This post was originally published on NOEW.org. New Orleans Entrepreneur Week is an annual festival celebrating entrepreneurship and innovation in New Orleans.
So, you want to be an entrepreneur? What does that really mean, anyway? T-shirt and flip-flop wearing techies hashing out ideas in coffee shops? Be your own boss. Work from home. Make a lot of money. Sounds sexy and cool, right? Well, there’s wayy more that goes into being an entrepreneur. And surprise–there’s nothing fun or glamorous about it. If you want to call the shots, first, you’ve got to put in work. So, forget everything that you think you know about being an entrepreneur. Let’s debunk some myths and talk about what it’s really like.
1. It’s fun.
Looking for a little fun? You should probably look somewhere else. Because contrary to what some people might think, being an entrepreneur is not fun. It’s hard work. Just ask Rupa Mohan, co-founder of the Sweat Social. “I usually cry twice a week,” she says. “And I ask myself why am I doing this? I think of how unhappy I was at my corporate job, and then I remember why I’m doing this. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Mohan says. But entrepreneurs are passionate about what they do, so they are willing to put in the work. Get ready to roll your sleeves up!
2. You make a lot of money.
Being an entrepreneur usually means working a long time without earning income. In the startup phase, most companies don’t generate profit. And if you are, you’re more than likely investing it right back into your company. No pretty pennies in your pocket when you’re starting up. That could be the case for months, and sometimes years. Get ready for the long haul. If you’re willing to stick with it, it could payoff in the long run.
3. It’s easy.
Being an entrepreneur is a lot of things, but easy is not one of them. Joah Spearman, co-founder of Localeur won’t hesitate to tell you either. He spoke on the topic last month at Venture Pop, a conference for creative entrepreneurs in New Orleans. Before co-founding Localeur, Spearman co-founded Style by SXSW and other ventures in Austin. He says one of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur is waiting. “If you’re grinding and building things, iterating, testing, and even learning and failing…those are all positives. But when you’re in moments when you feel like all you’re doing is waiting…for App Store approval, for an investment decision, etc. that’s when it truly sucks. Forward motion is what fuels entrepreneurs, even if it’s actually backwards, but waiting feels like a stall and that sucks.” Good things come to those who go out and get it!
4. It’s glamorous.
You think being an entrepreneur is all VIP and bottles of Veuve Cliqot? It might seem that way for New Orleans based artist and entrepreneur Ashley Longshore. But she won’t shy away from telling you, “This sh** ain’t easy, honey.” Her paintings tell a glamorous story, but Longshore painted and put in work for over 20 years. And she did it all on her own. She was extremely focused–so much so that she sacrificed socializing. “I even got to a point in my 30’s where I didn’t want to do anything socially, because I didn’t want to take away from my energy and my work. Because my work energy always provides right back for me in a positive way.” The payoff is glamorous, but the hard work isn’t.
5. Raising capital is easy.
News flash. Life as an entrepreneur is nothing like an episode of Shark Tank. That’s just TV. One of the biggest hurdles for entrepreneurs is raising capital. Once you’ve worked long and hard enough to get your business off the ground, you will need capital to grow it. The good folks at startup favorite, DinnerLab, can tell you first-hand. This past August, they raised $7 million in a Series A funding. Do you think investors were lined up at their secret dinners willing and ready to write million dollar checks? Sike. Co-founder and CEO Brian Bordainick says he traveled more than 120,000 miles since the beginning of the year to raise funding. And that’s just one part of it. Being an entrepreneur means working hard to make investors believe in what you do.
6. You’ll be an overnight success.
We’ll refer back to Ashley on this one, because her advice is just so good. She put it like this: Growing a business is like growing a garden. “First, you have to find good soil, and plant seeds,” she says. “Now am I going to come back the next day, and is there going to be a big apple tree? Hell no!” “I gotta pull the weeds out. I gotta make sure the little rabbits don’t get in my seedlings. I gotta make sure it gets sunlight. I gotta make sure it gets rain. I gotta make sure it doesn’t get flooded. I gotta make sure the bugs don’t get to it. I gotta protect this thing and watch it grow. And then I have a fruit tree. Then, once you have a fruit tree. It’s a garden.” There’s no such thing as overnight successes. Sometimes, it might seem that way. But most entrepreneurs work tirelessly behind the scenes for years before even beginning to see success. It takes time to see the fruits of your labor.
7. You have lots of free time.
Time is one of the most precious resources for an entrepreneur. And there is never enough of it. Kenny Nguyen, founder of Big Fish Presentations, says one of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur is sacrificing time. For him, that means spending less time with his significant other, and doing the things that he enjoys most. His work day usually lasts at least 10 hours a day, and on many days, 15-16 hours. Throw a big client in the mix, and it’s non-stop, all-nighters. “If I have an eight-hour productive day, I don’t feel like I’ve done enough,” Nguyen says. Now that’s we call hustle.