Startups are hard; 3 out of 4 that even make it to funding fail. Workdays run into nights (and weekends), resources are limited, every decision feels critical and you never seem to get through your to-do list. No matter how great your idea, it will fail without great execution and there’s no breadcrumb trail to follow for success.
Exactly one year ago, I decided to quit my job as a product manager at a large technology company to pursue my dream of becoming an entrepreneur. When I set out on my own I had a few ideas in mind but the one that excited me the most was, of course, the one I knew the least about. But I was determined to create something new and exciting — something that didn’t exist in the world. I wanted to create beautiful jewelry that was also functional. One year and a seed round later, Ringly is ready to launch its first line of smart jewelry this spring. Here are a few tips that helped me and our team be more resourceful.
1. Always be learning: I knew what I wanted to build, so I picked up the basics skills needed to guide the process. I took a circuit board class and learned the basics of building electronics. I took a jewelry design class to learn how to make jewelry. Develop a voracious appetite for knowledge; you will never have all the answers, but you should always be eager to seek them out.
2. Leverage your network: Recognize that you don’t know everything and that you’re only as good as the relationships you build. No matter where you grew up, went to school or worked, dig through your collection of contacts and think creatively about how they could be helpful, and you to them.
3. Be scrappy: There are an overwhelming number of free products and services available to small businesses; companies are literally falling over themselves to offer their wares to start-ups. Amazon Web Services has server space, MailChimp will let you design and send unlimited (and sleek) messages, Boomerang will remind you to follow up with an email and Refresh will help you keep track of everyone you meet. Paying should never be your first option.
4. Ask for what you want: The worst response is “no.” Whatever you need is unlikely to just appear while you work head down. When we needed a jewelry designer to join the team, I asked every person, even strangers I met at coffee shops, if they knew anyone. An investor who introduced me to a stylist was ultimately the link to our fantastic designer but you’d be surprised how many people were willing to make connections. People enjoy being helpful; give them the opportunity and you might be surprised.
5. Lead by example: You set the tone for your team and everyone you work with. Stay positive, meet your own deadlines, be organized and communicate often. Empower employees, vendors and contractors to make confident decisions. Take a sincere interest in their work and development. Be the leader your team members aspire to be and the energy will flow from the top down.