By Priya Sheth (Founder, Be Scrappy)
It’s been exactly a year since I decided to quit my job as an aerospace engineer in Los Angeles and moved to San Francisco to become an interaction designer. The move and transition didn’t come easy, but I was given a jump-start into entrepreneurship via the Founder Labs program.
Being a designer on a Founder Labs team made me realize that I want to build my own company. This past year has been an amazing journey. I’ve realized how a firm vision, hard work and determination can push you to places you thought you could never go.
Motivation –- The Turnkey to Change!
I’ve always heard that small steps are the key to getting anywhere in life and I still believe that.
My personal journey to entrepreneurship started with the pursuit to become an interaction designer. I realized the parts of my engineering job that I enjoyed the most involved taking engineering analysis and presenting them in a way that was visual and easily understandable.
After design classes at a community college and freelance projects, I realized how much I loved design and decided I wanted to switch careers. I was going to be in San Francisco for a ballet intensive last summer (before that transition) and a good friend suggested that I apply to Founder Labs since I was going to be in the city.
Founder Labs opened up the startup world to me and demonstrated the process of ideas and real users coming together to create a product. I was hooked and after completing the 5-week program, I gained great insight into how startup works by doing freelance design work for companies in the bay.
I applied to Founder Institute earlier this year because I wanted ownership of an idea and its execution in an accelerated environment. The program really helped shape my idea and give it focus. Getting to entrepreneurship has not been quick, easy, or cheap but I feel like I’ve started to become the person I’ve always wanted to be.
How My Startup Began: A Stalker’s Life for Me
You may have an idea to start out, but it is through the validation process that your company really starts to take shape. My current startup Be Scrappy is a website that connects people who need tools for home improvement or building projects to lenders that have them (this can be drills, saws, sanders, and more).
I’ve found that many of the steps I needed to take involved putting myself in awkward situations, stalking people for their inputs and insights, and dealing (as well as coping) with quite a bit of rejection (which I’ve never been good at, but now take in with open arms!).
I received some of the best insight when I strolled into a Home Depot and started chatting it up with some of the customers. I was able to tailor our conversation based on the answers and could really zero-in on the reasons someone would or wouldn’t want to use a product like this. For example, I met a woman who expressed that a service like this would be really helpful because she lives in a mobile home and does not have the space to keep many of the tools she would like to use for minor renovations.
Part of the vetting process includes running your idea by other entrepreneurs and leaders in your space –- so go out and start meeting them! As a startup entrepreneur it is inevitable that you need to be able to stalk –- stalk your users, potential mentors and investors, as well as people you want to have join your team.
Rejection -– Your New Best Friend
A founder’s responsibility is to be resilient and unwavering when facing rejection. While it’s harder said than done, I can attest to that first-hand. As an engineer, I executed on development projects and received approval from colleagues and managers on my work. I learned quickly that this need for approval wasn’t going to fly around here -– mostly because the best people and ideas have entered their current state through rejection.
My current business idea has already gone through lots of rejection. I have had potential users tell me they what parts of my product wouldn’t be useful to them as well as successful entrepreneurs list out reasons why they think my company is destined to fail. Ouch? Not really! I embrace negative feedback because I have deconstructed it to help me shape my company into something stronger and better grounded. Take in what others have to say, because without that, you’ll have nothing.
Adding a Pinch of Design to the Process
Interacting with my users, investors and other collaborators has been a much better experience when I’ve been able to show them what I am talking about — so I have my company pitched nailed down to one sentence and some visuals to show user flow.
The left-brain in me has always been drawn to visuals for explanations as opposed to lots of words. Here are a couple steps I’ve gone through to create my story. This has helped me onboard developers, collaborators, and customers because I’ve been able to clearly explain what the product is, how it works, and the general feel all with a single walk through.
- I came up with my user flow. When someone comes to my site what are the actions they will actually walk through?
- I mocked up some layouts of that flow. Even a simple mockup on Powerpoint or a series of sketches has been very powerful in conveying my ideas.
- I then talk through the user story and flow as I flip through the mockups. This allows me to take a 15-20 minute explanation of my product and demonstrate it to someone in a more effective way in just a few minutes.
Ode of the Entrepreneur
Becoming an entrepreneur has definitely not been an easy task to undertake… It’s been a series of small but sure steps in what I think is the right direction to get here (and I’m only just at the beginning really!)
I really believe it’s the ability to push yourself when your resources are all apparently gone that makes an entrepreneur successful.
Because isn’t that what we are supposed to be best at doing as entrepreneurs… Having the vision of finding the something out of the apparent nothing?
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Priya Sheth is the Founder of Be Scrappy, an online marketplace that connects people who need tools for home improvement and building projects with lenders that have them. Priya is an aerospace engineer turned interaction designer and loves the process of infusing a creative vision with users to create well-designed products. Priya works and lives in San Francisco, CA. She has a sock puppet named Graham. Follow her on Twitter at @priyasheth and her startup at @bescrappy.