Several months back a friend of mine asked me about starting a business, and how I had gone about it. Truth is, I've been starting this business my whole life, even if I only just filed my LLC paperwork in December 2013. I've spent the last several years reading a wide variety of books and blogs, attending classes, watching videos and experiencing life in a way that has led me directly to starting my own business. But really this journey started when I was a kid -- and everything from my first ride on the back of a horse by myself to getting up enough balls to quit my well-paying, boring office job had led up to launching the OBC. I just didn't always know it at the time.
That being said, there have been some go-to resources over the past year or so that have been instrumental in helping me look, feel and act like an actual entrepreneur.
So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport - Newport urges us all to stop believing the "follow your passion" bullshit, which sounds good in theory, but it leads a lot of people to feel worthless and betrayed. Get good at something - really good. Then work to find a way to make money at it.
Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur - This is a must-read (must-do?) for anyone who wants to start a business or nonprofit, and needs to work through how the business model will work. Their Business Model Canvas will help you visually lay out exactly how your business will work. Also good for corporate product development teams.
The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki - I decided in the end that I was not going to seek venture capital to fund my startup, but I did compete in one very important business plan competition where I walked away with $10,000. I couldn't have won that money without Kawasaki's advice on pitching your business to potential investors (which essentially was what the competition judges were).
Heart, Smarts, Guts & Luck by Richard J Harrington, Tsun-Yan Hsieh & Anthony K. Tjan - This is a book that had some good ideas, but mostly just served to keep me inspired. The whole survey bit a somewhat contrived, as I found I had elements from almost every element in my personality (though smarts & luck showed up most prominently).
Help. Thanks. Wow. by Anne Lamott - Because we really need some feminine energy in this mix, and also because there are days when entrepreneurship includes all of these emotions.
99u.com - Their tagline is "Insights on Making Ideas Happen." Includes a ton of great & insightful tips on everything from psychology to product launches, which is great because there is so much repetitive bullshit on the internet when it comes to advice. I'd guess that 99% of it falls within the "duh" category. Even 99u's videos are compelling, and as one of the .001% of people on the web who don't have the patience for watching videos - I'd rather read - this is saying a lot.
Buffer blog - Wow, this app's blog is a virtual treasure trove of awesome information for startups. I don't use their service (yet), but I love them. The most influential articles (for me) include Belle Beth Cooper's stuff, like The Secret to Creativity, Intelligence, and Scientific Thinking: Being Able to Make Connections, 8 Helpful Online Tools To Keep Your Company On Track and The Complete Guide for Finding and Sharing Better Content on Social Media.
Lifehacker - sometimes this site overwhelms me with how much useful stuff is there. I still force myself to read through the headlines every day.
Penelope Trunk - She's a career-writer with Asperger's who hardly ever writes about careers. Her stuff is smart, good and raw - a combination you rarely see in today's over-polished world of mediocre amateurs. Would I want to be friends with her? No way, she's kinda nuts. But I read everything she puts out.
Tara Gentile - Tara speaks to women-owned microbusinesses, but I've been particularly impressed with her focus on money & profitability. Some good stuff, particularly if you're trying to start an artsy type of business.
Abby Kerr - Abby puts out awesome stuff, including the first e-course I ever paid for - which catered to INFJ business owners. Her newsletter always includes some great links.
Evernote - I use this app to document everything - including my receipts for taxes. I use the website as often as the iPhone app.
Feedly - I read. Like A LOT. And believe it or not, books make up less than half of what I read (my favorite magazine is Esquire, which sometimes makes me want to be a guy when I grow up, the writing is that good). I was deeply annoyed when Google Reader went away several months ago, but Feedly has mostly lived up to my standards of being able to organize, read and share the stuff I want to read. The only problem? I'll never be able to read everything in my feed. #firstworldproblems
Startgarden - This is a local organization in Grand Rapids that gives away $5,000 a week to promising startups. I competed but lost (doesn't mean I can't try again someday, but I hate asking for Facebook votes, which is what's required as part of the process). Still, their classes and overall vibe have been instrumental in helping me along my journey (despite being decidedly dude-centric).
V-WISE - I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention this organization, which gave me the encouragement (and money) to really become an entrepreneur. Hooray for lady veterans!
Of course, I've had a lot of support from real-life people in my life, including a friend who used to own a talent agency and a friend who owns a yoga studio, as well as countless co-workers, friends (including friends from high school and my ex-husband) and family. And I really wouldn't be here if it weren't for The Red Headed Stranger, the guy who just recently asked me if I wanted to have the world's longest and best sleepover party by getting married.
Finally, starting a business has meant having some really big balls. Taking (calculated) risks is something I believe mightily in, even if I eventually fail. But being prepared with lots of inspiration and research makes that so much easier.
Jill Hinton Wolfe,
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