In the startup world we often hear the phrase “fail and fail fast.”
You see the thing that people don’t tell you is that failing sucks. Failing hurts. Failing doesn’t feel good. It is important to fail, but strategically — I’ll be providing five examples to showcase exactly what I mean.
I started my first business back in 2011 when I was only 19. Like many bright-eyed and bushy-tailed teens, I had no knowledge of what it actually took to build a successful business. All I had was a dollar, a dream and lots of time.
1. Get your name out there.
Armed with just my laptop webcam and a Blogger website, I began documenting every aspect of my journey. Before I found my big idea, I burned through a lot of different ones. I sold brand name women’s swimwear and lingerie online. I wrote articles for $5 a pop. I ran various Facebook and Twitter pages offering shoutouts and promo deals, and managed a blog about smartphones. I really explored it all and it helped me to master skills that I use to this very day.
Every week I would post new content about my experience and my thoughts on various aspects of business, personal development and whatever else came to mind.
Using the law of consistency, I slowly built a small following, and soon I nailed down my billion-dollar idea. It was called SavySwap, which was a social bartering app. We helped people to swap and barter items using social profiles. Think Airbnb, but for swapping and bartering.
One day a guy from Istanbul, Turkey saw my videos and reached out to me and asked to invest in my company. I was thrilled, but had absolutely no idea what was going to happen next.
Ultimately, my partner and I used the money to build our product. After that we applied to dozens of accelerator and incubator programs around the country. We received dozens of rejections but, lo and behold, we were finally accepted into a San Francisco-based program. For those three months we went hard. Our focus was on building out the business, getting users, helping people swap and barter items, networking like crazy and pitching in front of top venture capital companies.
2. When you have no plan B, you have to do whatever it takes to make sure your plan A happens.
To stay afloat in San Francisco and continue to help fund the company, I worked three sides jobs. The first was working at the movie theater, the second was building WordPress websites for various clients and the third was doing random jobs on Fiverr. Life was coming at me pretty fast and I could barely keep up.
3. Timing is everything.
At the time we launched our startup, the market was still coming to understand what the sharing economy was. Household names such as Airbnb, Uber, Lyft and others were just beginning to gain steam outside of the tech world, and here we were trying to reintroduce the idea of bartering for your items rather than buying them with cash. Despite our team’s best efforts to continue on, it was clear that our run together was coming to a close.
4. Figure out how to bounce back.
Knowing when to fold is something that many entrepreneurs struggle with. My partner and I made the heartbreaking decision to shut down our startup in 2013. To say I was devastated is an understatement. Failing always hurts, but when you have people believing in you enough to invest money in your idea, well, that stings even more. I felt like everyone knew how much of a failure I was and that I could never bounce back and make something else.
It took a while to find my groove again, but, once I did, there was no stopping me.
Things really took off in 2015, after my social media pages begin to grow at a rapid pace and people wanted to hire me to duplicate my results for their brand. I also was able to land a job at BuzzFeed Motion Pictures where I honed my video and digital storytelling skills.
In the words of rapper, Big Sean, “Last night took an L, but tonight I bounce back.” That is the summary of my entrepreneurial experience.
Today, I work with Verizon and other Fortune 500 companies as a social media influencer and I also run two successful and thriving companies. One is Black Fox Labs, a video production company where we specialize in digital storytelling. My second company is Hero Nation, a digital media company creating the next generation of superhero stories for kids with quality apps, diverse and engaging characters, fun games and innovative narratives.
5. Be patient.
The final lesson I’ve learned through my massive startup failure is patience. In a world where at the click of a button we can have food from our favorite restaurant delivered straight to our door, it can be hard to be patient sometimes.
They say an overnight success takes 10 years to make and that everything does not happen when we want it to. You have to realize that greatness takes time to manifest, but it can and will come. Practice patience and stay the course.