College Treps is a weekly column that puts the spotlight on college and graduate school-based entrepreneurs, as they tackle the tough task of starting up and going to school. Follow their daily struggles and this column on Twitter with the hashtag #CollegeTreps.
Like many young entrepreneurs, my fears are both plentiful and agonizing. But don't tell my brain that.
While most people see fear as a detriment to prudent action, I see it as fuel for calculated, deliberate decisions. After all, there are two reactions to fear that are rarely given equal attention: flight or fight. You are the only one who chooses which to pursue.
And while my thoughts are as plagued by fear as the next guy, I actively choose to fight. And fight I must, if I ever hope to see my venture successful. Here are my top three fears and what I tell myself to overcome them:
Fear: My venture will be imperfect
Initially, I admit that the need to perfect my website became an obsession. I constantly thought about it and tweaked it every day. Now, to a degree, you have to want to make your work the best it can be before you launch, but there is a difference between making something good and putting it to use in an efficient manner.
I feared that people wouldn't take my company seriously if my website wasn't perfect. This fear drove me to delay my marketing campaign and forfeit time I could have used for more important tasks.
Still, being afraid to share your venture idea with others simply because it has imperfections is a mistake. Let other people help you sharpen your idea. Be patient, understanding and open to criticism. Your best resource is having people who are willing to listen, not time spent scribbling your cluttered ideas on a whiteboard. I think you'll find that people who are willing to help entrepreneurs love imperfection because imperfection can also be seen as potential.
Bottom line: Nothing is perfect and that's why it's valuable.
Fear: Opportunity costs
Starting your own business is risky; that much is obvious. Yet due to this truism, you must be resolutely sure you want it. To make a venture successful you have to want it more than anything else. The need to succeed and the mission of the organization must live deep within your core and infect every inch of your brain.
There may be safer opportunities out there but if your mind is fixated on those possibilities, how can you fully commit yourself to growing your business? You have to be 'All In.' if it's what you truly want, go get it.
Bottom line: Think about it, then think harder.
Fear: Making ends meet
The life of an entrepreneur is not glamorous, as money can be hard to come by, particularly in the early stages. To supplement your business income, monetize your other talents. It may be presumptuous to assume you have other talents, but since you are an entrepreneur I assume you do.
I have always had an interest in photography, and after taking a photography class in high school I began snapping pictures in my spare time. It only recently occurred to me that I could sell my photos. This supplemental income may not be much, but I can turn something I am already doing into cash.
If you are in the non-profit field as I am, find a fellowship program to sponsor you. There are always institutions looking for social entrepreneurs to sponsor to create positive social change through business.
Bottom line: Find a side gig or programs that can support you when your business can't.
As I move forward with my business, I realize my greatest fear is inaction. As an executive director of a nonprofit, I am working for the good of my community. I see a problem that needs solving, and without my action the change I wish to see is uncertain. That scares me. Fear can paralyze you or make you come out swinging, but only you can decide.
In your mission statement there should be a problem or opportunity. Are you willing to give up on that because you are afraid?
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