Living the life of an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone. To give a brief overview there are a lot of late nights, juggling of responsibilities and pots of coffee involved. You find yourself paying your first loyal employees with pizza and beer and paying yourself less. As an entrepreneur myself, I find myself waking up at 7 a.m. and going to bed at 1 a.m. nearly every night while still trying to maintain a social life. Early mornings and late nights become the norm and to be frank, you never really quite get used to it.
At this point you’re probably thinking, “why would I ever sacrifice my Happy Hour Thursdays and movie night Mondays for the start-up life?” Well, it really comes down to the passion, the drive, and the enthusiasm that you have for not only your idea, but your life.
Let’s first talk about passion. Whenever I talk to my friends about my venture, I often receive the reactions of, “Why would you put so much time and energy into something that may not even end up working out?” and, “That’s great, but that’s not for me. I would never want to risk the security I have with my 9-5 job.” It turned out that those friends had cubicle jobs or internships that involved repeating the same tasks every single day, not allowing any input or ideas. Without a doubt, something that unites all entrepreneurs is the passion for what they do. Whether their start-up involves green technology or fashion, the founders all love their topic of interest and chances are they know the space inside and out. A truly passionate entrepreneur would never think twice about choosing job security over pursuing what they absolutely love.
Second, is drive. When you talk to entrepreneurs the word “hunger” is often thrown around as it is a reflection of what co-founders feel when taking on a venture. The hunger to work is what you feel when you wake up every morning excited for the busy day ahead. It’s driving force that keeps you awake when yours eyelids become heavy on a late night at the office. The pure drive you have to grow your company is what makes entrepreneurs blind to all the elements that corporate interns have nightmares about. Working out of your basement or garage and riding a bike to work every day are things that a lot of people wouldn’t be comfortable doing. However, entrepreneurs with a drive don’t seem to mind as shown by Steve jobs, Bill Gates and Larry Page. It’s all about getting the task done and achieving those initial milestones.
Lastly, enthusiasm is key. Through my own experiences of meeting with a lot of entrepreneurs, it’s pretty easy to know which ones are doing it for the money and which ones are doing it to make a difference and to pursue their dream. I usually stay in touch with the entrepreneurs I meet and as I track their progress, it’s becoming a trend to see the ones in it for the money to lose focus and momentum. Motives can often make or break a start-up. I was at a networking event once and I met an entrepreneur who literally seemed to be in love with his business. All he talked about was how great he thought the impact could be and how it would change lives for the better. All night, he jotted down notes whenever someone made a suggestion or comment on his business. A year later, his business is thriving and has clients all over the world. I had never seen such enthusiasm from an entrepreneur; I have also never seen such growth over the course of just one year.
These three elements go hand in hand in the start-up world. A safe desk job might be nice if you haven’t yet found what you really want to do. However, once you do, working out of your garage won’t be a big deal and when your friend comments on your bloodshot eyes it’ll be a friendly reminder that you are indeed passionate, driven, and enthusiastic about your start-up.
Caroline is the co-founder of VirtualU, a start-up focused on integrating 3D human analysis technology into the retail industry. She’s also working on entrepreneurship initiatives in her home state of Virginia. She can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @Caroline_Pugh