Just about every author on Inc.com has interviewed and written about million and billionaire CEO's. We've spoken with the geniuses behind startups with more funding than many small business owners would ever dream of acquiring. We've aimed to bring you the best advice, strong doses of inspiration, and even success secrets that these titans have never before revealed.
As we close out 2015, I believe that it is time to hear from a few of the entrepreneurs who are still deep in the trenches, waking each morning in hopes that today may bring the next measure of success they've been waiting for.
Small business owners everywhere understand that they must beat the odds to survive, yet they forge ahead in their dreams. Like many of my readers, these entrepreneurs are climbing the ladder of success by challenging their creativity, working long hours, and shutting out the naysayers.
Going into 2016 I want you to know that you're not alone; that your hard work will pay off, just as it is paying off for these entrepreneurs. I asked them each the same questions, in hopes that their answers would bring encouragement and take you into the New Year knowing that, while we all experience disappointment, there is always a win to look forward to.
James Oliver, Jr.
- My biggest disappointment in 2015 was the referral program I built didn't double my website traffic as I'd anticipated; it only grew by 15%. Getting noticed with a consumer-based internet business is hard and expensive. Letting consumer referrals drive organic traffic, a la Dropbox, can lead to explosive growth, but I failed to do it in 2015.
- The one thing that happened in 2015 that I'm most proud of is that I raised more capital, despite the business struggling badly in 2014. We ran out of cash and my team quit. Close friends thought I should have quit, too. It's always darkest before it goes pitch black. But eventually the light shines--if you don't quit.
- The single piece of encouragement I'd like to offer other entrepreneurs is, you are stronger than you know. Get to know your fears well because by leaning into them-a funny thing happens-you conquer them. Then you are transformed into an amazing, fearless human being. And who doesn't want that?
President & QueenBee, Baby-BeeHaven.com
- My biggest disappointment in 2015 was not finding or securing the strategic partnership I had hoped to. I applied for several opportunities including multiple grants and reality shows, aka Shark TANK, that didn't come to fruition in 2015. It may be long shot to some, but I spent a lot of time and effort on these potential opportunities. It's the world we entrepreneurs live in.
- The one thing that happened in 2015 that I'm most proud of is completing my latest product and bringing it to market. Our booth at the ABC Expo was a huge success and we got many credible leads that we are hoping to parlay into solid business deals. Seeing the positive response we got helped give me the confidence to continue growing my brand. There is no substitute for face-to-face connections.
- The single piece of advice or encouragement I'd like to offer to other entrepreneurs is to have an official business plan, as well as a working action plan. We are constantly pulled in many directions but this helps you stay on track and keep track of what you plan to accomplish on a weekly and monthly basis. Every time I can check something off that action plan, I know I'm making progress for long-term goals.
- My biggest disappointment in 2015 was feeling blown off by a retail contact when I flew to New York to get an audience with their women's division. I'd previously had two meetings at their Baltimore HQ, but had wanted to meet with this more targeted team; one that I thought would be more apt to see value and relevance of what we do.
- The one thing that happened in 2015 that I'm most proud of is finally finding, figuring out, and using tools that helping me build my business without relying on other people. Tools like Canva for design, Shipping Easy for shipping, crowdfire for instagram building, ContentBLVD to leverage YouTubers, and now delving into AutorResponder Madness to help with list conversions. It takes time, patience, and consistency, but using tools helps immeasurably!
- The single piece of advice or encouragement I'd like to offer to other entrepreneurs is no matter the disappointments and setbacks, you'll always have YOU at the end of the day. Never forget why you started what you started. There was and is a reason. You are your own best resource, and your own #1 cheerleader. Use your passion to move forward; don't worry about whether others buy into your vision or not. You can do this!
I will leave you with wishes for a very happy holiday season and much success in 2016!