So you have this great idea for business, now all you need is capital to get started. Or a co-founder with the right expertise. Or maybe a little more business experience to help you succeed.
Pretty much all would-be entrepreneurs worry about what they don't have. A great many put off jumping in and starting a business because of the things they think they lack. Jessica Jackley would like to politely tell you that's nonsense.
In a recent interview for Knowledge@Wharton the co-founder of microlending site Kiva talked about her new book Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least and shared stories from the early days of her paradigm-shifting startup. And while the details of how she got started are interesting and well worth a read, perhaps the most valuable takeaway from the piece for potential entrepreneurs is a simple message — don't wait for more resources; get started now.
Jackley conveys this idea through a couple of fascinating stories from two very different sources. One is the recipient of a Kiva loan who started a brick-making business.
Making something out of, literally, nothing
“He had virtually nothing. So, he literally--not figuratively--dug into the ground beneath his bare feet and started to shape bricks out of the clay and mixed water with it to make it the right consistency. After a few years, he built a brick business where he had several employees and was thriving, certainly relative to where he'd been before,” she relates.
It's a world away from the experience of most of America's aspiring entrepreneurs, but Jackley says that this story still has a profound lesson to teach them This Ugandan entrepreneur demonstrates that “you really don't need to wait to get started. You don't need to wait until you have all your resources nicely lined up. Just start with whatever you have in front of you, even if it's messy or scrappy or it's rough around the edges--quite literally. Just start and you can build something pretty amazing,” she says.
Are your “essentials” really essential?
Maybe you think that's fine if you're living hand-to-mouth in Africa, but wonder if it’s truly applicable to more sophisticated business ideas. While some businesses really can't get started without certain building blocks, Jackley insists that wherever you live and whatever your venture, with a little creativity, so-called “essentials” often really aren't all that essential. She uses another story to prove the point.
“For example, there's a woman who thought that she needed to raise $90,000 for her small business. It was a whale watching tour business. It turns out that she put that out there into the world, to say this is what I need to get. I need this funding, so I can go purchase a new boat and all these things,” she tells the interviewer. “Her friends didn't have all the money to support her financially, but they knew she needed this boat. They were on the lookout for this. It turns out they found it at a tenth of the cost, incredibly discounted.”
That's not just an amazing stroke of luck, according to Jackley, that's a lesson in flexible thinking. “She ended up getting there in a different way than she thought that she would. But she definitely thought the path was raise the money, then find the thing itself, not go directly to the thing itself,” she explains.
Are you so focused on something “essential” for your business idea that you're ignoring alternate routes to make your dreams come true?