Why you shouldn’t give up on your small business
Did you know that micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) account for over 90% of all firms, 70% of total employment, and 50% of GDP?
If you’re a solopreneur or small business owner, let those statistics from the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) serve as encouragement during this uncertain time.
This last year has been extremely trying for most small business owners. While some have had to overcome intermittent closures, others have had to turn to side hustles to supplement their income. Some have failed, despite their best efforts.
In a November 2020 survey by Statista, 29% of small business owners in the United States stated that their most significant challenge was the impact of the global pandemic.
So if you’re feeling the mental burn, you’re not alone. But don’t despair — almost all small businesses face challenges, especially in times like these. To expect a burgeoning business to run as smoothly as a large reputable company is unrealistic. Instead, it’s all about staying the course and keeping focused.
So to offer up a bit of inspiration and celebrate MSME day on June 27, we’ve gathered four success stories of those business owners who didn’t drop their vision — instead, they kept at it and found eventual success.
“I always wanted to start a company, but I never wanted to force myself to start a company, and it had to be the right fit, the right thing.” – Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt
Product Hunt, the popular website where you can find all the latest and greatest products for just about anything, is the brainchild of Ryan Hoover, a University of Oregon graduate who grew up in an entrepreneurial household.
Hoover came up with the idea to start Product Hunt after browsing the app stores of other countries to see what products were being hyped as the next great thing. He decided to create a platform and community for tech-minded people to discover these new products.
Hoover knew he couldn’t build an entire website himself (he wasn’t an engineer, after all). Still, he could invest in creating an email list, one that invited a few dozen investors, founders, and others deeply connected to the tech world. And voila, Product Hunt was born in 2013. Part comment system and part voting system (similar to Reddit), products that receive the most votes each day rise to the top.
Hoover didn’t see his lack of engineering experience as a deterrent. Instead, it was a chance to be strategic. He understood the importance of having a great idea and executing it with the right people. His strategy paid off, and in November 2016, AngelList acquired Product Hunt for $20 million.
“When something I can’t control happens, I ask myself: Where is the hidden gift? Where is the positive in this?” – Sara Blakely, founder of SPANX
In 1998, when she was 27 years old, Sara Blakely had been working as a door-to-door salesperson for seven years selling fax machines. Her big idea? Cutting the feet off of her pantyhose and wearing them with open-toed shoes to withstand the Florida heat, where she lived.
Her idea worked and eventually became SPANX, the female undergarments brand that is beloved worldwide. Blakely credits much of her success to her father, who routinely encouraged his kids to fail. She recalls in an article from CNBC, the following:
“[My father] knew that many people become paralyzed by the fear of failure. My father wanted us to try everything and feel free to push the envelope. His attitude taught me to define failure as not trying something I want to do instead of not achieving the right outcome.”
Failures paid off for Blakely and in 2012, Forbes named her the youngest, self-made female billionaire.
“When I was about 30, I realized that my form of birth control wasn’t working for me, but was unsure of my alternative options. I thought it was insane that we were able to put a man on the moon, but we didn’t have a tool that would help us understand our body’s own patterns.” – Ida Tin, founder of Clue
While period-tracking apps weren’t anything new back in 2013, none were able to explain the science behind it, instantly and intuitively knowing where a woman was on her monthly journey.
This was Ida Tin’s original vision for Clue, a revolutionary period and ovulation tracker app. A former motorcycle guide from Denmark moved to Berlin, Germany, Tin openly admitted to struggling to get her idea off the ground. In fact, during her pitches to various venture capitalists from Silicon Valley to London, Tin often found herself as the only woman in the room.
She persevered, however, and secured approximately $20 million in funding, launching the free Clue app in 2013. Now used by 10 million people, per month, across 190 countries, Clue is rated by the U.S. journal Obstetrics and Gynecology for accuracy and has partnered with academic institutions like the Kinsey Institute, Stanford University, Columbia University, and the University of Oxford for scientific research.
“If you are determined and want it, you can go for it.” –Melanie Perkins, founder of Canva
With a desire to make design (business cards, logos, presentations) accessible for everyone, Melanie Perkins set out in 2013 to create Canva, the free-to-use online design platform that over 20 million users from 190 countries use.
Before Canva, amateurs were tasked with creating designs in Microsoft Word or needing to hire a professional designer. Thanks to Canva, anyone in the world can access the platform in a browser and create their designs within minutes.
While the Canva product is straightforward, Perkins’ business journey was anything but. Having been turned down by more than 100 investors, a chance encounter with Bill Tai, a well-known Silicon Valley investor, saw her potential and connected her with his contacts, which happened to be a kitesurfing and networking community in Australia, Perkins’ home country. So she and her boyfriend, Canva’s co-founder Cliff Obrecht, found themselves honing the art of kitesurfing and the art of networking.
The rest, as they say, is history. In 2018, Perkins made headlines as one of tech’s youngest female CEOs, aged 30, and in 2019, Canva was valued at $3.2 billion.
Undoubtedly, any of these profiled owners will tell you that motivation, plus strength of character, play a massive role in a successful business journey.
If it helps, kindly remind yourself how valuable you are as a solopreneur or small business owner. Guess what? You’ve done the work to become the expert at what you do, so don’t forget to give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. While some days may be more challenging than others, believing in yourself (and your business) will keep you going.
So in honor of MSME day on June 27, ask yourself what got you into the business you’re in in the first place. What do you love about it? What makes you continue to take risks? To persevere?