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Entrepreneurship isn’t always the answer: what makes you happy?

Work for yourself if it's the right decision for you, not just because entrepreneurship is buzzy at the moment. That was one of the biggest takeways from Tuesday night's event from Young Involved Philadelphia.

Full Disclosure: This reporter moderated the panel discussion portion of this Young Involved Philadelphia event.
Entrepreneurship isn’t always the answer, if you’re asking the right question, and that question should be the starting point. What makes you happy?

If you want to make a lot of money, the financial sector might be more dependable. If you want to be purely creative, finding a low-intensity day-job that allows you to also do what you love could be bet. If you want to do a certain kind of work, finding the right organization likely is a reliable solution.

But, as a panel of near-30-something early-stage entrepreneurs told an audience of 50 during Young Involved Philadelphia’s ‘Be Your Own Boss‘  panel discussion, building a company is a very different decision. [Full Disclosure: This reporter moderated the discussion.]

“I don’t like running a business,” said Wil Reynolds, the charismatic, skateboarding CEO of Northern Liberties internet search marketing firm SEER Interactive. “I just couldn’t find anyone who would pay me to do what I love, so I did.”

Now, SEER has more than 60 employees, with a newly opened San Diego office and the kind of reputation that could make an otherwise established SEO community envious.

The event was intended for young people thinking about, already beginning or trying to improve their own entreprenurial effort. Other takeaways from the event, that happened in the glossy third floor of Kensington’s 3rd Ward makerspace, which is home to the MissionHub collaborative workspace:

  • Before day one, do five things: (a) test your idea by talking to 10 potential customers, competitors or industry peers, (b) identify your market by refining your business plan and surveying who else is doing what you want to do, (c) find  your audience by outlining the network of those around what you want to do (d) establish a partner, who may be a mentor, cofounder, therapist or the like, (e) watch the ‘Golden Circle’ TEDx video from Simon Sinek, said At Media cofounder Antoinette Johnson.

  • Make use of the Small Business Development Centers, and SCOREs and other startup offerings that are free or low cost, said PrintFresh cofounder Leo Voloshin.
  • They may sound silly, but get yourself a CEO coach, mentor and an advisory board, said Wash Cycle Laundry founder Gabriel Mandujano
  • Own being small or fake it till you make it? — Reynolds said he owned being a small one-man operation working out of his house when he started, so his clients couldn’t hold it against him. Johnson said when she wanted to jump to a bigger level, she had to pad her self-confidence to sell. Two very different paths might be better for different people and situations.
  • Protect your space, said Mandujano. Be selfish when you need to be, which means to know your lines with suppliers, clients, customers, employees and more and then defend them.
  • Don’t hire friends or family, said Voloshin. Anyone who does, complains about them.
  • “If you can’t control it, don’t freak out,” said Reynolds.
  • Hire what you can’t teach, said Reynolds, which he meant to be ethics, pride in work and loyalty. “I can’t teach someone everything else,” he said. Though, as Voloshin pointed out, Reynolds currently has eight open positions he hasn’t been satisfied enough to fill because Reynolds is looking for specific skills on the client interaction side.
  • You need to risk and fail, that’s what trying looks like, said Mandujano. It’s the ‘Ready. Fire. Aim’ mentality of entrepreneurship.
  • Be ready to move on from people, said Reynolds. “Sometimes the advisory board member or the employee who got you from point A to point B isn’t the same one you need to get from point B to point C.
Companies: 3rd Ward / Young Involved Philadelphia

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