Successful entrepreneurs overcome numerous challenges throughout their careers. Thankfully, however, from the successes of others at defeating hardships we can often learn valuable lessons that can help us on our own paths to success.
I recently met with Olga Kay, CEO of the innovative-sock brand, Moosh Walks, and a YouTube star known for her comedy and juggling-related videos. Kay grew up in a small, poor village in Russia in which she often did not have electrical power, never mind access to computers or business mentors. I asked her to share five lessons that she learned from her childhood and path to success.
1. Utilize resources to the fullest
Growing up in a small village Russia, Kay's family had to be creative to survive: they did not have much money, and neither did anyone else in the area. At times, she told me, her parents were paid for their work with bags of sugar. Her family could not afford to buy new shoes on a regular basis, so shoes would be bought larger than needed and stuffed with fabric, and old shoes patched with rubber and glue. The experience of growing up in such an environment taught Kay to see the potential in limited resources, and to maximize the value that she derived from whatever was available to her. It was in the that sense that she began a YouTube channel without money for lighting, or for sound and camera equipment - instead, she figured out techniques to make video shot with an old MacBook look great. Likewise, when she started Moosh Walks, she figured how to leverage her social media following to get feedback on products, rather than relying on expensive professionals.
2. Be different
Recognizing that she wanted to have a life different than the one offered by a small Russian village, Kay was determined to "stand out," and, as such, joined the circus at age 14 and spent a tremendous amount of time learning to juggle professionally (for a video of myself juggling with her, please see this video on musical.ly). When she began her YouTube videos she didn't want to be yet another vlogger - instead she provided a different form of entertainment not yet available on YouTube: juggling - which she used as a segway to attract an initial audience to her channel, now known for comedy. Likewise, when she began Moosh Walks she wanted to produce socks that were different from anything else on the market - and, she credits her "socks with ears" difference as enabling her products to get into stores a lot quicker than they would have otherwise, as well for helping Moosh Walks get accepted into Amazon's Exclusives and other hard-to-get-into distribution programs.
Kay's family owned cows, and used to trade milk and butter with neighbors who produced different products. The community in which she lived also "came together" on many occasions to ensure that everyone survived despite harsh conditions.
Likewise, businesspeople often benefit greatly by collaborating. Kay, for example, credits her having collaborated with other YouTubers for helping to build her viewership: making combined videos allowed all of those involved to grow audiences faster than any of them could have done on his or her own. Similarly, at Moosh Walks she is collaborating with Throwboy Pillows to create pillows with ears to match the Moosh Walks socks - leveraging the former firm's knowledge of pillows and her knowledge of the sock business.
4. You must risk failing.
One of the common stories vis-à-vis all of Kay's ventures - from joining the circus as a teen to her building a channel and large following on YouTube to founding and running Moosh Walks - has been that she pursued something because she wanted to, even though she did not have the experience or resources of many others with whom she was effectively competing. She had to learn by reading - or, in the case of juggling and video shooting, by practicing many hours a day - but, in the end, even with the knowledge, success requires taking risks.
"I feel so many people are holding themselves back because they don't have enough money or they are scared of the failure." said Kay, "In reality, failure and mistakes are the exact moments that propel you closer to success. Each step you take prepares you for the next."
5. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
To spread the word about your brand, you may have to do things with which you are not totally comfortable. In Kay's case, she had to overcome the discomfort of going to big-city-type events at which she did not expect to know anyone. But, going to such events - and to business conferences - has allowed her not only to learn, but to spread awareness of both her YouTube channel and Moosh Walks offerings. Many entrepreneurs struggle with various areas of business - many are not comfortable with asking for help, making sales calls, or even telling people about their ideas; if you want to succeed, however, you will need to do those types of things -- you must get comfortable with being uncomfortable.