By Karen Young
The statistics aren’t in your favor: According to Harvard Business School, over half of American startups are gone within 5 years. It’s a long, lonely haul. Money usually runs out too soon and friends and family crawl into the woodwork.
But no matter how many times I repeat the grim stats to perspective startup clients, no matter how many times I tell them that based on history and my experience, they’re living a long shot, it doesn’t seem to make any difference.
If they’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, there is no antidote. It’s as though they’ve been driven to the edge and nothing short of jumping off will quiet the voices in their heads.
With this knowledge in hand, all I can do is provide the best possible advice, direction and support.
There are a few mantras that I repeat, time after time:
– Be disciplined: Create a brand message, USP (unique selling proposition), RTB (reason to believe), mission statement, whatever you want to call it. And STICK WITH IT. It will take time to fine tune, but don’t change horses.
–Understand the financing: It will cost more than you think. Scrimping is not a strategy. Make sure you have a solid, detailed budget, all in, so you know what you’re in for.
–Do your homework: Know the market you’re going into and know your competition. Countless startups tell me they don’t have competition because they are breaking new ground, finding new white space, creating a new concept.
Trust me, that does not happen often.
–This is not DIY: hire good people and listen to them. Unless you know the industry, don’t think you can get to market without help. The beauty industry has its own business models, its own vocabulary, its own quirks and foibles. We love disruptors, but you can’t reinvent the process.
–It starts with distribution: You MUST have a distribution vision BEFORE you create your products and determine your brand positioning. The channel(s) in which you plan to sell is a huge determining factor for all aspects of your brand.
If you’re new to the beauty industry, the learning curve will be substantial. You will change your mind and your views as you and your brand evolve. At some point, you must pick a lane and stay in it. You will be challenged on all fronts by friends, family and colleagues who question what you’re doing. This is extremely unsettling: How do you know? Whom do you listen to? How long do you continue to reassess? There’s no right answer. It’s why you must hire good people whom you trust. Part of the beauty of being a startup is making quick decisions, moving fast and pivoting if things need to change. Big companies can’t do any of this.
Embrace the uncertainty and find it exhilarating. Remain passionate and optimistic even as the left side of your brain is struggling to stay grounded.
The journey is long and hard, but joyful. It’s not for the faint of heart. There’s never been a better time to be a startup. There are tools today that never existed before and the industry is ripe for renovation.
If “bending the arc of history” is in your DNA, go for it.