Miranda Naiman is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Tanzania who serves as Learning Expert for her region and on EO's Global Learning Subcommittee. She's also the founder of Empower, a human capital consultancy that provides talent acquisition services and bespoke training programs. As an accidental entrepreneur who took the leap nine years ago, we asked Miranda what she would tell her former self if she could travel back in time. Here's what she shared.
An increasing number of people are catching what I call the "solo bug," making accidental entrepreneurs less of a rarity. That's music to my ears because I think the world would benefit from having more entrepreneurs.
When it comes to taking the initial leap of faith into the weird, wacky but inevitably rewarding world of entrepreneurship, we're often fearful of leaving a secure monthly salary for the great unknown. Hindsight being 20/20, I'd do it all over again.
With a knack for problem-solving, entrepreneurs can wield their power for the greater good―most are driven by creating an impact, rather than making money. Never underestimate your capacity to be a game-changer, authentic problem-solver and force for transformation.
Yes, you'll be living hand-to-mouth, working 24/7, sacrificing job security and will probably never take a 100 percent totally unplugged vacation again. But if you have a solid vision, endless tenacity and intrinsic self-belief, you can and will succeed.
My entrepreneurial journey has been peppered with an array of obstacles juxtaposed with unique opportunities. My leap into solo life was driven by the twin desires to generate maximum impact on my own terms and, as a new mom, to create flexible working hours.
After I accidentally fell into business, I found increasing demand for my services--and things organically snowballed. I had no initial capital or access to funding--at first, I even had to borrow a laptop to bang out proposals and training manuals!
I spent the first year in full hustle-mode, taking a bajaj (rickshaw) to client meetings and asking for office supplies as holiday presents. Organic growth meant working late at night while the baby slept, saving up client fees to buy a laptop, renting a small office space and eventually landing a contract that enabled me to buy my first car--which I still drive today!
Foolishly believing I could do everything myself, I was reluctant to hire my first employee at the one-year mark--but it turns out that I absolutely adore working alongside the people on my team.
I've grown both personally and professionally in the past nine years, and I wouldn't trade any of my experiences. But if I could travel back in time, here are five insights and growth hacks I would share with my pre-entrepreneurial self:
- You don't need capital to start a business. Contrary to popular belief, it is entirely possible to start a business on brain-power alone. Don't get caught up in the idea that you need financial backing to get started. Take a few steps on your own--you'll likely be pleasantly surprised by how far you can get.
- Blood, sweat and tears are your building blocks. Most solopreneurs fail to realize that they will have to push themselves harder than ever and invest maximum blood, sweat and tears. It's well worth it―every ounce of effort is a building block toward the future you envision. You won't believe how much you can accomplish when you're driven from within.
- No (wo)man is an island. There will come a time when you need support, guidance, collaboration and mentorship. Many entrepreneurs swagger through life like know-it-all hustlers― but it's critical to surround yourself with the right people. I recently joined EO, where I share challenges and concerns openly, grow limitlessly and learn from my fellow entrepreneurs. I encourage solopreneurs to find a haven of likeminded people who offer support and share experiences for mutual benefit.
- Grow organically. Nurture your business as you would a child; feed it with love and continually reinvest your time, energy and profits. Taking money out of your business can cripple it; be patient and resist the urge to use it as a cash-cow. Pay yourself a modest salary early on, adjusting gradually upward as you grow.
- Keep your eye on the prize. It's ironic, but a tidal wave of dream jobs will inevitably roll your way around the two-year mark. Stay focused. The temptation to rejoin corporate life may be alluring when offered unique opportunities and a juicy salary after a couple of years of solo hustle. Unless your business is floundering with no growth prospects, resist. You are now an accidental entrepreneur with the ability to leap off a cliff and build a plane on your way down!