As part of the #julieselfie project, Cascade Angels Fund Manager Julie Harrelson has been interviewing Bend entrepreneurs and others she meets via her work and travels this year. She’s talked with startup founders, veteran entrepreneurs and community leaders who are working hard to make Oregon a great place to start and grow companies.
Here is some of the sage advice on starting up in Bend — and beyond — that she’s gathered from her interviews.
1. First, just do it.
Sarah Pool, Founder and CEO of Pacific SuperFood Snacks, says to simply begin. “Just do it. Really, the worst that could happen is the business doesn’t work out (which your ego and bank account can recover from). But the rewards on the flip side are innumerable. My favorite, the opportunity to offer a product or service that positively impacts others’ lives,” Pool says.
2. Ask the right questions before you start.
Corey Schmid, venture partner at Seven Peaks, says that before you do just do it, ask yourself some hard questions, such as:
- Are you solving a real problem and delivering a solution that your envisioned customers truly can’t live without? Have you even asked enough of them (i.e. market research) to be confident that this is true?
- How big is your market? If your business will serve only you and a few of your closest friends, it’s probably not a sustainable or scalable business. Market size and dynamics are rarely within your control, so understand this very well and size and scope the opportunity appropriately.
- How will your business be funded? Do everything within your control to run on very little cash in the early days, until you’ve validated that your product/solution can gain traction by delivering sales or usage by your customers. This will also show maturity and resourcefulness to future investors when you ask for their support, and precious capital, to grow your business.
- Why now, and why you? Authenticity, humility, coach-ability, expertise, and a kickass capacity for resolve to wade through tough decisions and problems, are imperative in a successful entrepreneur.
3. Have empathy for everyone in it with you.
LeadMethod Found and CEO Justin Johnson says, “You’ve got to have a lot of empathy when working with employees, investors, customers, advisors and just about everyone else you work with. They’re in it right along with you. This is not a solo game; you will not have all the answers, and the minute you think you do there is a problem. Be confident, but listen (really listen) to the people working with you, supporting you and those who have been there before. Trust me, your business will go a lot farther and faster if you do.”
4. Keep a low personal overhead so you have more runway.
People often ask Meg Chun, co-founder and CEO at KIALOA, a Bend-based paddle company, about what advice she has for entrepreneurs. She says to “keep a low personal overhead so you have options.” This is so crucial. Time is money in startupland and everywhere else, so the less money you need to fund your personal life, the more time you have to get your business going. Chun also advises entrepreneurs to “ask for help and set up a mentor support system, and surround yourself with great people who share your values.”
5. If you have a vision for the startup or broader Bend community, get involved.
Preston Callicott, CEO of Five Talent, isn’t a fan of talk without action, whether it’s figuring out how Bend can have more affordable housing or increasing our transportation options. “Opining on issues is trying to convince others to get it done. Taking action is taking potential energy and making it kinetic, moving the ball down the field, instead of yelling from the sidelines,” he says.
Thanks Julie for taking the time to talk with these leaders. We’re looking forward to more #julieselfies over the next few months.
You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].