R.C.

5 Awesome Resources for College Entrepreneurs (that I wish I knew about when I was in college)

One of the biggest lies about college is that the only thing you can do there is prime yourself to go get a cubicle career at some big company.

If you listen to about 95% of guidance councilors and professors, that’s exactly the impression you’d get.

That’s the impression got when I was in college.

But you know what’s cool?

The times are starting to change.

Society is starting to realize the awesome entrepreneurial things that college students are capable of doing, and the immense value that they can create for the marketplace.

Schools are starting to realize, “dayum!  Maybe we should start promoting entrepreneurship with our students!”

People with bucketloads of money are starting to realize “maybe investing in these kids is a good way to keep building our portfolio!”

And a few select college students who were smart enough to pull off entrepreneurship are saying “maybe I should give back to other college students who are trying to do the same thing”.

Here’s some specs on 5 awesome resources available to university entrepreneurs.  If you go to a sizable university (even if it’s just a public state university!), I guarantee you that your university will have some of these resources.

Feel lucky that you have these!  These are resources worth tens of thousands of dollars that you get for cheap / free just because you’re a student.  Imagine how jealous everyone out of school is!  But seriously if you don’t take advantage of these and then complain later (“there’s no resources to help me become an entrepreneur!  waaaah!”), I will come over there and annihilate you: [click to continue…]

4 Important Lessons I Learned From Jumping into Entrepreneurship Head-On

A lot of people start feeling super-awkward about themselves when they contemplate starting their own business…y’know, a tingley-feeling of “should I really be doing this?”  ”Will I uber-fail and people will think I’m an idiot?”

I worried about all of those things…but decided “to hell with it, YOLO!”, and gave up the idea of pursuing a “normal” career; opting to jump head-first into entrepreneurship after I graduated from college.

(I promise I don’t say YOLO in real life).

And I sit here 10 months later…reflecting back to all of the things I’ve done…

…some of them have been ingenious…

…most of them have been downright stupid, and can only be chalked up to a “learning experience”

So I decided to take my experiences…the good, the bad, and the shitty…and distill them into this super-long, heart-spilling missive.

TLDR??..if you’re serious about starting on your own, and don’t want to spend months making mistakes, take this opportunity to learn from my mistakes, and do better yourself:

[click to continue…]

Lauching on Kickstarter- 3 myths that can sink your campaign

R.C.’s Note: Whew!!  It’s been 2 weeks since I’ve written a post here!  I’ve been going through some pretty big and exciting changes with my businesses that have just been killing my time these last couple of weeks!  I’ll share those with you soon.  Thanks as always for being a reader.  -RC

You already know that one of my projects is FusionCase, an iPhone case that will go on Kickstarter.

As you’ve probably noticed by now, I haven’t talked about FusionCase in a while.You may be wondering “we haven’t heard RC talk about his Kickstarter project for a while.  What happened?  Did it fizzle out?  Is he just a jerk and doesn’t want us to know what he’s up to?”

Oh, the headaches that come along the way…

The truth is, designing, pitching and selling a manufactured product takes about 10 times more work than you would think, especially for this business-school boy here.

I don’t mean that in a way that I would never do it again…actually, it’s a crapload of fun, and I’m finally learning about the design process behind building physical creative products worked(Lord knows I had no exposure to that earlier in life…I had like 3 Legos and 1 Tinker Toy pole to my name as a kid, and I seriously almost failed kindergarten art class).

Naturally, my work has bee more on the business side of things.  I spent an ungodly amount of time researching Kickstarter: how it worked;  the “tried and true” methods for promoting a product and getting people interested; and most importantly, the things that many people screw up that sinks their ship.

Before I tell you what I found out, reflect on the following statement:

“Dude, Kickstarter’s like this great way to, like, launch a product and, like, go viral and get lots of people to invest in you, man.”

OK, maybe not everyone out there sounds like a village idiot when they talk, but admit it: Kickstarter does seem like an easy way to raise money and get recognition for yourself online.

Right?

Right?…

The truth will set you free (and maybe make you cry). [click to continue…]

The Stupidly Easy Way to Figure Out if Entrepreneurship Is For You

I wrote an article about finding out “how to figure out if entrepreneurship is for you” because a lot of people ask me that.  In fact, just Google it, and about 4 million articles pop up.

I understand why people ask this.  It’s a seemingly innocuous and completely valid question.

But there’s a simple problem:

The question is completely misleading.  And frankly, I fear for those who ask this question, because most of the answers I’ve seen are complete crap and could easily guide people into making terrible decisions for themselves.  Allow me to explain:

Let’s take a poll, shall we?

