Sitting under a florescent light in a dingy cubicle, imagining there is a bigger opportunity you should be pursuing? Plan your entrepreneurial leap (long before you hand in your two-notice) is the underlying advice of these seasoned entrepreneurs.

Amy Errett​, Founder and CEO, Madison Reed

Madison Reed's Amy Errett started her career in investment banking at Bankers Trust. From Wall Street she's gone on to found several ventures and applied her operating skills (plus entrepreneurial know-how) as general partner of the venture firm Maveron. For her first start-up, Amy withdrew from her 401k plan (paying the penalty to have enough cash to pursue her vision). She quit her day job three months after she had her big idea, with a clear grasp on how much money she had as well as the amount of time she had to secure funding.

Amy's checklist before leaping into entrepreneurship or working full-time on a startup:

  1. Make sure the total available market is large enough to invest your time (and support your lifestyle).
  2. Decide on your purpose (is it to make money or is there a bigger social mission behind your drive).
  3. Figure out what risks you are truly comfortable with (i.e. financial as well as reputation and time).
  4. Create a budget (for yourself and your business idea) and plot out how much financial risk you can really take.
  5. Critically assess your ability to raise money from friends, family and potentially outside investors.

Her words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs on how to leverage the power of a day-job (and the paycheck it comes with) for future aspirations:

  • Never underestimate the experience you have - it has lead to your big idea after all!
  • Equally, never underestimate the network you have as a result of being employed.
  • You have transferable skills! Maximize the skills you have gained from your job by matching them to what you'll need to do daily as an entrepreneur.

Melissa Gonzalez, Founder and CEO of Lion'esque Group

Melissa is the CEO and Founder of the Lionesque Group, an award winning firm of retail strategists and pop-up architects. She is a regular contributor to ABC LA Radio (#RetailwithMelissa) and she's also the author of The Pop-Up Paradigm: Building Human Connections in a Digital Age. Her career started in institutional sales at Credit Suisse First Boston.

Knowing the sacrifices of entrepreneurship can be unexpected, Melissa's checklist before leaping into entrepreneurship or working full-time on a startup:

  1. Understand your "special sauce" and niche within the market you are going after.
  2. Research your market (take a few classes if need be) and craft a business plan.
  3. Create a nest egg (a financial plan for at least the next 6 months) and make any necessary lifestyle adjustments before diving into being a full fledged entrepreneur.

Her words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs on how to leverage the power of a day-job (and the paycheck) for future aspirations:

  • Be genuine yet strategic about the relationships you build, you'll need that network to make your idea happen.
  • Start saving while you have a job!

Katie Witkin, Co-Founder and COO of AGW Group

Katie Witkin started her agency at age 25 (AGW is a Brooklyn-based culture marketing and integrated communications agency). She was a college marketing representative for Sony Music Entertainment and worked in several social media roles before making her entrepreneurial leap.

Katie's checklist before working full time on your own venture:

  1. Speak to as many entrepreneurs as possible, both seasoned and new. Someone else has gone down the new venture road before you. They've been there, they've done it, they understand what you're about to take on and can offer powerful advice.
  2. Talk to your family and friends. These are the people you'll need to turn to during the good and bad. This support is paramount to getting through rough days!
  3. Confirm that you're willing to sacrifice a lot (financially, personally, socially) in the pursuit of success. It takes a lot of courage to make your ideas and dreams a reality.
  4. Don't go it alone! Align with a strong, trusted business partner who balances, challenges and motivates you.
  5. Be prepared to be unprepared and know what you don't know.

Katie also offers up these words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs on how to leverage the power of a day-job (and paycheck) for future aspirations):

"Save and plan. Save what you believe you will need to reasonably live your life, and plan for very little profit during those first formidable years. That's not to say your business won't have revenue (or perhaps it won't), but either way understanding and appreciating that most, if not all, incoming cash should go directly back into growing your business is a reality all young entrepreneurs must face. As a business owner your company's health is your first priority, your personal bank account is your last. When you put your all into your startup, you tend to see these realities as less of a sacrifice and more of a necessity. So save what you can, because ultimately you'll want to put whatever profit you make back into the company."

Matt Fiedler​, CEO and co-founder of Vinyl Me, Please

Matt Fiedler graduated from Belmont University in 2011 with a dual degree in Music Business and Entrepreneurship. After working a number of jobs in the tech and music industry from 2011-2014, Matt quit his day-job to run Vinyl Me, Please full time in July of 2014. He talked to his spouse, put in his two-weeks notice (benefiting from a payout of unused vacation days) and started his venture.

Matt's wishes he had a checklist before he leapt to working full time on Vinyl Me, Please. His guidance: understand the risk you're taking and ask yourself what's the worst that could happen. The worst could just be having to get another job in a few months.

Matt's words of advice - be prepared to roll-up your sleeves and make sacrifices! In the early days of Vinyl Me, Please, Matt (by necessity) needed to do everything on a shoestring budget. With no excess funds to use, Matt focused on growth of the company's bottom-line.

Published on: Feb 5, 2017