A solid business plan. Tons of cash. Total and complete dedication.
These are all common things that many aspiring entrepreneurs think they need before they can finally launch their dream business. But according to many successful business owners, they’re actually unnecessary. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with having capital or a game plan, but a shortfall in any of these areas (and many more) shouldn’t be the roadblock that stops you from getting on your way.
That’s according to the entrepreneurs, business owners and experts we’ve talked to for our series Real Entrepreneurs. Among questions about ideation, pivoting and growth, we asked these business leaders operating in a wide variety of industries to name one thing that many aspiring business owners think they need that they really don’t. Here is a compilation of their surprising answers, starting with a couple of big ones.
What entrepreneurs don’t need to launch a business
1. An MBA
Alison Prato, founder of the Infertile AF Group: Since I have a journalism degree and have spent 20+ years as a journalist, I’m going to have to say that you don’t need an MBA or a business degree. If you can find trustworthy partners who understand the various nuances of business and are willing to learn yourself, I say go for it!
2. Lots of cash
Adam Stupak of real estate platform SpaceIt: Substantial capital. You don’t need to be super well-funded to go out and build a business idea. You just need the simple attributes of a business plan and strategy, an LLC or corporate entity, and proof of concept. Everything will fall into place from there.
3. A polished logo
Vic Cairl, co-founder of Peekskill Productions: Worry less about your logo and more about the mission statement. You need to know why you are doing what you’re doing to focus your vision.
4. Idea protection
Stephen Rankin of Chillow: Many aspiring business owners think they need their ideas to be a secret. You do not need to keep your idea a secret. Share your idea with others, gather their feedback, and gauge whether your product/service is something that others find beneficial. In the process, you may uncover your market.
5. A detailed business plan
Yale Badik, founder of Kure: Many entrepreneurs think they need a 130-page business plan before moving forward with an idea. But the most successful entrepreneurs have great ideas and can effectively communicate them. First, you need to get people to fall in love with your vision and believe in you. I’ve witnessed so many people become paralyzed when they have a great idea because they think they have to have an extensive business plan first. The risk is wasting time and someone else capitalizing on your idea. Just go for it. If the idea is good enough and the right people are interested in not just your idea but you, the rest will fall into place.
Kim Bjørn, founder of Bjooks: Honestly? Investors and a plan. I see way too many people who think that this is the only way to get something started, to grow, or to reach the dream. What you really need is discipline, resilience, and an honest, objective look at yourself and your idea. Then you have to be flexible and willing to reach your goals in other ways than you first imagined. Things seldom happen the way you plan them to happen.
7. Business schooling
Renee Blount, founder of WndrHaus: Simply, I went to too much school. As a first-generation student, I thought it was the ticket. With little guidance, I was book-smart and was not cognizant of other avenues. I didn’t know they existed. Hence, I believe in seeking out people to converse with now constantly to illuminate what’s possible and understand much sooner.
8. A “great” idea
Gregg Throgmartin, CEO of Skin Laundry: An “Idea.” I say that partly jokingly, of course; but so many people I meet think the idea is 90% of the battle. Many aspiring business owners get hung up on perfecting their idea or finding “the big idea.” What one needs is to be able to execute that idea the best. Then, you have to be able to evolve and out-execute everyone else that copies your idea.
9. A huge network of backers
Meredith Oppenheim of Vitality Society: Initially, you don’t need a ton of money to learn lots and make a considerable impact. Start by figuring out which friends and family members can help you get the best answers in the shortest period. One example is my husband who is an engineer/MBA. When I told him I was going to build a community, he said to build on a SaaS solution and focus your time and money on creating something of significance for the people of the community that you want to attract beyond the functionality. This no-code advice has allowed me to self-fund for considerably longer than I ever anticipated or knew was possible. In the process, by starting with a pilot, I discovered what our members need and want and now we are ready to scale to have the greatest impact on those whom we serve and potential partners spanning many industries that can benefit from what we do.
10. Nonstop grind mindset
Michael Heinrich, CEO and founder of Garten: An “always on” work hard/play hard lifestyle. I’ve learned the hard way that the best decisions and the most productive work get done with good (aka balanced) lifestyle habits. Working harder doesn’t make for a healthy, sustainable business. Trust me. Neither do fancy cars, lavish trips or multiple homes. I would take my health over that any day. My well-being habits have made me a better leader and a healthier, happier person. There isn’t anything new about this way of thinking or operating but it’s important to know and understand what this means so when you do get caught up in a grind that isn’t serving you, your loved ones or your organization, you can stop, back up and pivot. In a world where things should be a “nice to have” rather than “must have”, the grindset lifestyle for the sake of success and money is a dangerous path. It’s not the things that truly matter. Rather, it’s how you are positively impacting people’s lives. If you truly believe this, you are already five steps ahead of the competition.