As I mentioned above, I Googled “how to figure out if entrepreneurship is for you”, and I picked one of the articles at random.  This one-pager boils down the question of entrepreneurship to a few key points.  For example:

  • are you “unfazed” by risk?
  • Are you a “decision maker”?
  • Is it your “dream business” and your “passion”?

There’s one small problem:

Who the hell cares? [click to continue…]

How to know if you can actually execute your business idea [The Entrepreneur's Manifesto]

Note: This article is written mostly from the perspective of tech startups because the comparisons I make are easy to explain from this vantage point.  In reality, this applies to any business venture. 

We already talked about why your business idea doesn’t matter (and what actually does).  There,  I said that the value of a startup or a business is in your ability to execute.

Great ideas are completely irrelevant without being able to execute.

I think most new entrepreneurs would read this and understand it to a certain point.  ”OK, just because I have a good idea for the next Facebook isn’t enough.  No one’s going to fund my idea just because I came up with it”

But that’s about as far as their understanding goes.

“Well that’s fine; I will just hustle and go find myself a technical co-founder and by-oh-golly I’ll be starting my tech startup by this time next month”

Believe me, it is possible to get programmers on board (I’ve done it).  It’s possible to get people interested and initially excited with your startup idea.  The sales pitch is the easy part:

Getting people to say they’ll help you with your project is barely the beginning.

Think about it: even if you could convince programmers, do you know enough about how to manage them?  Did you provide them with enough of an incentive to make them stick around?  Do you know that the product they are making is what you actually want / need? [click to continue…]

How a Lawyer Started an Immensely Successful Blog (while working 70+ hours/wk at his law firm)

“But I’m too busy to start a business on the side!”

Well, not if you’re Robert Berger.

myphotoRobert Berger is a full-time attorney who specializes in corporate litigation…who also happens to be the owner of Dough Roller, a super-popular personal finance blog that has 10,000 e-mail subscribers and 2 million yearly visitors.  He started Dough Roller from the ground-up back in 2007.

Now if I know one thing about lawyers, it’s that they work…all of the time!  They are some of the most dedicated–and most busy!–people out there.

So when I heard that Robert started Dough Roller while working full time at his law practice, I was floored!

DRLogo

Robert took his blog from a passive hobby, and turned it into something that makes him more money than practicing law.

His success is a great inspiration to entrepreneurs of all types, especially those currently working a day job who are looking to start a business on the side.

Listen to the interview here.

Some of the interview’s big takeaways:

  • How Robert woke up at 5am every day to write for his blog—and worked on it at lunch and after dinner!
  • How he got a big break from MSN Money only about 6 months into blogging.
  • How he went from making low 5-figures to 6 figures in 1 year from his blog.
  • What he recommends to newcomer bloggers (hint: it’s not just writing your content and hoping you get discovered!).
  • The importance of relationships in building your business.

It’s already impressive enough to catapult a blog into the 6 figure income stratosphere…

…but who does that while practicing law 50-70 hours per week??

Now that’s just crazy!

Listen in, and let me know what you think.

 

The #1 mistake to avoid when coming up with business ideas [The Entrepreneur's Manifesto]

This article is Part 1 in The Entrepreneur’s Manifesto: 6 Simple Techniques to Startup Mastery.

Gather ’round the campfire my dear friends, for today, we begin our hero’s journey down the road of entrepreneurship with the Entrepreneur’s Manifesto.

We start by asking a super-basic question of which the proper understanding is 100% essential to startup success.

Have you ever noticed that tons of people love the “idea” of being an entrepreneur…

…but did you ever stop to think about what it actually means to be an entreprenuer?  Like, if someone were to ask you “how would you define an entrepreneur” (dictionary style, baby!), what would you say?

I think most people would say something like this:

“Yeah man, they make cool companies and come up with kickass products!”

“They make tons of money working for themselves!”

“They didn’t want to work 9-5, so they gave the middle finger salute to their boss and went to work for themselves!”

“RC, why are you asking so many stuuuuupid questions?”

Because all of those definitions are wrong, and only one definition actually matters:

Entrepreneurs solve other people’s problems, and are compensated for doing so. [click to continue…]

If your first business venture is innovative, you’re doing something wrong

Starting a business for the first time?

What’s your business idea?… a tech startup?  A product that will completely change the world?  A “Yelp for geriatrics”?

Before you get too excited, I must warn you:

If your idea is some world-changing, paradigm shifting technology or concept, you’re basically sinking your own ship before it even leaves the harbor.

