For me, starting a business at 22 could have been described as a case of insanity.
I was a college dropout with $300 to my name, and had absolutely no clue as to what I was doing. But, I knuckled down, stuck to my vision and worked. my. ass. off. My business and I got drunk on a cocktail of inexperience, over-optimism and a thirst for proving the underdog a success, and fast forward seven years now and I think, if I squint really hard and blur my eyes a bit, I might have just done that. I’ve turned nothing into something and proved that a young woman with no experience, no money and certainly no clue can build a real life business.
The sour ones will call it madness and the sweet ones call it naivety. I call it the beauty of inexperience. As the founder and creative director of Smack Bang Designs, I’m now proud to admit that my strengths lie in that fact that I dropped out of four university degrees, never worked a real job before in my life and never set foot in another design agency prior to starting my own.
So what’s the advantage to having no experience or industry know-how? Read on as I share my top 10 ways to use your inexperience to your advantage.
While experience sure does have its benefits but inexperience can lead to deeper innovation and more out-of-the-box thinking. When you start a venture with little-to-no experience, you inevitably do things your way, throwing caution to tradition simply because you don’t know another way. By chance and through your own unique perspective, you present a fresh take on an existing industry that’s sure to grab people’s attention.
As an inexperienced founder, you won’t have had your entrepreneurial spirit chewed up and spat out by an institution or set of antiquated industry standards. Do things your own way, which means building something authentic, not just building a company to someone else’s algorithm.
When you start out with no street cred, no runs on the board and nothing to show for yourself, you immediately have something to prove. Whether it’s to prove to your 3rd grade teacher who assured you that you’d never be more than a check-out chick or to prove to your ass-busting self that all those years of late nights and 80 hour weeks were worth it, you’re not going to go to all this effort only to come out the otherside looking like the kid who was showing off juggling his ice cream and ended up with it plastered all over the pavement.
The thing with beginner’s luck is that you have no expectations, no preconceived notions of how things should be or will be. And so, you just show up and do the thing. You find your flow and you have some fun with it. The same goes for business, inexperience means a good dose of beginner’s luck, not held back by your own limiting self-beliefs determined by past achievements – you just show up, do your thang and find your flow.
If you listed all of your ‘assets’ and your Glossier Boy Brow is sitting pretty in the top 5, then you ain’t got nothing to lose (unless they stop selling it, that stuff is priceless!). And that’s a good thing. Why? Because the most dangerous person in the room is (s)he who has nothing to lose.
You may have no money, no reputation and not an ounce of street cred, but you have youth on your side which means you probably don’t have any dependents to provide for and no mortgage hanging over your head. So, go hell for leather after your vision, and know that if you fail, you can only fall so far.
Inexperience means your head hasn’t swelled with years of praise and accomplishments working the field. You’re yet to adopt a chip on your shoulder, you’re more willing to confront your weaknesses and more willing to admit your flaws. As an inexperienced founder flailing your way through your very own version of “Business for Dummies”, you’ll probably fail more times than you succeed, but you’ll learn from what didn’t work and tweak it. Resilience and grit are key.
If reality TV shows have taught us anything, it’s that everyone loves the underdog. And being an inexperienced founder immediately gives you a badge of underdog honour. People love to champion David (of Goliath fame!) and lend a hand to see the unassuming person make it to the finish line. And what’s more, this approach can help earn you credibility as someone who can hustle, stay persistent and be innovative.
There’s no denying that running a business comes with a fair dose of fear. Dealing with cash flow issues, HR issues, client demands and daily F’ups is scary stuff. But when you’re inexperienced, your fear is often felt tenfold by your self-doubt and worries. Let’s face it, winging it day-by-day isn’t a walk in the park. But the best thing you can do is make fear a tailwind instead of a headwind. Let it fire you up and drive you even harder.
We all know it’s not the big who eat the small, but the fast who eat the slow, and inexperience often leads to speed. Why? Well, when you’re not tied up in trying to do things the way they “should” be done, you often do them in the most pragmatic, results orientated way. Look at where you want to be, then figure out a fast track way to get there – you don’t have the luxury of time or money to take the long route. And the best part about this is that you don’t fall into some traps that someone with an MBA might do, such as over-engineering, over-analysing, or excessive fixation on the route, rather than the result.
Launching and running a business is a wild adventure. It’s like the heart monitor you hear in the ER. A blearing signal that lets you know your soul is not just rotting away in some grey cubicle with a hoard of other lifeless robots. The thrill of entrepreneurship is a daily, often jolting reminder that you are a living, breathing, growing, learning human being. You’re alive and your heart is pumping passion flooding through your veins. Go ahead, start a business for the sheer hell of it. Your inexperience will mean you have no idea what you are getting yourself into and that means that you will consider all the possibilities, and discount nothing. Trust me when I say, the adventure will be as wild as hell.
Without knowledge of the average 9 to 5 and not working for anyone else in your industry, your gut instinct is one of the most important tools you have. Not knowing how things traditionally work, will only contribute to your spirit of adventure and willingness to tackle situations according to your own inherent logic. Learning to listen to your gut in business is a skill that you want to refine. It will save you from making bad decisions and point you in the direction of your true purpose, every single time.
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