Tips for the Budding Entrepreneur

March 28, 2016

Photo credit: Chagin-Stockbyte-Thinkstock-2

A few years ago, my family and I started a crazy and rewarding journey down the path of entrepreneurship. ­­

We spent years trying to decide on a concept for our business, going back and forth between many ideas, mostly in the hospitality industry. Finally life circumstances pushed us to make a decision and we choose to start a business in Breckenridge that focused on the craft beverage movement. At the time, craft beer was fairly limited in Breckenridge and we wanted to really make a statement. We wanted to open a public house that brought not only craft beer, but craft everything to the town. Our concept was to have 30 rotating craft beer taps, craft spirits with an emphasis on small batch products, handcrafted cocktails, craft sodas, and Colorado wines, all in a fun and inviting environment. That's when Après Handcrafted Libations was born.

After months of hard work, and a few weeks that nearly killed us, we opened our doors for business. In January of 2015 we celebrated our first anniversary and are now in our third year of business. I am not going to claim that this has made me a business expert but I did learn a thing or two.

Never underestimate the power of networking.
When I was in college, my professors tried to force everyone to network. Networking events were part of our grades just to prove how serious they were. At the time, I hated these events. They seemed forced and obnoxious. Although I am still slightly bitter about it, I do see where my professors were coming from. I still don’t think you can force people to network but I do think you can be open to the opportunity. You never know when you will meet someone who will be a huge help to you later in your entrepreneurship process or what kind of connections you might make. We have gotten invaluable business advice from a dental hygienist turned business owner that we now call a friend.  No one goes to the dentist thinking they are going to make a lifelong business connection but networking doesn’t just happen at a networking event. Networking doesn’t just happen at a networking event. It can happen anywhere, so seize the opportunity and make real connections.

You will make mistakes.
Even if you think you know everything about the industry you are going into, you will make mistakes. One of our worst mistakes before opening had to do with our bar top. My family and I are really into DIY, so a lot of the things at Après literally took blood, sweat, and tears to create. The bar top was no exception. We had a friend help us assemble the bar top out of various types of hand selected wood.  It looked AMAZING when he was done! It still needed a heavy duty finish. We decided to go with epoxy, a common bar top finish, which is very durable. As you can probably guess, we applied the epoxy ourselves and within a day we could tell something was wrong.  Very wrong! The interesting thing about epoxy is that if it doesn’t start to set up right within hours then it never will. “Interesting” is a term that can only be applied to outside observers because from the inside it was a disaster. If you have ever had the “joy” of removing bad epoxy you would understand the devastation created by this mistake. It took an entire weekend of scraping, grinding, blow torching and sanding to remove the first round of epoxy.  A few days later, raw knuckled and blurry eyed we were finally able to apply a new coat of epoxy. Thankfully the second time worked beautifully! Still, that one little mistake (be it our fault or the product) not only delayed our opening by at least two weeks, but it also cost us time and money. It is important to remember that mistakes happen, but if you are serious about your dream of being an entrepreneur you have to learn from them and move on.

Set reasonable goals and reasonable time frames.
Ambitious goals help drive you. However, keep in mind, you are only human and there are only so many hours in a day. You need to sleep. Staying healthy will help you keep moving forward. As a perfectionist and an overachiever, I get caught up in and emotionally attached to my goals. It can be very disheartening when your to-do list is a mile long and it seems like nothing is getting done. Setting realistic goals can help keep you on track and keep moving forward.

Think progress not perfection.
Perfection is unrealistic. We live in a world that is constantly changing. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you have to be constantly adapting. Perfection implies there is no need to continue improving. Business is never-ending and there is always room to grow and improve. Plus, if you make progress every day, eventually you will reach your goals.

Hard work does pay off.
All of the clichés about working hard to get what you want are true. If you put in the hard work and dedication, eventually it will pay off. Don’t let yourself get too discouraged, keep making progress, set goals, make mistakes, network, and most importantly, don’t give up on your dreams!