Brian Park, co-founder of Hank: I think it’s common for first-time founders to feel like they need all the answers before they get started, so they’ll delay product work or fundraising conversations or other critical activities until they’ve got it all “right.” But one of the tenets that Andrew and I live by as founders is the idea of small steps rather than none. We relaunched the new Hank site at the MVP stage after only a handful of weeks spent concepting the offering and redesigning the site. Since then we’ve built it up piece by piece, week by week, based on feedback from our customers. It’s so important to get out there and talk to customers and start iterating on your product rather than trying to develop it in a silo until it’s perfect. There is no perfect, and the sooner founders get comfortable with that, you’ll move quicker, your team will feel more empowered, and you’ll ultimately end up with a better product.
12. A co-founder
Dr. Gia Wiggins, founder of Auditocity: Every business doesn’t need a co-founder. I am a solopreneur, but I am not alone. By the time multiple sources said I needed a co-founder, Auditocity was almost ready for alpha testing. During a co-founder matchmaker meeting, I met a great guy who had just completed an exit. After a series of questions, he asked, “Why do you think you need a co-founder?” I honestly replied that everyone told me that I did. His advice was great. He told me that I had built a solid and capable team of experts who did an excellent job and that I didn’t need a co-founder; I already founded the platform. Early on, I figured out what I could do and what I was willing to outsource. There is no one right path. Do what is right for your business based on the company’s needs. I have a team of experts who are a mixture of full-time team members and outsourcing partners. I find that partnering with businesses that are experts at their craft is best for me. I will put my team up against any other!
13. Exponential growth outlook
Brad Charron, CEO of ALOHA: There are a couple of contextual things to note here. First, the market has shifted from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market, meaning the power now rests with the people funding businesses, not the entrepreneurs themselves. Second, inflation is rising and credit card balances are going up while savings are going down. As we sit here today, I believe that consumer confidence is hanging on but by a thread. And I’m an optimist! A storm is likely brewing and thoughtful business owners need to buckle up for a wild ride in the near term. To that point, they don’t need growth at all costs. They need sustainable, thoughtful, and practical growth. If it’s slower but has the ability to scale rapidly (and profitably) with the right market conditions, that’s totally fine in my book. I’d suggest thinking like the tortoise and ignoring the hare.
14. Everything lined up
Alden Reiman, founder of The Reiman Agency: The perfect setup. There’s never the perfect time, financial position, economic environment, or window. It’s about starting—Putting one foot in front of the other and remembering why you took the first step.
15. A finished look
Irvin Gunawan, founder and CEO of IRVINS: Many people think ‘external’ things, such as how grand a restaurant seems, how nicely furnished and equipped an office looks, or how well dressed and rich the founders are, matter a lot. But, in fact, I can attest from my 15 years doing business that they don’t. IRVINS snacks were originally sold in red plastic tubs (yes, it was as bad as it sounds) from 40-square-foot pop-ups that my brother and I made out of Ikea tables and racks. But the products sold out within two hours of opening each day because the concept and offering — and of course the taste — not the fancy branding or how we dressed, was what connected with people. Back then we also had no cash. In fact, most of my previous failed projects were the ones where we spent too much to make the store/restaurant too big, too grand, too lavish, and too unnecessary.
16. Previous experience
Paul Mullis, President of Americas at Rillion: Many people think to be an entrepreneur means you need to be a business owner or founder. But that’s not true. Thinking like a business owner — and caring about it as if it was mine — has made me a better leader, and has a massive impact on the results I produce with my team. I’ve been given that agency by leadership overseas, and it is a crucial aspect of how we’re rolling out the Rillion North American business.
17. A step-by-step roadmap
Katie Wood, author of ‘A Simple Seed.’: I think what holds most people back is the need to know how to do every step of their project. When you start a business or create a product, there are so many unknowns and it’s almost impossible to know how to do it all. Believe in your idea, think by action and commit to taking the first step. My book started out by jotting down ideas on the back of a field trip permission slip. Then it went to Canva, then to Word, then to Adobe, through the eyes of several editors, proofreaders, and several other steps I learned along the way. One step at a time. As humans, we are great starters but bad finishers and if you are disciplined to complete all the steps of the journey through all roadblocks, setbacks and pivots…you will eventually cross that finish line. Forget knowing every step before starting. Instead, focus on why you’re doing your project and the how will work its way out.
Justin Hai, President and CEO of Rebalance Health: Validation. It’s a slippery slope to be asking for advice or guidance because, internally, you are really looking for validation. This ultimately can lead to disappointment, doubt, and hesitation.
19. Hearing “yes”
Nicole Centeno of Splendid Spoon: Approval and agreement. It takes courage to follow your imagination and create new solutions — many will doubt you, many will be skeptical, and it may feel lonely hearing ‘no,’ so often! It’s okay being the lone wolf sometimes — when you are true to your mission, your community will find you. I’ve found my most loyal and meaningful partners in the depths of my lone-wolf moments!