Although mistakes are only natural in the entrepreneurial journey and should be embraced as learning opportunities, leveraging from other entrepreneurs’ mistakes can help you improve and accelerate the growth of your business more quickly.
In a webinar we attended by The Honeycombers, inspiring and successful entrepreneurs Michelle Yong of Aurum Group (also Found8’s Co-Founder), Nerissa Low of Liht Organics, Yan Yi Chee of Matter Inc., Coco Chan of Voltage PR and OMSA, and Chris Edwards from Honeycombers, HoneyKids Asia and Digital Collective shared their greatest startup mistakes.
We’ve rounded them up in this article so you can learn from it and make better decisions!
1. “Don’t assume your customers think like you”
When starting up a business, do detailed customer insight interviews to really understand your customers’ pain points and validate your proposed solution, value proposition, pricing structure, and objection points.
Don’t assume that your customer thinks like you. Looking back, something I’d have done differently is conduct focus group studies with at least 150 to 200 people. Upon starting one of my businesses, Collision 8 (now Found8), I only interviewed 25 to 30 people. A lot of customer discovery then came after we launched and this meant we had to modify our value proposition on the fly which cost us the initial wave of interest and hype.
– Michelle Yong, Co-founder of Found8, CEO and Founder of Core Collective, Director of Aurum Land and Aurum Investments
2. “I wish I believed in myself more instead of allowing social norms and other people's projections to dictate my self-worth”
As an entrepreneur, you need to be self-motivated. But it can be challenging when you’re constantly living in the shadows of others’ projections.
"You’re too young. You’re too inexperienced. You’re never going to make it. Do you have enough money to even start a business? There are too many people out there that are way more experienced than you." When I started my business, I was younger, and I let people's opinions get in my head.
It was my husband who shifted my mindset and celebrated me in the light in which he saw me. My skill sets, my drive, my passion, my courage to be a trailblazer and creator of visions.
I wish I believed in myself more instead of allowing social norms and other people's projections dictate my self-worth. If I had listened to my gut and tuned into my heart more, I would have found my soul calling a lot sooner.
So moral of the story: Be true to yourself. You know yourself best. Do what makes you feel happy. Don't allow others to tell you what you do or whom you should become.
– Coco Chan, Managing Director of Voltage PR and Co-founder of OMSA
3. "If I had my time again, I would have found some smart people to have in my corner - like a business coach, a marketing consultant and a very good accountant”
My biggest learning is that "you don’t know what you don’t know”. What I mean by that is; when you are starting out, there really is a big gap in your experience and knowledge. I was not all that aware of that gap.
If I had my time again, I would have found some smart people to have in my corner - like a business coach, a marketing consultant and a very good accountant - which I have today - and it is so much easier with a good pool of strong talent and thinkers on your team!
– Chris Edwards, Founder of Honeycombers, HoneyKids Asia and most recently, Digital Collective
4. “I guess what I could have done better here in the beginning is to do more research on the market I was intending to go into - particularly the laws and taxes"
When I first started Liht, China was a focus market for us. However we were facing a lot of obstacles as we were very limited by the animal testing laws and we could only sell on e-commerce as we are a cruelty-free brand. I have a number of contacts there that are extremely successful with sales in China (they can sell literally a container of product a day!) and they were very interested to help us sell our foundations, with the condition that we do animal testing in order for them to be able to sell to their offline distributors. They were very puzzled that I refused to take their offer as I was firm about our cruelty- free ethos, despite the potential profits from doing otherwise.
I guess what I could have done better here in the beginning is to have done more research on the market I was intending to go into - particularly the laws and taxes (which would also affect price points), as well as target market (their affordability, education, consumer mentality etc.) before investing a whole year trying to enter only to realise later that we are hitting against a brick wall!
– Nerissa, Founder of Liht
5. "Identify the pillars/values/principles that you want to embody your brand"
At the core, you need to decide what you are staying true to. Identify the pillars/values/principles that you want to embody your brand.
But it’s not always that simple is it? As Nerissa said, you are faced with detrimental questions – huge commerce opportunities or staying true to your brand? In this case, I agree with Nerissa as she stayed true to the core of her brand DNA. If she had gone ahead with the animal testing and was exposed, that would have led to distrust from buyers and probably a PR nightmare.
That said, making these decisions is like a dance. You have to know when to take advice and when not to, be clear on your mission but know when to pivot and even battle your own inner critic.
– Yan Yi Chee, Founder of Matter Inc
Found8 enables you to grow your business by connecting you to wide-ranging expert advice and best practices from the Google network, and introducing startups to VCs.