We've asked our esteemed panel of judges for this year's 35 Under 35 Coolest Entrepreneurs to sound off on their best (and least obvious) advice for young entrepreneurs.
Below is a just a sampling of their collective wisdom:
Time is your No. 1 asset. Manage and protect it before any other commodity. Equally important is the time of those around you. Consider your staff and how they are appropriating their time, and your customers'. Don't waste their time. Most of all, at some point, you will balance time between your company and your family. What can only you do? Delegate the rest!
A good idea isn't enough. I know now how difficult it is to bring a single product to market. I had no idea how hard it would be when I started Mophie at 18 years old. I was lucky. I had parents crazy enough to mortgage their house to lend me money. And at the time, I thought that was all I needed. What I didn't know was that I also needed to know my way around intellectual property, sourcing, manufacturing, distribution, sales, marketing, etc. I figured it out. But I understood at that moment that most people with a good idea don't necessarily have all the other stuff. It was through that challenge and personal experience that I figured out what I wanted to do most--to make invention accessible.
Leverage the entrepreneurship community. When I was first starting out, there really wasn't a defined entrepreneurship community. Because of this, most of us were really just groping around in the dark, trying to figure things out. Now, there is really no excuse not to be supremely networked and involved in the entrepreneurship community when you are starting out. In NYC, for example, we now have an embarrassment of riches. There are literally dozens of events to choose from each night of the week. In the relationships that are built with fellow entrepreneurs and investors, you form and build your trusted network. If you associate with people of great character and have the mentality of helping and not expecting anything back, you will find yourself surrounded by a tremendous group of folks who will help you through thick and thin.
Be resourceful. You can be the smartest and most driven person in the room, but if you can't find creative solutions to problems, you're always going to end up hitting a wall. When I first started making bags with little money to my name, I had to scrounge for materials and spent many an afternoon cleaning out Home Depots of clasps, hooks, and other hardware components. This isn't what people imagine when they think of a beautiful handbag, but I did whatever I had to do to get my product made. I had no shame, and when something didn't work, I found another way to make it happen. If you're a resourceful person, you'll do well in business (and get yourself out of some sticky situations in life, too).
Trust your own good judgment. While you want input from as many people and places as possible, you have to trust yourself to make the important decisions. There is no greater expert on your business than you. All advice that you receive is little more than data points to be used toward informing your instincts. You own the outcome, so don't be overly influenced by anyone to take actions that aren't driven by your own conviction. Great entrepreneurs are excellent listeners but also very independent deciders.
Be obsessed with your "Why?" I've learned that if you have to be obsessed with something, be obsessed with the problem you're trying to solve, not the solution. As [your customers'] needs evolve, your solution must evolve as well. I started Indiegogo because I saw ideas go unborn every day, not for lack of heart or hustle, but simply for lack of efficient access to capital. I wanted to fix this by democratizing finance. My original idea was to create an independent offline fund with a democratic twist. When two friends suggested using the Internet to democratize finance instead of a fund, I quickly pivoted. Why? I was more obsessed with actually solving the problem than with the details of how I'd do it. At that point, these friends joined the team as co-founders, and together we launched Indiegogo, now the world's largest crowdfunding platform.
Listen to your gut. Don't dilute your "secret sauce," which is the reason you do what you do. SoulPancake is a mission-driven company. We started it to get people digging into the gooey stuff of what it means to be human. Today, the content we create that closely connects to this mission is our most successful. When we first launched our YouTube channel, our guts told us we needed more joy on the channel, and that's when we found Kid President, who propelled our brand into the stratosphere.