Having co-founded two companies and helped nonprofits get off the ground, entrepreneurship has become a default niche of mine, especially the social kind. I've also had countless conversations and consultations with aspiring entrepreneurs and over my brief career have seen a lot. When I speak in business classes to university students, they usually like to ask questions about finding venture funding or ways to make a big PR splash. While capital raises and media mentions can be a part of any new business and may help a new concept find success, to me, they're not as important as these three things that every entrepreneur needs:
A first follower
This may also be a business partner, but whether equity is split or not, every entrepreneur needs someone who believes in his or her idea and will come alongside them as they begin to grow the business. More often than not, entrepreneurs are leaders, but without followers, leaders don't exist. Derek Sivers explains this concept perfectly in this short video on why the first follower is important to any movement.
Entrepreneurship is hard. Depending upon the size of the venture and what's required, starting a business can mean long nights, early mornings, stressful days, and very hard years. I saw a quote the other day that might size up any entrepreneurial journey: "Entrepreneurship means living a few years like most people won't in order to live the rest of your life like most people can't."
During those first few years, when doubts cloud your mind and rejection is the norm, you need someone to cheer for you. A friend, a spouse, a parent - it doesn't matter who. You need someone who won't be giving advice about the business model or tell you to get a real job. You need someone who roots for you to succeed.
Think this goes without saying? Think again. A customer is someone who pays you for what you offer. It may take a while before you find one and get that first check, but without a customer (or many, hopefully), you won't have a way to make money to keep the doors open. So as you set off to create something cool that people want to talk about, be realistic and make sure there are people out there wanting to pay you money for something.
What else do you think every entrepreneur needs? An office? An iPad? A staff? Weigh in below.