In my last post, I talked about the common perception that businesses are only worth pursuing if it involves something innovative or if it can be a multi-million dollar business. I actually think that with first-time entrepreneurs, especially younger ones, there is some wisdom in encouraging them to pursue less-complex opportunities. Because there are so many aspects of starting and running a business that can’t be anticipated, it is rare to see an entrepreneur “truly succeed” with his or her first venture. The ones that do succeed have products or services that evolve from the original concept.
In my experience, it is generally “the thing that leads to the thing” that is important. No matter how small the opportunity, when someone starts a business he or she learns a significant amount regarding customers and scalability and ultimately sees bigger opportunities.
Here’s just one example. A few years ago, an undergraduate of ours decided to videotape two weddings to see if he could make money. Two years later, he had a small but profitable wedding videography business in the Twin Cities with a couple of employees. He used the video-editing expertise they had attained to begin developing video marketing content for the web, a much bigger opportunity. Two years into building a successful business in this space, he has taken this new expertise to enter the mobile app market and is pursuing an even bigger opportunity and growing like crazy. If he hadn’t started videotaping weddings, he probably wouldn’t be where he is today.
I have seen this happen over and over. So, rather than waiting to come up with the big idea, I have a strong bias toward, “Start working on something now…it’s the thing that leads to the thing that’s important.”