I work with. But they are all entrepreneurs. It is impossible in 10 to 20 questions to separate all possible types of entrepreneurs. By doing so, we are limiting the number of individuals who can create ideas that can become successful businesses.
I have the privilege of facilitating in our local CO.STARTERS entrepreneurial training program, which has trained an incredibly diverse group of over 7,000 entrepreneurs nationwide. They are men and women from a wide range socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, with varying skill sets and personalities. In the first week of our program, we give them a Working-Styles Assessment. We make it clear that this isn’t to determine if they have what it takes or not. It simply helps them figure out their strengths and then begin to build a team around their weaknesses.
We need to stop thinking that we can determine who is and who is not capable of starting a business. Instead, we need to invite more people into the process and equip them with the tools they need to build a team that sets their business up for success.
It’s a Numbers Game
As we invite more people to explore their entrepreneurial interests, it will inevitably lead more people to start the business they have been dreaming about. In the CO.STARTERS program that I facilitate, anyone can sign up as long as they have an idea. By doing this, it allows our site to launch dozens of businesses each year. One of the sites in our growing community, which is focused on training entrepreneurs in a low-income community, is celebrating an 80% success rate in their first five years.
This high rate of success is partially due to the process. Each potential entrepreneur is led through the process of figuring out the time and financial commitments needed to launch their business. Then they are led through a process to determine if their business will be sustainable, including getting feedback from potential customers. During this time, they are given the freedom to pivot or shut down their idea at any point. By the time they complete the program, their business idea has been tested and refined, and they have developed the skills to pivot in the future when the need arises. As we equip entrepreneurs, we must intentionally create opportunities for anyone to test and refine their idea.
It Takes a Community to Raise an Entrepreneur
Once we create a more inclusive process, we will have more entrepreneurs than ever before who are ready to start businesses. But it doesn’t end there. We have to continue to walk alongside them. They will need help building their team, connecting with vendors, and navigating the highs and lows that come will running a business. They will need experienced mentors ready and willing to give them access to their social networks and make connections.
In our program, we surround our entrepreneurs with a community of support that extends beyond the program. They connect with their cohort of 10 to 15 peers who are going through the same process and share ideas and struggles. We bring in local entrepreneurs who share their successes and struggles. They meet with service professionals like lawyers and accountants to help guide them through legal and financial issues. They are also required to find a mentor who has started a similar business to their idea.
We do all of this to create a community of support around the entrepreneur that extends beyond our program and provides them with ongoing support. This increases the chance for success during the startup phase of the business, but also allows for growth throughout the life of the organization. Science tells us that good nutrition during our developmental years sets us up to be healthier adults. Likewise, businesses that receive nutritional support during their infancy will be healthier in the long run.
We need an open mindset regarding who can be an entrepreneur and we must create environments for them to gain the tools they need to evaluate themselves and their ideas. Then we need to surround them with a community of support to ensure they launch their businesses with a strong foundation for future growth. If we do this well, we will create a landscape where entrepreneurs thrive and build sustainable companies that transform communities.
I am committed to the belief that given the right set of expectations and training, anyone can be an entrepreneur and I’ll work tirelessly to prove it to you. Are you an aspiring entrepreneur who is looking for your niche in the startup community? Does your young company need support to help you climb out of a growth rut? Through my customized coaching program, I will walk with you through the challenges you face, no matter where you are in the process. Contact me today and let’s get started!