Many of us have been there. We have a business idea, or we’ve just opened our doors to customers, but there’s a sense of insecurity looming over us. Maybe it was our very first business and we had no idea what we were doing. Maybe we started by taking out a business credit card or begging a friend or family member for a loan to pull it off. There are many reasons why we can feel like underdogs in business – including just good old imposter syndrome.
That’s why reframing the mindset around humble beginnings is so critically important. The truth is, there’s an underdog advantage. Many times, these humble beginnings can be the very bedrock on which you build a strong business. You’ve learned the value of a dollar and how to save, you’ve learned how to bootstrap, and you’re prepared to give your all to the success of your business. The following are stories of successful founders that prove the underdog advantage.
Starting In Your Kitchen—Or Garage
You don’t need your own office space or even your own home to start a successful business, and two very prominent companies are proof of that. Wildly popular CLIF bars were started out of Gary Erickson’s mom’s kitchen. This isn’t just where he came up with the recipe: it’s where he continued to make and sell them out of. We also all know the story of how Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs began Apple out of Jobs’ childhood home garage.
Sure, there are perks to working in co-working spaces–networking or free coffee, but as long as you have working WiFi, you can start almost anything. And if it can work out of your parents’ kitchen or garage, it can definitely work when you have your own office or your own factory.
Learning How To Do Everything In Your Business Because You’re A Team Of One
We know that launching a company isn’t always glamorous, but here’s one benefit: you’ll know every part of your business like the back of your hand. Sure, this can feel like you’re juggling multiple tasks and responsibilities, but having that element of control and oversight is critical in every stage of your business. Dana Jackson, the founder of Beneath Your Mask, didn’t have the funds to hire anyone when she first got started.
But there was a benefit to this: as she shared with Create & Cultivate, “While you can scale much faster with funding, the benefit of bootstrapping is you’re forced to learn every aspect of your business because you can’t afford to hire someone to do every little thing at first. When you do go to hire someone, you know exactly what they should be doing because you’ve already had to do it yourself.”
You Learn Quickly If Your Product Is something people will buy
A few thousand dollars is usually a good place to start when bootstrapping – even though that will seldom get you far. But Ana Gavia, the founder of the now multi-million dollar swimsuit company Pinkcolada, attributes her success to being able to gauge whether she was building something that people were excited about. After all, it’s not worth it to invest ANY amount of money if potential customers aren’t proving to you that they’ll buy. It doesn’t matter who you hire or how much you up the advertising budget: if they aren’t buying, they aren’t buying.
Gavia said of bootstrapping in an interview that “Especially when you are starting small, you would not want to put your money into something that was not going to sell. You look at the engagement, and which one gets more likes, comments and cheers. I wouldn’t sell anything I wouldn’t wear myself or be happy with.”
It Makes For A Better Backstory
The truth is, few are inspired by the stories of the founders who had all the money and resources in the world who launched a successful business. It’s the hardship and the ‘rags to riches’ component that really makes a difference. That’s how Tom Wang |, the founder of Sdara Skincare sees it. As the son of Chinese immigrants, his family struggled a great deal for much of his younger life, and he launched and failed with many businesses.
That is – until he used his final $5,000 in the bank to launch Sdara, which then scaled to a multi-million dollar business and resulted in a 7 figure exit. “Your struggle makes for a better story when you succeed,” he tells his students. “There are people who have gone through worse who have also succeeded.”
Underdogs still make it out on top, and they’re everyone’s favorite type of entrepreneur to root for. So, if you’re feeling discouraged or behind, just remember there’s strength in your story and you aren’t the first or the last to turn harder circumstances into pure magic and potential.