What?

I’ll put it plainly:

Most people I’ve met who are starting a business for the first time (myself included when I started) have essentially no clue what’s needed to actually successfully start a company.

Everything’s a shot in the dark.

Which is fine…shooting in the dark is how first-time entrepreneurs learn.

But if your business idea is something that’s so much of an uphill battle that it’s basically rock climbing…something way outside of your skillset and ability to executre…what do you think your chances of success are?

I’m not here to discourage you.  In fact, I’ve got a perfect idea that can help solve this problem:

Go start a foundational business first.

What’s a foundational business?

foundational business is a business that’s really easy for you to execute.

foundational business is characterized by these key elements:

  • The idea is straightforward and easy to understand (i.e. not very innovative).
  • The idea primarily uses skills you already have.
  • Can be implemented in a matter of weeks, or even days.
  • Something you have a high degree of control over (i.e. not relying on other people to keep things moving).
  • Has a super-straightforward way of making money (i.e. not “well this is Yelp + Facebook + freemium + ads”…I mean as easy as “You do X and you get paid Y”)

A foundational business teaches you the business acumen and mindsets needed to actually run a company.

You take the foundations you built with your foundational business, and apply them to a bigger venture when you’re ready. [click to continue…]

The Entrepreneur’s Manifesto- 6 Simple Techniques to Startup Mastery

I get this question often from readers and would-be entrepreneurs:

“There’s so much to know about being an entrepreneur…where do I even start?”

To most, entrepreneurship seems like a mysterious and perilous myth.  We think:

Entrepreneurs are different from the average person.

They like to create something out of nothing.  They take on crazy risk and do really exciting things.

They chance getting completely burned from the work they do (and sometimes they do get completely burned).

They think working in a corporate jobs is hellishly boring (…well, maybe they’re not so different after all!).

And that makes us wonder:

What is it that keeps these guys going?

Are we different from them?  Can we ever obtain the level of success they have?

What if I told you success in entrepreneurship wasn’t a secret?

Wouldn’t it be cool if what you need to be a successful entrepreneur is actually super-straightforward?

My work with entrepreneurship has shown exactly that.

Now, I never would have believed it before I started doing startup work on my own.

And I’m not saying that the execution of this is easy…quite the opposite actually. [click to continue…]

Do this to get kickass mentors to help you with your venture

A couple weeks ago I berated my readers for not having mentors to help them through the trials and tribulations of starting a business.

What I didn’t talk about, though, was how to get kickass mentors to willingly give their time and energy to help you accomplish your startup and entrepreneurial goals.

Don’t think I just wanted to leave you hanging.

While you were in shock and licking your wounds from that article, I was out finding someone I could interview…someone who had already found phenomenal success in finding awesome mentors…so I could bring them on over to Decoding Startups to share their knowledge with everyone here.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to report that my search was successful.

Enter Liz Seda.

Liz is the writer over at A Life on Your Termswhich teaches how to live a purposeful, meaningful life on our own terms.

Liz’s life story–which she talks about on her blog and a bit in our interview–is extremely interesting (my favorite part is how she got into college without taking the SAT.  I wish I had that one figured out in  high school!!!), and her accomplishments impressive.

I cajoled Liz into giving this interview because she is actively working with some awesome mentors in the blogosphere- Scott Dinsmore and Leo Babauta.  When I heard this, I knew she’d be a perfect interviewee for my segment on finding kickass mentors.

Common concerns people have about finding mentors we addressed:

  • How do I even start to approach a mentor?
  • How do I provide value to a potential mentor?  Aren’t I just taking all of their time?
  • Tons of people ask them for things: how do I stick out?
  • How do I make the relationship mutually beneficial for them, even though they’re smarter / more knowledgeable than I am?

 Check the interview out here.

Some of the best insights from the interview:

  • How a 15-paragraph e-mail convinced an A-list blogger to take her under his wings (and they said “short e-mails are better”!).
  • How providing value before asking for anything in return earned her the respect and admiration of 2 A-list bloggers.
  • How much easier things have been for her after building relationships with ultra-helpful mentors.

Here’s the big takeaways from the interviews:

  • Always ask how you can provide value to someone else before trying to take value.
  • Business = people; people = relationships.  Focus on the people and relationship element first.
  • You probably can offer value to people with more experience and expertise than you…just be creative with how you do it (Liz was able to!).

In the comments below, elaborate a bit on your mentors.  How did you get them?  How did you convince them to help you?