THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS OBVIOUSLY been bad for a lot of things. But it might end up being a good thing for entrepreneurship. For instance, it has forced many folks to rethink their careers. In 2020, per Bloomberg citing IRS numbers, 4.3 million people applied for employer I.D. numbers, up nearly 25 percent over 2019.
But like anything—and especially going into business for yourself—there are things to consider before taking the plunge. Success, after all, is far from a sure thing. History and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tell us that about 20 percent of those new pandemic-era businesses will fail within the first two years. The first five years? About 45 percent of those businesses won’t make the cut.
So, what does it take to make it? To get to the promised land? Here are some of the traits of successful entrepreneurs.
IF THERE’S ONE INHERENT TRAIT IN almost every entrepreneur I’ve met over the years, it’s curiosity. Entrepreneurs have the drive to solve problems. Not because they have the answer, but because they want to find out the answer.
In 2001, for instance, I decided to take a break from my role in tech at AOL. It was time to figure out what was next. But I also had some health issues that I wanted to solve and part of the solution was coming up with new, healthier drinks. So one day, while looking at all the indecipherable ingredients on my diet soda can, I decided to make the switch to water. Quitting 20 years of Diet Coke wasn’t easy, but the hardest part was I didn’t like the taste of plain water. I solved that by adding different fruit essences I had created that didn’t have any sweeteners in them to make the water that much more interesting. And it did.
But here’s where the “curious” part kicked in: Why wasn’t there a product making water taste better without sweeteners or preservatives to date? Why was everything sweetened? Even the things that seemed healthier like my “diet” soda?
I didn’t realize it immediately, but I soon was combining my search for a new career with my curiosity about a healthier drink. Some 18 months later, my product Hint hit the shelves of my local Whole Foods in San Francisco. Of course, the journey wasn’t all that simple or easy. All along, my quest to satisfy my curiosity about an industry I initially knew nothing about was helping me overcome countless roadblocks. And that curiosity would soon lead to developing not only a new product and company, but also an entirely new category in the crowded beverage industry.
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