9 Experts Share Advice on Starting Your Own Business

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When the media isn’t talking about how much millennials spend on avocado toast, it’s praising them for their entrepreneurial spirit — and for good reason.

In its 2016 Global Entrepreneur Report, BNP Paribas found that millennials launch their first businesses at age 27, eight years earlier than their baby boomer predecessors.

Plus, “millennipreneurs” launch almost double the number of businesses their parents did — 7.7 versus 3.5.

Although technology makes it easier than ever to start a business, figuring out how to become an entrepreneur comes with a steep learning curve. If you’re motivated to start your own company, check out these seven tips from successful founders and CEOs who paved the way.

How to become an entrepreneur and grow a successful business

1. Build a supportive network

As the saying goes, no one succeeds alone. The people you surround yourself with can teach and inspire you, especially as you learn how to become an entrepreneur. Shauna Armitage learned this lesson when she created her own marketing consulting business, Making Moxie.

“Before you dive headfirst into entrepreneurship, connect with someone who’s been there,” said Armitage. “Make a new friend on LinkedIn or at a networking event and treat her to a coffee. … You can never have a big enough network to support your ventures, so make new relationships a priority.”

Not only can new connections teach you the ins and outs of business, they can buoy you up during tough times. Lindsey Smolan, founder of her own public relations company, relies on her network for support. “Being an entrepreneur is incredibly rewarding but also can be very nerve-wracking,” Smolan said.

“Creating a network of like-minded colleagues can be invaluable when you’re stuck on a creative issue, need advice for a tricky client, or just want to chat about industry trends,” she added. “I’ve been incredibly lucky to find a network of communications pros with their own companies — we always bounce ideas off of each other and are there to support each other.”

Whether you meet people through an industry conference or a networking app like Shapr, you’ll set yourself up for success with a supportive network. You might even find someone to mentor you or collaborate on a joint venture.

2. Research your competition

It’s a jungle out there; only the fittest companies survive. That’s why Nick Riesel, founder of Free Office Finder, encourages anyone who wants to know how to become a successful entrepreneur to research their competition.

“It sounds simple but the best business advice I could give is that, before you start your company, you should research your competitors in-depth and find out exactly what you can do better,” said Riesel.

Not only will this give you an edge, but it will also help you deliver a promise to your customers. “Your competitive advantage, that thing your business does better than all the others, is the story you tell to your customers about why they should buy your product or use your service,” said Riesel. “It’s essentially the reason your business should exist.”

Riesel adds that your story doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, your reasoning might be as simple as the fact that a similar service doesn’t exist yet in your neighborhood. But it’s crucial for you to figure out what sets your business apart.

“Knowing whether there is actually a space in the market before you start can save you a lot of trouble and pain down the line,” he added. By analyzing your competition ahead of time, you’ll have a deeper understanding of your own product or service.

3. Let the data speak

Adrian Ridner, CEO and co-founder of Study.com, encourages entrepreneurs to let data lead the way.

“Data is one of the most important tools a new entrepreneur has at his or her disposal,” said Ridner. “Not only should you run frequent tests and collect data to monitor unique audience insights, but be sure to actually use that data to make fast, informed decisions.”

Collecting data could mean sending out surveys to your clients or interviewing a panel. If you have an online presence, use Google Analytics to track visitors to your website.

“Being nimble is key when you’re a startup and embracing data allows you to move quickly and drive better decisions,” said Ridner. “It’s a fundamental way to drive growth and success in a new business.”

Making smart business decisions doesn’t have to be a matter of guesswork. Use data to drive decisions and keep improving the products or services you offer.

4. Bootstrap as much as you can

Every business is different, but most require some influx of time and money upfront. Marcus Harjani, co-founder and COO at FameMoose, warns new entrepreneurs against borrowing too much money in the beginning.

“Bootstrap, if possible,” said Harjani. “I made the choice to self-fund and bootstrap all of my businesses. … For those endeavors that require substantial capital to start, I would be wary of taking on too much debt, as the uncertainty of a new venture is extremely high.”

Everyone’s situation is different, but excessive debt can weigh down a venture before it gets off the ground. If your business doesn’t work out, you’ll be left without the means to pay back your loans.

“Deciding to start a business is exciting and terrifying,” Harjani added. “I recommend to anyone thinking about starting something to do your homework, try to bootstrap the project, always seek good advice, and build a strong team able to execute your vision.”

Although you can get a business loan to help launch your venture, be careful about borrowing too much. You can also look for other sources of funding, such as grants for new entrepreneurs.

