I was sitting in my kitchen (i.e. Bené’s headquarters) when I received the email from Zach and I knew immediately I had to talk to him and of course, I had to get him to share his story on The Journey with Blue.
I believe the statistic is, 8 out of 10 businesses go out of business within the first 18 months. We always focus on the few that make it but as I was reading Zach’s email, I was more interested in the majority that didn’t.
About a year and a half ago, Zach launched Ambos boots, beautifully crafted leather boots with the mission to help provide incremental income to artisans in Guatemala. And in his email, Zach announces that he is closing his business due to him running out of money. But Zach doesn’t just leave it there, the value came, when he was able to reflect on his entrepreneurial ‘Journey’ and share his lessons and what he wishes he would have done differently. Lessons that I hope all entrepreneurs and especially aspiring entrepreneurs take note of, so grab your pen and paper.
Lesson #1: Become an Expert in Whatever You Do: Network, learn about the business, go to industry events, meet new people…make those connections before you actually start. It’s important to build a network of advisors for guidance and support. From my own personal experience, there has been so much trial and error, a lot of time and money loss because I didn’t have as much experience in my field by getting more internships or working before I started the business…Sometimes hindsight is 20/20.
Lesson #2: Keep Your Day Job: Maintain a consistent source of income as long as you can and Zach admits that giving that up so early hurt him and the business. Businesses will always cost more money and take longer to grow than planned. In retrospect, Zach says, make your business force you out of your day job. There are real financial life decisions and sacrifices you have to contemplate when starting a business. Sometimes you have to do things you never imagined yourself doing to build something you love.
Lesson #3: Have a Bonafide Go To Market Strategy: Even though you may think you have a great product or website that’s not enough. You need to have a proven marketing strategy that you have tested and gotten feedback on. Take advantage of the network you have built, send it to your mentors and have them poke holes in it. And I always say start small.
One thing I’ve had to realize as an entrepreneur is that we have to remember that our value, our worth, our identity is not in our business. Failure is inevitable but in the words of Garth Brooks, “I’ll never reach my destination if I never try”.