As a serial entrepreneur, I have a deep love and respect for anyone out there who takes an idea and runs with it. It's a scary thing to start something — kind of like jumping without a net — but when it works, there's nothing sweeter. Which is why I am so honored to be a partner in this year's FounderMade NYC Consumer Discovery Show on June 11, and why I was so desperate to hear from its CEO, Meghan Asha. She's proof positive that startups can work, and as one of the greatest cheerleaders for entrepreneurs everywhere, she has some amazing insights and thoughts on how to get there. Here, her 7 key pieces of priceless advice. Take heed because she knows her stuff.
And PS: I hope you'll join me to discover some amazing brands in beauty, wellness and food at this year's show. There will be panels and there will be cocktails, and if you enter the code CDSMDPT18, you'll even get 25% off your ticket, which you can buy here.
Building a successful business from the ground up isn’t easy or quick — but if you're pursuing something you truly believe in, it’ll be one of the most fulfilling things you’ll ever do. There’s no one-size-fits-all guide that will work for every startup, but there are a few key pieces of advice that are critical to keep in mind if you want to build — and grow — your business.
- Meghan Asha
Everyone is not your customer.
1. Know Your Market
If you try to market to everyone, you’re not going to appeal to anyone. To build a successful business, you have to know exactly who your audience is, the things they value, and the challenges they face. That’s going to equip you meet their needs and connect with them on a deeper level. And that’sthe key to building a customer base that’s passionate about your business.
Success it not delivering a feature, it is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.
-Mark Cook, Kodak
2. Solve Problems
Anyone can come up with an idea for a business. But what sets a successful business apart is that it doesn’t just exist to make money — it’s built to solve your customers’ problems. For example, at FounderMade, we know that emerging consumer brands don’t always have easy access to investors or media. And retailers and investors don’t always know where to find those new, up-and-coming brands. So we solve that problem for them by hosting events that connect those people to each other. By solving your customers’ problems, they come to trust and rely on you. And that will keep them coming back.
If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, sweat, and tears.
3. Hire Stars
I can’t say this enough: The team you hire will make or break your business. When you’re starting or growing a business, it’s essential that you find people who are just as passionate about your business as you are. That’s the only way you can be confident that they’ll put in the effort to help your business grow. At FounderMade, we came up with a acronym to help us decide on who we hire: WHO — it stands for Winners who Hustle and take Ownership. We don’t compromise when it comes to hiring the best of the best.
Customer service is not a department. It’s a philosophy to be embraced by everyone in an organization. Everyone plays their part in contributing to the customer’s experience.
-Shep Hyken, Customer Service Expert, Author and Speaker
4. Focus On Customer Experience
You may have the greatest, most unique product or service in the world — but if you don’t deliver it with an exceptional customer experience, you’re going to lose your audience. In today’s world, people can find a substitute product or service almost anywhere, but they can’talways get a great customer experience. That’s what sets great businesses apart. That’s another reason why it’s so important to hire stars — because everyone who works for your company must also embrace that mindset.
It’s almost always harder to raise capital than you thought it would be, and it always takes longer. So plan for that.
- Richard Harroch, Venture Capitalist and Author
5. Set Clear Financial Goals
For startups or growing businesses, finances can be challenging. You have to have a plan for both how you’re going to earn revenue and how you’re going to use it to keep your business growing. The best thing you can do is set specific goals and work toward them relentlessly. You’ll want to take into account profitability, cash flow, expenses, and plans to expand. If investors are part of your plan, that’s great — but make sure to prepare for the hard work of raising capital. It’s possible, but it takes time.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking.
- Steve Jobs
6. Stay Positive and Persevere
Any business owner will tell you there are extreme highs and lows when starting or growing a company. There will be times when you feel like you’re on the brink of success — and times when you feel like quitting. You just have to keep reminding yourself about why you started in the first place, why you believe in your business, and why you love what you do. Positive perseverance will go a long way in keeping you motivated and keeping your business on track for growth.
Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.
- Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO
7. Turn your Passion into Profit
It’s possible to turn what you love into a business. At FounderMade, we’re passionate about discovering the newest, most innovative products and game-changing consumer entrepreneurs in food, wellness and beauty. But it started as a small passion project. At first, we simply hosted a dinner series to foster connections between entrepreneurs, investors, and buyers. We followed that passion, and now we’ve created one of the most impactful and educational summits to launch next-gen consumer products. Yes, it’s a business — but most importantly, it’s our passion.
Meghan Asha is the CEO of FounderMade, a platform and conference series that connects best-in-class consumer brands to retailers, distributors and investors. Under her leadership, FounderMade has partnered with innovative brands including Estee Lauder, RXBar, BulletProof Coffee, Vital Proteins, Target and Starbucks.
Inspired by her entrepreneur father, Meghan has always had a passion for building and empowering companies. Over her career, she’s experienced entrepreneurship from every angle: She’s worked as an analyst for a venture capital firm, interviewed leaders of technology companies for a weekly internet talk show, and built her own digital media platform.
With the firm belief that entrepreneurs need support and connection, she began bringing together business contacts from those earlier jobs as part of an intimate dinner series — which eventually evolved into FounderMade.
When she's not helping consumer brands thrive, you can often catch Meghan on national TV shows like CNN, The Today Show, Fox Business News and QVC. She has also been profiled and quoted as an expert and entrepreneur in business publications like the New York Times, Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine.
Meghan currently serves as an advisor and investor in several consumer product and technology startups and is a partner at FounderMade Fund. She received her BS from the University of Southern California and an MBA from Columbia Business School.
FounderMade + Meghan Asha has been granted numerous awards and accolades, including:
- Entrepreneur Magazine Contributor
- Alive Magazine’s Most Powerful Women in Wellness
- Featured Entrepreneur in Gary Vaynerchuk + PureWow’s Captain Crush It RoundTable
- Tory Burch’s #EmbraceAmbition Entrepreneur
- Inc. Magazine“TheDeath of the Tradeshow”
- WWD“BeautyCompanies Mingle with Potential Investors at Foundermade Event”
- ELLE“HowThis Fitness Studio Led by Ex-Cons Ended Up in Saks”
- AlleyWatch“TheFounder Stories You Need to Know From FounderMade”