5. Expect to screw up sometimes

Amanda Austin, founder and president of Little Shop of Miniatures, says mistakes in business are inevitable.

“Expect to make mistakes and to constantly course correct,” she said. “Don’t be surprised if you find yourself deviating from a well thought out business plan — pretty much every entrepreneur does once they start building their business.”

Austin understands this mindset can be a tough adjustment. “This can be hard for a perfectionist like me who likes to follow well-laid plans, but you really have to go with the flow as an entrepreneur,” she said. “There are many issues you can’t plan for, so just take one day at a time.”

Austin also says you shouldn’t beat yourself up over mistakes. “I used to get so upset if things didn’t turn out the way I planned,” she said. “Now, I just look at everything as a good lesson. It’s not wasted time or money if you learned something.”

By adopting a growth mindset, you can learn from your mistakes instead of letting them derail you.

6. Make self-care a priority

Creating your own business can be both exciting and exhausting. It’s easy to overextend yourself as you do everything you can to make your venture a success. But taking time off is crucial, says Alison Tedford, a freelance writer and content strategist.

“When you start a new business, have a plan for how you are going to spend your time and take care of yourself,” Tedford said.

“It’s easy to get caught up in your business, and there’s always ‘just one more thing’ to do. Make sure you have a plan to eat enough good food, sleep enough, and move your body enough. Ensure you have downtime so you don’t burn out.”

Dena Alalfey, a psychotherapist with her own private practice, echoes this advice. “Schedule ‘me’ time,” she said.

“Running a business is not nine to five. Your brain is constantly working on how to make your business more successful. If you do not schedule downtime, self-care, [or] family time, you will burn out,” she added. “Turn off your work phone, stop checking emails, and enjoy some time away from your business.”

Even though it’s easy to get swept up in work, it’s just as important to make time for self-care.

7. The best time to start is now

Xavier Parkhouse-Parker, co-founder and CEO of PLATO Intelligence and Recommendable, started his first e-commerce company at the age of 15. When asked for advice on how to become a successful entrepreneur, Parkhouse-Parker didn’t beat around the bush.

“Just do it,” he said. “Just start the company. Even if you’re unsure about the idea or unsure about the market or the problem, just start. There is nothing worse in the world than ‘What if?’”

Parkhouse-Parker also tells entrepreneurs not to put all their hopes into one idea. “Entrepreneurship isn’t a one-play game,” he said. “You can play over and over again until something clicks.”

Instead of hoping to make it big with your first idea, expect to pivot and change directions along the way. “It is very rare that people make a success from their first startup,” said Parkhouse-Parker. “It is even more unusual that they make it big. Keep playing until you win.”

Learning how to become a successful entrepreneur doesn’t happen overnight

If there’s one key takeaway from all this advice, it’s that you can’t become an entrepreneur in one day. In fact, you’ll need to keep learning — and keep making mistakes — throughout your career.

Be open to risk and experimentation, and grow your professional network. By seeking colleagues and mentors, you’ll have the support you need when you’re ready to take the plunge.

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Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2019!
LenderAPR RangeLoan Amount 
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Fixed rates from 5.990% APR to 16.990% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.74% APR to 14.70% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of March 18, 2019 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.72% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 2.49% plus 4.28% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.
  2. To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.
    See Consumer Licenses.
  3. Minimum Credit Score: Not all applicants who meet SoFi’s minimum credit score requirements are approved for a personal loan. In addition to meeting SoFi’s minimum eligibility criteria, applicants must also meet other credit and underwriting requirements to qualify.
  4. SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Maximum interest rate on loans for residents of AK and WY is 9.99% APR, for residents of IL with loans over $40,000 is 8.99% APR, for residents of TX is 9.99% APR on terms greater than 5 years, for residents of CO, CT, HI, VA, SC is 11.99% APR, and for residents of ME is 12.24% APR. Personal loans not available to residents of MI who already have a student loan with SoFi. Personal Loans minimum loan amount is $5,000. Residents of AZ, MA, and NH have a minimum loan amount of $10,001. Residents of KY have a minimum loan amount of $15,001. Residents of PA have a minimum loan amount of $25,001. Variable rates not available to residents of AK, TX, VA, WY, or for residents of IL for loans greater than $40,000.
  5. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.

Payoff Disclosures

  1. All loans are subject to credit review and approval. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history. Currently loans are not offered in: MA, MS, NE, NV, OH, and WV.

3 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.

