Six myths of the modern day entrepreneur

Over the last five years, entrepreneurship has exploded in popularity. With TV shows, news features about unicorn start-ups and all sorts of communities popping up around the concept - everyone seems to have their own definition of exactly what an entrepreneur does.

Along with that, there’s an increasing question of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Today, we’re going to clear that up by talking about six common myths about entrepreneurs.

Here are six common myths of the modern entrepreneur that deserve some clearing up.

1. You need funding

This is number one because it’s my personal pet peeve. Most people ask - as soon as they come up with a business idea - who is going to fund it?

Then, they proceed to either give up on it immediately (because they don’t have a rich uncle) or spend the next few months running around begging people for money.

Both are a waste of time. There’s a better way.

I’m not sure if it’s due to shows like Shark Tank, The Profit or Dragon’s Den, but you don’t have to always have to beg millionaires in order to start your business. The best cure for a business is sales. If you want to start a business - build an MVP (minimal viable product) - and build it UGLY.

Don’t worry if it’s not pretty - just get it up and see if people will buy it for you.

Even better, try a kickstarter for it. If you have to raise funds to build the product. Both Minaal & Original Grain did this to kickstart their business and raised over $300,000 without giving up any equity in return.

There are ways to build a business without giving up percentage points of your business before you even start. Be smart and this could save you tons of money down the road.

2. You need permission

I see so many people asking for "permission" to be an entrepreneur. It comes in many forms: to quit their job, to use some money, to act on their hunch, to build the culture they really want or to pursue the business they really want.

Like the first point, the gut of the question "who’s going to fund it" - is essentially the final ask of someone looking for permission - looking to pass the buck to someone else to fund the idea that you want to create.

Read: What impact do entrepreneurs have on society?

Instead of following their gut - they find themselves pushed around, taking money from people they don’t want to and falling into what they’re "supposed" to do - which is what they were trying to get out of in the first place.

As an entrepreneur - the only permission you need is a customer. Put up an offer, a paypal button and you’re in business. That’s all it takes.

3. You have to quit your job first

I see a lot of people talk about how they’d love to start their own business, but can’t because they can’t quit their job because of bills, insurance or another excuse.

The great thing about entrepreneurship in 2015 is you don’t need to!

Because entrepreneurship has become more accessible than ever, you don’t have to quit your job to start a business. With a few hundred bucks on the side, you can start your own projects after hours. You can freelance or you can just learn a new skill and see if people will pay for it.

Almost all the successful bootstrapped entrepreneurs I know have done this. Rather than quitting in a blaze of glory and showing your old corporate job who’s boss, they started out slow, tested a concerted and built a customer base. When the base grew to support them, they left their job to focus full-time on that.

4. You have to build the next Facebook

"If you’re not first, you’re last" - Ricky Bobby

"If you’re not a billion dollar company, you’re nothing" - Modern Day VCs

The idea that a start-up has to be "unicorn" (or a billion dollar company) to be a success is absolutely laughable. Not only that - it reeks of tone-deaf insulation of the start-up-sphere.

The CTO of Basecamp, David Heinemeier Hansson, recently wrote on this and the following excerpt is my favorite part: "Part of the problem seems to be that nobody these days is content to merely put their dent in the universe. No, they have to…own the universe." 

Read: The problem with the rise of unicorn start-ups

If you want to be an entrepreneur - know what you’re doing it. For me (and a lot of other people), the goal is to not work for anyone else. As soon as you take money, you decide you’re playing a different game - one that values massive returns over your personal goals. It’s "go big or go home."

But you don’t have to do it that way. You can build a cash flow business that supports your goals and builds the lifestyle you want without gaining a bunch of overreaching bosses who gave you money five years ago. With my company, we’ve done that multiple times - venturing into apps, meal plans and several other avenues.

They’re not going to be the next Facebook, but they’re real, tangible businesses that help a lot of people.

5. You’re gonna get rich quick

Dan Andrews, a writer and podcaster at Tropical MBA talks about the 1,000 day principle. It goes like this:

"You'll be doing worse than you were at your job for 1000 days after you start your business."

I love this because it reminds entrepreneurs that it’s going to be a slog. You (most likely) won’t get rich tomorrow. You probably won’t get rich in a year or two - in fact - you’ll be worse off for most likely three years. Actually, the average time to exit for a company is eight to10 years. That’s a wake-up call.

Take a step back. Look at the long term view and don’t get swept up in the hype. Fall in love with the process and the settle in for the ride.

6. It’s always pretty

This might be the most common myth in lists like this, but it bears repeating.

Over the last five years, it’s become "fashionable" to be an entrepreneur. It’s sexy to talk about fundraising, exits and all the highlights. But what they don’t tell you is that entrepreneurship is a bloodbath. If not just in the marketplace, but emotionally as well.

Committing to be an entrepreneur is a decision to commit to ecstatic highs and hopeless lows. Up and downs that you’re shielded from in the typical job. Entrepreneurship has never been more accessible - but it’s hard, it’s lonely and it’s not for everyone. Choose wisely.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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