Inspiring Startup Lessons From An Entrepreneur’s Co-Working Community

Pay close attention to these four common, observable mistakes small business owners should avoid.

Today’s cash-strapped entrepreneurs can share quality office space, meeting rooms, or conference space for bargain monthly rates. Co-working spaces frequently advertise these benefits on their websites, but there are intangible benefits as well. Some business owners do not work well at home, and the coffee shop can be distracting and tiresome after a while. Co-working space provides a professional alternative.


Co-working inspired startup lessons for entrepreneurs

Co-working offers the contagious energy of startups. Good ideas and direction often come from unexpected situations and people. People share ideas and suggestions in a loose, but productive environment that feels like a business school study group. Often, they do business with each other out of a level of familiarity that a Chamber of Commerce could never offer.

It is no wonder that most cities offer incentives to encourage the growth of co-working spaces and business incubators. While co-working spaces are not necessarily incubators, many resemble them in some ways.

For example, CoCreativ in St. Petersburg, Florida is a thriving co-working community, founded by Joseph Warren, Jason Stoll, Heather Kendall, and Bryan Hunt. Each of the founders are accomplished businesspeople and entrepreneurs in their own right, and frequently find themselves offering help and advice to the professionals who frequent their space. Such perspectives offer essential lessons in small business success and failure.

During a recent “freewheeling” conversation, we all talked about common, observable mistakes small business owners should avoid. All of these considerations arise from an entrepreneurial mindset, so if you recognize your own is in need of improvement, change it, and you can turn your startup around.

If you are a student of startup success and failure, take note of these observations.

  • Learn from others. Heather Kendall suggests, “Don’t be so close to your idea that you cannot see beyond your own vision.” In other words, don’t be too proud to learn from someone else. We can all be in love with our idea, but making others love it enough to translate it into sales and a workable business is another matter.
  • Chase money later. Co-founder Joseph Warren explains, “Solve a problem first, and then chase money”. Too many people think of raising money for an idea without fully thinking of adding value. Banks receive calls on a daily basis from people who ask, “I am thinking of starting a business. How much money can you lend me?” Such conversations go nowhere. Your business will only attract money and customers when it demonstrates that it can solve a problem.
  • Become selfless. Warren also admits, “Starting a business is selfless, not selfish.” This sounds counter-intuitive. However, no business is about its owners and them alone. Starting a business resembles raising a child in some ways. Doing it right entails serious sacrifice. As a business owner you put your personal capital and time into a venture before seeing a return … you pay employees and suppliers before you draw a salary.
  • Don’t go at it alone. Both Kendall and Warren say “Don’t go it alone; avoid ‘solo entrepreneurship’”. There are examples of people developing an idea and an identity all alone, without ever seeing of it is workable. They develop websites, business cards, stationery, etc. without collaborating with anyone else, only to discover that it does not catch on or sell. Worse, they have a plan to market something that nobody wants to buy. If this happens, seek ideas from others, change direction and don’t take it personally.

In short, be open to being wrong. The fact is that business will evolve and change. Choose mentors who will tell you what you need to hear, instead of what you want to hear. After all, if you and another leader agree on everything, one of you is not needed. You will prosper when you connect yourself and your business to other people and businesses.


James Chittenden is a small business consultant and founder at One Click Advisor, helping owners of startups and small businesses start, market, operate and finance a business.


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