FreedomPlus Disclosures

  1. All loans available through FreedomPlus.com are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. All loan and rate terms are subject to eligibility restrictions, application review, credit score, loan amount, loan term, lender approval, and credit usage and history. Eligibility for a loan is not guaranteed. Loans are not available to residents of all states – please call a FreedomPlus representative for further details. The following limitations, in addition to others, shall apply: FreedomPlus does not arrange loans in: (i) Arizona under $10,500; (ii) Massachusetts under $6,500, (iii) Ohio under $5,500, and (iv) Georgia under $3,500. Repayment periods range from 24 to 60 months. The range of APRs on loans made available through FreedomPlus is 5.99% to a maximum of 29.99%. APR. The APR calculation includes all applicable fees, including the loan origination fee. For Example, a four year $20,000 loan with an interest rate of 15.49% and corresponding APR of 18.34% would have an estimated monthly payment of $561.60 and a total cost payable of $7,948.13. To qualify for a 5.99% APR loan, a borrower will need excellent credit on a loan for an amount less than $12,000.00, and with a term equal to 24 months. Adding a co-borrower with sufficient income; using at least eighty-five percent (85%) of the loan proceeds to directly pay off qualifying existing debt; or showing proof of sufficient retirement savings, could help you also qualify for the lowest rate available.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.79% – 20.89% (6.79% – 20.89% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

5 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.

LendingPoint Disclosures

  • Loan approval is not guaranteed. Actual loan offers and loan amounts, terms and annual percentage rates (“APR”) may vary based upon LendingPoint’s proprietary scoring and underwriting system’s review of your credit, financial condition, other factors, and supporting documents or information you provide. Origination or other fees from 0% to 6% may apply depending upon your state of residence. Upon LendingPoint’s final underwriting approval to fund a loan, said funds are often sent via ACH the next non-holiday business day. LendingPoint makes loan offers from $2,000 to $25,000, at rates ranging from a low of 9.99% APR to a high of 35.99% APR, with terms from 24 to 48 months. The loan offer(s) shown reflect a 28 day payment cycle which is being offered as a courtesy as many of our customers are paid on a biweekly schedule and thus this may better align the loan payment dates with your actual income receipt schedule.

6 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.

LendingClub Disclosures

All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.95% to 35.89%*. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% of the original principal balance and is deducted from your loan proceeds. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at the time of application. The average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. In Georgia, the minimum loan amount is $3,025. In Massachusetts, the minimum loan amount is $6,025 if your APR is greater than 12%. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months. Borrower must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or be in the United States on a valid long term visa and at least 18 years old. Valid bank account and Social Security number are required. Equal Housing Lender. All loans are subject to credit approval. LendingClub’s physical address is: LendingClub, 71 Stevenson Street, Suite 1000, San Francisco, CA 94105.

†Per reviews collected and authenticated by Bazaarvoice in compliance with the Bazaarvoice Authentication Requirements, supported by anti-fraud technology and human analysis. All reviews can be reviewed at reviews.lendingclub.com

**Based on approximately 60% of borrowers who received offers through LendingClub’s marketing partners between January 1, 2018 to July 20,2018. The time it will take to fund your loan may vary.

7 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Earnest does not lend in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, or Rhode Island.

8 Important Disclosures for Avant.

Avant Disclosures

* The actual rate and loan amount that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination and other factors. Funds are generally deposited via ACH for delivery next business day if approved by 4:30pm CT Monday-Friday. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.

** Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33

* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

* Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification and review process. You may be asked to provide additional documents to enable us to verify your income and your identity. This rate includes an Autopay APR reduction of 0.5%. By enrolling in Autopay your payments will be automatically deducted from you bank account. Selecting Autopay is optional. Annual Percentage Rate is inclusive of a loan origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. All loans made by WebBank, member FDIC. Please refer to Upgrade’s Terms of Use and Borrower Agreement for all terms, conditions and requirements.

** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.

5.74% – 16.99%1$5,000 - $100,000

Visit SoFi

7.54% – 35.99%$1,000 - $50,000

Visit Upstart

7.99% – 35.89%*$1,000 - $50,000

Visit Upgrade

5.99% – 24.99%2$5,000 - $35,000

Visit Payoff

5.99% – 29.99%3$7,500 - $40,000

Visit FreedomPlus

6.79% – 20.89%4$5,000 - $50,000

Visit Citizens

9.99% – 35.99%5$2,000 - $25,000

Visit LendingPoint

6.95% – 35.89%6$1,000 - $40,000

Visit LendingClub

6.99% – 18.24%7$5,000 - $75,000

Visit Earnest

9.95% – 35.99%8$2,000 - $35,000

Visit Avant

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.