My experience as a young entrepreneur

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Added on 10 August 2016 in Blog


I like to learn and to set challenges for myself. I have a versatile background and I have followed a rather sinuous career path, which has allowed me to enjoy diverse and enriching experiences here at home and in the neighbouring United States. I have worked with various types of companies, both in terms of size (start-ups, SMEs, big business) and sectors of activity (health care, automotive, agencies, media, fashion, film and television production). I have always aspired to be able to develop something from A to Z, to be involved in every aspect of an organization, but I felt it would be indispensable to first acquire some solid experience to bring into the endeavour. After having completed my last big business project in the fall of 2014, logic dictated that I take the big leap… that I answer the call of entrepreneurship.


“ Taking the big leap, answering the call of entrepreneurship ”


Here are a few general observations gathered from my experience.

Winning elements

  • Have an understanding and supportive entourage
  • Be resourceful and versatile
  • Be hard-working
  • Accept imperfection
  • Do not require a lot of sleep
  • Know how to surround yourself with the right people
  • Be motivated and determined

 

Biggest challenges

  • Being ready to make big sacrifices: your money and your time will go to your business
  • Dealing with uncertainty
  • Learning how to trust yourself to move things forward quickly and properly
  • Making difficult decisions (budget, human resources, etc.)
  • Striking a healthy balance
  • Finding talented and dedicated co-founders
  • Managing your cash flow well, despite unforeseen events
  • Making do with limited resources (financial, human)

“ Learning to trust yourself ”


How to get there

  • By preparing: market studies, analyzing the competition, SWOT, identifying your objectives, surveys/user tests, etc.
  • By getting equipped: find the right tools for optimizing your operations, validate them with groups of entrepreneurs and self-employed workers (Facebook groups, LinkedIn, etc.)—do your research, as several tools and services are now available free of charge or at reduced rates for entrepreneurs
  • By surrounding yourself with the right people: find the right mentors, frequent hubs, and attend various gatherings (meet-ups, pitches, launches, workshops, conferences, hackathons, etc.)
  • By getting involved: sign up for various competitions and programs, both to obtain funding and to help improve your pitch and validate your business model
  • By broadening your areas of competence: you should learn to excel in a variety of spheres in addition to your specialized field: accounting (financial forecasts, taxes, tax credits, etc.), legal services (various contracts, trademarks, intellectual property, policies and conditions, etc.), marketing (brand image, digital and traditional advertising, social media, etc.), technology (website, blog, social networks, payment systems, etc.), human resources (hiring, CSST, government remittances, etc.)
  • By prioritizing: put your energy into what counts most
  • By planning: be highly organized while remaining very flexible in order to re-evaluate your priorities on an ongoing basis and adapt according to new elements that come into play
  • By giving it your all: be ready to wear your old clothes and put aside eating out, vacation, and expensive and time-consuming activities
  • By having a project that allows you to quickly acquire a client base (users that confirm market interest and provide a revenue for you to continue to develop the project)
  • By minimizing dependencies

Life Lessons

  • Do more in-depth interviews: include practical tests, get comments from former colleagues and bosses, and look into past accomplishments to validate know-how and ensure a good fit
  • Learn to be less naïve: intuition and verbal agreements are rarely sufficient in a business context
  • Don’t wait for the perfect situation: there will never be an ideal moment or environment, you have to try to capitalize on the positive aspects and get around the negative aspects
  • It’s worth the effort: whether you continue as an entrepreneur or self-employed worker, or return to the job market, the skills you acquire will be very useful to you. They will enable you to understand all of the issues, and to see beyond what seems most evident. You will have a better understanding of interrelationships, impacts, and behind-the-scenes goings-on (fixed costs, variable costs, values, opportunities, risks, etc.)
  • It might be beneficial to find one or two trusted partners ready to make an effort and get actively involved in your project: you will thereby have a variety of perspectives and experiences on the table.

 


“ It’s worth the effort: whether you continue as an entrepreneur or self-employed worker, or return to the job market, the skills you acquire will be very useful to you. ”


My experience

Of course, one cannot generalize, as each project comes with its own set of challenges. In my case, I tackled two completely different aspects: consultation and the founding of a start-up (transactional digital platform). The biggest challenge with a large-scale project that requires considerable pre-financing before being taken to market and drawing a profit is that it creates a dependence on funding programs and investors; it is a considerable risk. While as a consultant/self-employed worker, costs are very limited and revenue depends solely on your know-how and availability; at first, you need to devote a lot of time to building up a clientele, but once the machine is up and running, you end up with more requests than you are available to meet! They are two completely different experiences that I appreciated for various reasons. Of course, with a little hindsight, if I were to do it all over again, I would adapt certain aspects… which I will discuss at greater length in another article!

 

The freedom to create your own job is definitely not for everyone—there are inevitable highs and lows; one must know how to manage the rollercoaster ride. You should be ready to deal with disappointment, live with broken promises, manage lead times and ensuing consequences, and not rest on your laurels... But, at the end of the day, it’s so enriching. Thanks again to my friends and family—especially my spouse and my parents—for their support, as well as to various mentors and professional contacts who made themselves available and who believed in me.

Virginie
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Virginie Chabot, MBA, PSPO
virginie@virginiechabot.ca
virginiechabot.ca
LinkedIn : https://ca.linkedin.com/in/virginiechabot