It’s late November. I check my email. I glance at my weekly sales report for my initial startup – business is boomin’. I get my school work done and have a short meeting about a different venture with which I’m currently involved. My partner and I have taken a high engagement Twitter account and monetized it and things are going well.
Next thing I know, I’m spending some down time surfing the internet. One click leads to another and bam! An idea springs. Why don’t I sell Christmas sweaters? Everyone wants Christmas sweaters. Not many sweaters directly appeal to millennials. I pull out my laptop, do research and lay out a business plan. This won’t be difficult. Four days later, Christmas Sweater World is launched (I move fast). The product is crisp, the website professional.
Fast forward to three weeks later. I close down the whole operation. Did I make a profit? Yes. Was it financially worthwhile? Heck no. What did I do wrong? Why did it fail?
I often see entrepreneurs, myself included, highlighting their successes and hiding their failures. In an effort to be transparent and help others, I’d like to discuss why I failed. Many successful entrepreneurs are constantly preaching to go out and take action, rather than sitting around and being a “wantrapreneur.” Serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has been famously quoted saying, “Ideas are shit.” Gary definitely has a point. How many people do you know that have an idea but never take action? That has never been me. I started my first company in 2011, sold it this year and my second venture was practically an overnight success. My blinding entrepreneurial confidence led to launching Christmas Sweater World in the blink of an eye. What I’ve been able to conclude through my successes, along with the Christmas sweater failure, is that there is a fine line between taking action and spending time to do research.
The reason I dove into this project was because I saw an opportunity and a clear path to success. I hadn’t taken the time to ask myself the right questions. What was my end goal? When I closed down, I realized I never had one. What other ideas did I have and what skills did I want to learn? Nothing new for me came with this business. How could I justify spending my time on this venture versus others? I was still making income elsewhere. Building my personal assets through learning new skills would have been time better spent. What was the best case scenario with this project? I never considered this. If I had taken the time to ask these important questions before doing the hard work, I may never have launched this business.
I didn’t have a well-developed expansion plan. I was launching a very specific and highly targeted pop up e-commerce shop. Having a detailed plan wouldn’t have taken too much time, and I would have had a better understanding of the work required to turn a concept into success.
I knew within two weeks that it was time to call it quits. I swallowed my pride, informed the marketing agency I hired and closed down shop. I knew it was time to call it quits when I fully understood the limited upside potential. After realizing it was not worth my time, it became clear to move on.
Almost all startups fail. Christmas Sweater World was not the exception. I learned a valuable lesson in the process. Next time I make a decision to initiate a new venture, I’ll make sure to ask the right questions before I commit.