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All for nothing.
Many good entrepreneurs fail in their businesses, simply because they start in the wrong place. Wrong customers, wrong market, wrong motivation. Doomed from Day One.
Sad part? Most could have spotted and steered away from the approaching train wreck.
To start you on a wiser course to a successful business, you’re about to learn three ways how successful entrepreneurs do it.
And look — you must start with your target customers. Always.
Why? Because ultimately, only they decide whether or not your venture will succeed.
1. Find the right customer.
Are you tempted to go into product development mode the moment you have an idea? Because, why deal with potential customers when you can just go and build something, right?
Wrong move. Wise entrepreneurs make finding prospective customers their first step.
Take Kiana Anvaripour, founder of an online clothing shop called Fovo, and previously founder of a luxury clothing company called dMondaine.
She worked with countless customers in fitting rooms, and discovered a group she wanted to serve.Anvaripour says: “A lot of people, specifically women, need to go in-store to touch and feel the items. I wanted to go after that customer and make them comfortable with the ecommerce shopping experience.”
See? A specific group with a clear problem she cared about solving. Hence, a good place to start.
Even better: when you derive something compelling from your chosen customers, you’ll have a much easier time talking to investors.
When Nick Swinmurn, founder of Zappos (sold to Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion), met Anvaripour to discuss Fovo, her grasp on the market impressed him — enough to invest in her startup and become an adviser.
“I met Kiana about two years ago and we both shared the same passion for improving the shopping experience. Her apparel background and concept of prioritizing and personalizing by shape impressed me,” he said in an interview.
So make finding potential customers your first step — before you even have something to sell. And better yet: go straight for matters most to them.
2. Tune into an existing conversation.
When you listen to what people already talk about, you let their enthusiasm (and frustrations) carry your business in the early days. Anvaripour spotted this with her clients. Through her conversations with customers, she noticed a lively, existing conversation — a change in how women viewed themselves.
“Shape versus curves…this discussion was being had. There’s this shame that comes with size and I realized in those fitting rooms that to make women feel comfortable, to change the conversation from size to shape was so impactful,” she said.
And so, through her immersion in the market, she saw an opportunity: let customers ignore size numbers and just focus on shape instead. She tuned in and spotted something people cared about.
Same for you. And think bigger, too — because a humble willingness to listen will make the right people notice you.
When entrepreneur Ryan Westwood ran his previous business, he got a call from an inquisitive customer. Even though business was slow and this customer likely wouldn’t net him much, he didn’t hang up.
A few months later, he received a call from a big company — referred via that difficult customer — asking to buy his startup. A huge victory.
The point? Westwood cared enough to listen… and the right person took notice.
You must do the same. Because closer than you think lies the connection you need most.
And guess what? When you share a common purpose with someone, expect a stronger connection.
3. Embrace a deep cause.
Watch out for an entrepreneur on fire about the underlying cause of their business. Because nothing and nobody will stop them — it’s their reason for getting up every morning to go work crazy hours.
For instance, Anvaripour sees her current startup as a calling, not just a job.
She told me: “I spent my life dedicated to this. Even when I was very young and helping my friends, I realized it was important to accentuate the positive.”
And once she got an entrepreneur of Swinmurn’s caliber on her side, she became hard to ignore.
Or take OpenAI — a nonprofit artificial intelligence company, supported by top entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and Sam Altman. It aims to develop advanced AI and make it freely available to the world.
With a cause that resonates like crazy in its market, OpenAI scooped up some of the top AI talent in the world — for less money than these people could get elsewhere. The cause mattered more.
So take this to heart. Pick the right customers, tune into their existing conversations, and embrace a deeper calling you resonate with.
A guarantee for a successful venture? Hardly. But do this well and instead of doomed, you will be blessed from Day one.