Ever since I was a little kid I dreamed about being an entrepreneur and the happiness and freedom that came along with it. Last year I turned 18 and I was really frustrated with the fact that I had a lot of know-how, but no place to apply it.
I decided to stop right there. That was the moment I decided to start my own business. I founded The Vitamins Market, an online shop where people could easily find and buy natural supplements from many distributors. One year later my e-commerce startup took a turn for the worst – a major disaster!
Here is what I learned and what I will do differently in the future:
1. Carefully vet distributors.
I wouldn’t get into business with the same product distributors as the last time, simply because the products they made were not as high quality as I thought. Instead, I would chase the bigger brands that people trust and buy from.
2. Learn how to market better.
I wouldn’t fool myself into thinking that people need the products I sell. This is the main reason I hesitated a lot before closing the company. I thought that my customers were eager to buy my supplements, but I just didn’t know how to market it and get their attention.
3. Study the market diligently.
Always study the market! Always! Do not throw yourself into building a company without listening to what the market has to say. Don’t find out what people want, find out what people need. And keep in mind, often customers don’t even know what they want for themselves so you have to study their behavior.
4. Friends don’t always make the best co-founders.
I would definitely choose my co-founder more wisely. At that time I was reading about things to look for in a co-founder everywhere, but I just didn’t think having a bad co-founder could happen to me. Yep, that’s right. I chose friendship over qualification. It’s not that he wasn’t a great guy, but he was just not fully committed.
5. Fail quick and pivot fast.
I would shift sooner. I still believe that parts of my soul are still there, in that bankrupt company. I simply loved my idea so much and that made me do everything wrong. I was refusing to think that the business model was wrong. So, I didn’t change a thing.
6. Don’t recreate the wheel.
Although I don’t like to say it, I will. I would go for a larger, more developed market. According to HBR.org, “when assessing the attractiveness of a market, entrepreneurs need to ask what’s changing (mega trends), how market structure (concentration) impacts how a start-up needs to compete, and what the barriers to entry are (and will be) for new entrants (moats). If the market isn’t attractive, the startup is in for a very tough battle…”
The natural supplements industry is growing, especially in my “left-behind” country, Romania. It’s a good thing, it means people are now conscious enough to spend some money to live a healthier life. But it’s just not as developed as I thought and hoped (in comparison to other countries). Still, it has great potential and I believe that in the next 5-10 years it’s going to rock!
7. Get quality mentorship, ASAP.
As I mentioned, I was in love with my business idea and did not see the possibility of failure. But man, I would get advice now! I would specifically go to the experts in this domain and ask tons of questions. Yet, it was proof that ignorance (or love, in my case) hurts.
Even though I failed in a big way, I couldn’t be more grateful for these startup lessons because now I know how to approach my next business idea. And after all, what the heck! I am 18 years old!
This article has been edited and condensed.
George Moroianu is a student and co-founder of Cadeaux, a Romania-based high-quality rose delivery service. He is 18 years old and already has starded some courageous entrepreneurial projects.