For the last 10 years, I’ve experienced the pleasure and pain of building, operating and growing a small business. The knowledge I’ve gained through big failures and even bigger successes have made me passionate about helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams. I’ve compiled a list of lessons I’ve learned on my journey:
There’s never a great time to start a business. I opened my business in 2012, when my first child was two. It was not easy. Make peace with the fact that there will always be some excuse to not take the leap into entrepreneurship and just go for it.
Write a business plan. What do you need to build a business? First things first: You need an idea. Identify a void and address it — whether that’s a technology, an innovation or a product. Then, take that idea and create a plan. Like any great journey, you’ll need a map. A comprehensive business plan serves as a set of directions, both for you and prospective investors, partners or employees.
Some people get sucked in by the details when contemplating their business plans. Yes, details are important and the more you think about them the better prepared you will be, but the perfect business plan is an anomaly and making it 60 pages long certainly won’t get you there. Done is better than perfect.
Secure more funding than you think you’ll need. A significant part of building your plan will be outlining assumptions around revenue and expenses to help you identify how much funding you need to get started and, ultimately, grow. I highly recommend securing more capital than you think you will need. When I did my business plan, I was wrong by one digit, one little zero at the end — which multiplies out to a lot.
Depending on the industry, raising capital can take on various forms. In many cases, entrepreneurs start by using their savings. Others might choose to start with family and friends; however, that can come with its own challenges. I strongly suggest exploring the resources made available through the Small Business Administration. It offers access to grants and loans. In addition, you should check with regional banks and credit unions as they lend to small businesses. Regardless of the avenue you choose, be sure to read the fine print of any agreement and understand the commitment you’re making.
Believe in your business and yourself. People will often doubt you and your idea. In fact, the voices of your critics can be all-consuming. I’m reminded of Netflix co-founder and first CEO Marc Randolph’s book That’ll Never Work. While Netflix has become one of the world’s foremost entertainment services, in the beginning it was just another idea. People doubted the idea, declaring, “That’ll never work.” Today, millions of people around the world “Netflix and chill” to the tune of a $4 billion valuation. The road isn’t easy. It’s about silencing the noise, believing in yourself and not giving up! I often remind myself that there are 99 reasons why it won’t work, but all you need is one reason why it will.
I started my cannabis business in 2010, before it was trendy. At that time, we couldn’t find people with legal cannabis market experience. No professionals wanted to work with us. Banks closed our accounts at random and there was a visceral fear of getting arrested by the federal law enforcement. Others saw the risk, the headache and the hardship. I saw opportunity and a chance at changing history. I jumped on it. I believed in it when many didn’t, and I still remind myself to silence the noise and focus on that opportunity.
Work hard and embrace that sacrifices are part of it. Starting your own business is tough. You will work 12-hour days, seven days a week, and the other 12 hours of each day you’ll spend thinking about it, worrying about it and writing notes about it. It is a sacrifice you will have to make until you reach a level of stability. Then, you’ll start seeing the benefit of entrepreneurship and the flexibility it provides you personally and professionally.
Surround yourself with your personal cabinet. It can get lonely starting and running a business. You live like no one else you know — working 24/7, missing social events, parenting moments and family gatherings. If you’re lucky, you’ll grow your team and have employees. They’ll be just that – employees, not friends. It can feel like you’re on an island.
That’s why I strongly suggest surrounding yourself with your personal cabinet. Just as organizations have boards of directors and the president has his cabinet, you’ll benefit from a group of trusted advisors to help you tackle the personal and professional hurdles of being an entrepreneur. Whether it’s through an organization like Vistage or an informal group of mentors you source through your network, this group will be crucial to your success.
I’ve realized over the years that few will call you out on your mistakes when you’re the owner. But surrounding yourself with other successful entrepreneurs will get you the tips, advice and space to be called out when you are wrong. I love that! I don’t have that relationship with many people, but I have a few who hold me accountable, and I believe that everyone needs that.
Focus on the future. I often think first-time entrepreneurs are like first-time parents, focused on pregnancy and not realizing they should plan for the day they bring the baby home from the hospital. That’s when the journey really starts. Many people focus on the journey up until the day they open or the day they are profitable, but that’s not enough. Know what success looks like for you and your business, and continue to adjust your goals, definition of success and long-term vision as you grow.
Have fun! It’s a cliché, but do what you love and you won’t have to work a day in your life. It is so true. Starting a business is tough. It’s a roller coaster of questioning yourself one day and going to sleep with the biggest smile knowing you wouldn’t trade it for anything the next. Surround yourself with a super-star team and you will have the best time of your life.
Lilach Mazor Power is the founder and CEO of Mazor Collective — one of only a few women majority-owned Arizona cannabis companies. The collective includes vertically integrated Arizona-based Giving Tree Dispensary as well as product lines Kindred, Sneakers and the cannabis for menopause brand, Revelry. Power has served 10 years in the industry with a focus on R&D and retail. Since establishing Giving Tree in 2013, Power has placed a strong emphasis on corporate citizenship, raising more than $100,000 for charities. In 2021 and 2022, Giving Tree Dispensary was named to the Inc. 5000 List of America’s fastest-growing private companies.