"For the passionate, budding entrepreneur wondering 'what if' … take it from us, there’s no time like the present."
By Shradha Mehta & Anisha Bhasin Mukherjee (Founders, DRESS FOR THE DAY)
We’ve all had them. Those “what if” moments. What if I took that job on the west coast and left behind my greatest love, New York City? What if I married my free-spirited ex-boyfriend, who chose to play the drums in a punk-rock band instead of attending grad school? What if, in the midst of a secure and stable personal and professional life, I also chose to run with the brilliant business idea I had and never looked back?
For the two of us, founders of startup DRESS FOR THE DAY, we can scratch that last one off the list. Despite the inevitable fear, constant anxiety and perpetual stress, we are never left wondering "what if."
Life is too short and time is too precious to be thinking about anything but the now. No matter the feelings of risk or self-doubt, we can say, without even the slightest hesitation, we don’t have a single regret about starting our own business in one of the most competitive industries and during trying economic times.
Don’t get us wrong; it was anything but easy. From the day our concept was born up until the day of launch, we were obsessed with the idea of success and how it would be measured. By our revenue? Visitors to the site? The amount of funding we landed? Of course these are important tangibles and goals that every startup must think about and work towards, but it’s the road there that has most value.
Consider these stepping stones (and our cheat sheet!):
Build a prototype/beta/wireframe: Have an idea? Fantastic! But remember it only works as an idea until you put pen to paper. We’re not all tech developers, but we don’t need to be. Start off with what you’re comfortable with like Powerpoint/Excel/Adobe and put your interface ideas to work. We built our website wireframe on Powerpoint and used Slideshare on the iPad to present. It was a working prototype prior to any coding being involved.
Team: Choosing the right partner, developer, investor and employees is vital to creating synergy. Build a team that has a variety of expertise and interests so a broad spectrum of perspectives are represented. We are so thankful for selecting tech partners and developers who had hundreds of startups and launches under their belts, so they could keep us calm when we thought the world was going to end after a glitch was found on the website the day of our launch. A support system to bring us back down to reality was our saving grace.
Power behind social media: Imagine traditional word of mouth multiplied by thousands. If your audience believes in you and your startup, the sky is the limit on how many people you can reach. We hit our milestone of 10k unique visitors in less than six months solely through organic use of social media. Make Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest your BFFs like we did.
Leverage your challenges: There are plenty of struggles associated with being female in the tech industry. But having to say, "yes, we are female 20-somethings and our startup is about fashion” or “yes, we are Indian but no, we are not engineers” for the millionth time never bothers us. Instead, we use stereotypes to our advantage. Beating the odds and overcoming challenges is so much more rewarding than the easy road. Give people the opportunity to see why you stand out.
Fail a few times: If anyone tells you they haven’t failed in some capacity while starting up, they’re living in a startup bubble. Your website might crash, you might freeze during a pitch presentation, or you might completely butcher your first attempt at a business plan. We sure did. This is part of the process and you will learn nothing without failing first. Just don’t let it deter you from forging ahead.
While it’s essential to give yourself hard deadlines, monetary goals and traffic thresholds, since this is the nature of running a business after all, it’s important to keep the notion of success in perspective. Know that every step you’ve taken in moving closer towards these quantifiable goals is an accomplishment, in a reality that was once a dream. For the passionate, budding entrepreneur wondering “what if” … take it from us, there’s no time like the present.
Founders, how did you beat self doubt and take the leap?
About the guest bloggers: Shradha is co-founder and CEO of DRESS FOR THE DAY. She graduated from Parsons, The New School for Design and works with fashion brands such as Ralph Lauren Group and Burberry as Brand Manager at the Luxottica Group. Anisha is co-founder and COO. She studied at NYU and Fordham University before practicing entertainment law for several years.