What Does It Take To Be an Entrepreneur?
I refreshed the page over and over again until, finally, I saw the dark, bold word I was looking for: “SOLD.”
I couldn’t believe it. Jumping up and down in my room, I realized this was what I wanted to do with my life. I was hooked.
The truth is, everyone’s journey towards entrepreneurship is different.
I first started selling stuff around my house –guitars, books, whatever it was, really– on eBay until my parents realized it was getting dangerously emptier.
But what else could I sell? I had to figure out what people wanted, how much they were willing to pay for it, and how could I source it for less money.
I finally ended up selling women’s purses (yeah, weird, ok). To not get stuck with inventory, I’d list an item online first and, if it sold, only then I’d go to the store with the money I just made to buy it and ship it.
I was only fifteen at that point. I didn’t consider myself an entrepreneur yet. Or a business owner. And definitely not an influencer (still don’t).
But I did learn all about profit margins, managing inventory, cash flow, competitive advantages, and business models (without knowing the actual terms). I learned by doing, making mistakes, and simply adapting.
This was way before founding Jakt and building it to about $4M in yearly revenue. Back then, I was just trying to make some money, escape the stuck-in-a-cubicle from 9-5 life, and find something I was actually passionate about.
In college at NYU, I threw parties while teaching myself how to code.
Later on, I founded Jakt -a digital product and innovation studio-, and we are now in year 7. I’ve had the chance to learn how to lead a team, what being a CEO means (not the same as a founder), and how to run a business that solves major problems.
After playing this game for years, I am starting to understand –and I’m sure my thinking will evolve over time as I gain more experience- what makes or breaks an entrepreneur.
So, what are the 4 traits that all (good) entrepreneurs need?
1. A different understanding of what risk truly is
Many people, including my parents, have told me how “scary and risky it is to start a business.”
But entrepreneurs look at it differently:
Having a job always seemed crazy to me. Not only you’re a pawn with no decision power whatsoever –at least that’s what I thought in my head when I was young — but there’s a chance of being fired and replaced at any time.
And if that does happen there’s nothing you can do about it other than try and find another job.
These thoughts also led me to start Jakt with the idea of creating a company that I would love to work for myself. Where people really enjoyed working and didn’t feel like just a pawn or disposable. It’s a challenge that drives me every day to improves.
Despite what they say, I am actually very risk-averse. I hate losing money. Money is hard to make but very easy to spend.
Even when I’m investing in service based businesses through Polpo Group, I am not gambling- I am calculating and limiting all potential risks I can foresee. Always managing cash flow to ensure a profit.
The question that has helped me build Jakt is this:
How can I minimize my downside risk while keeping my upside benefits as high as possible?
It worked for me as a kid: I would always list the items online BEFORE I bought them. If they sold — great, I’d make money! But if they didn’t, well, I wouldn’t be at a loss either.
Even then, I knew to never fall so low that you can’t live another day.
2. Blindly believing in yourself
Self-confidence is often misunderstood.
It’s not about thinking you’re the most good looking dude out there. Or the smartest. It’s not about looking at yourself in the mirror and repeating over and over again that you’re going to be a billionaire.
No, when it comes to entrepreneurship, self-belief is simply about knowing that, no matter what comes your way, you’ll figure it out.
It’s about believing in your (and your team’s) abilities and character to the point that, one way or another, you’ll always be able to weather the shitstorm and keep on fighting.
3. Always fighting one more round
You’ve been lied to…
Real entrepreneurs know that this game is not all sunshine and rainbows.
When you’re trying to build something that matters, there will be some fucked up times. You’ll want to quit… and that’s ok. But those that can roll up their sleeves and get through shit are the ones that will come out on top.
The truth is that most people just give up.
And I don’t blame them because there have been a handful of times that Jakt could’ve gone down:
Like when my co-founder left in 2014. When we lost a 200k contract after it started because the client didn’t actually have the funds (leaving us with 4 empty-handed employees). The time 50% of our team left within a month and we went from 15 to 5 people almost overnight. Or when…
And, trust me, these things will happen. No business always runs smoothly and cruises through the years. We definitely did not!!
But why do some people say “fuck this, I’m out,” while others fight through when it really (really) sucks?
I’ve seen that if you don’t immensely care about the work you and your company does, your company’s vision, and the problems you solve, it’s just too easy to quit.
Perseverance, resilience, and grit all come from caring to the bottom of your heart about your vision, your team, and your clients.
4. Not caring about being cool or chasing money
Entrepreneurship now is trendy and cool, which is great. But growing up, it was far from popular.
When I graduated from NYU Stern, 99% of my classmates went into either Wall Street or consulting. Except me, the weird kid who was “doing this startup thing.”
I turned down jobs and fought with my parents. I saw my friends make a lot of money and pay for me when we went out. Or barely scraping by to cover food. Or when I had to Airbnb my OWN room and sleep on the couch to pay for that month’s rent.
Not fun, I promise you. But I still thank them for those drinks!
Branching out from the traditional path was a taboo.
But I didn’t care about being cool. I didn’t even call myself an entrepreneur! All I cared was about working hard on my passion and giving my everything to make this business a success.
So don’t let these “gurus” that flood your Instagram feed with the Ferraris (that they rent for the day) and the stacks of money (that go back to the bank right after the picture is taken) fool you.
They’re money chasers that are following a fad. They’re fake.
What does it take to be an entrepreneur?
The truth is that most businesses break even or lose money. The look behind the curtain is not as pretty as they want to make you think.
But real entrepreneurs don’t do it for money, or fame, or recognition. We do it because we love our work – with all its highs and its lows.