SMART(y) entrepreneurs: take note

the second most frequently asked question i get (next to “how do i get fit?”) is: “how did you come up with your idea and start fitlosophy?”  i think people in general are intrigued at the idea of being an entrepreneur.  i know i have been since a very young age.  i wish i could sit here and glamorize it for you, but the truth is that a lot of blood, sweat, and (yes) tears goes into building a company. and even in spite of that, i can honestly say i would rather be doing what i do each and every day with fitlosophy than anything else in the world. that passion, vision, and (darn-near) obsession drives me every single day.  but rather than listen to little ol’ me, i wanted to share the inspiring notes that i took while listening to the editor in chief of entrepreneur magazine, amy cosper, speak at a SMARTY event this week.  in the words of one of my fellow SMARTIES on twitter later that night as we all tweeted away in excitement: “the room was on fire.”  there is an indescribable force of energy and optimism when you put a room full of women entrepreneurs together to listen to someone who, in our world, is like the bill gates of entrepreneurship.

amy delivered. profound, thought-provoking, and insightful: read on for my notes.

on entrepreneurs being born or made
“entrepreneurs are born. anyone can learn business but entrepreneurs have passion & clarity of vision.”  she confirmed my belief that most entrepreneurs just can’t help themselves, and as SMARTY leader cassie stated: “sometimes it’s a curse.”  as amy went on to say, the very word entrepreneur “elicits passion”, and that passion is what drives an entrepreneur to do the things that many people say they want to do, but few rarely follow through.

on common traits of entrepreneurs
“entrepreneurs are fun!,” miss cosper exclaimed to a room full of female entrepreneurs that definitely proved her right.  entrepreneurs are also one step ahead and think differently than many people: “entrepreneurs zig when everyone else zags.”  another factor that separates entrepreneurs from the rest of the pack: “the ability to let their mind go…have no boundaries.”  that freedom of thought, seen by some as irrational or (yes) crazy, is the very thing that drives them, spawns new ideas, and ultimately results in creative and sometimes “wacky” ideas.

on the wackiest ideas
with their “wacky ideas that just might fly” section in each entrepreneur issue, amy has seen her share of crazy, off-the-wall ideas.  her favorites: the pod belt and (get this) chicken diapers, which will be featured in an upcoming issue.  her sentiment on these wacky ideas though was this: that anything is possible and the options are limitless for entrepreneurs that have passion, and most importantly in her words: “clarity of vision.”  it’s one thing to have an idea, but you better have a very concrete idea of where you’re going with it.

on being an entrepreneur – today
while in years past it was about being faster, smarter, or cheaper, today’s entrepreneur must be: “better.”

on what it takes to make it
simply put: money.  that’s not to say that you can’t start up a company with a blackberry and an idea, but one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is not having a plan for the money they do have.  while funding may be hard to come by right now, she was adamant that there is still money out there for the taking.  her recommendations: try going to credit unions and show a strong trajectory of growth.  the latest start-up funding trend: crowdsourcing, on peer-to-peer sites like www.innovatrs.com.   amy jokingly (but in all seriousness) stated that “if a business isn’t making money, it’s a hobby.”  so true.

on franchising
a hugely important part of our economy, franchising is a “snapshot of culture” and an important element of doing business.  while a few years ago was the ‘year of the cupcake’ and last year was the ‘year of the sandwiches’, amy confirmed that this year the hot trend in franchising is any product or service that saves someone money.  make sense (see previous point on $$).  while in the past franchisors were fairly strict with franchisees, she said that they’re seeing franchises opening up freedom to owners which is contributing to growth.

on technology trends + social media
with technology growing at an accelerated rate, sometimes it can seem impossible to stay up with the trends, let alone get ahead!  amy’s observation is that this is not slowing down anytime soon, and if anything it’s growing more rapidly.  the one thing technology does for entrepreneurs is makes it easy to get into the marketplace and be competitive – quickly and for very little up-front capital.  social media in particular is a “game changer” that gives entrepreneurs the ability to directly interact with their consumers.  the most important question most people on social media sites like facebook and twitter want to know: “what are you doing for me?”.  amy’s opinion on the most important aspect of social media: authenticity of character.  however, after discussing technology and ways that entrepreneurs can use all of these to build and grow their business, she said that while keeping up with the trends are important, facetime with customers is irreplaceable. (dually noted: let’s do coffee amy!)

on her faves
recently featured in this month’s issue, hautelook is a business that amy mentioned a few times as a business model that has redefined the brick-and-mortar concept of retail shopping.  this membership-based business, founded by adam bernhard just 3 years ago, takes a unique approach to selling designer clothes in a down economy.  and it’s working.  “who says no one is shopping?” her favorite article of all-time?  “tony hawk carves a new niche”, an interview inside the brilliant business mind of the professional skateboarder.

so there you have it, from the editor of entrepreneur! now a few thoughts from yours truly:

on being bold
i went to an entrepreneur event in long beach maybe 2 years ago where there was an opportunity to “pitch the editors”.  so i trek up to long beach, press kit and fitbooks in tow.  i sneak out of the keynote speaking event to get in line to pitch the editors – yes, i was first.  i had 3m to tell them about me, my company, the fitbook, and why they should feature me in entrepreneur magazine.  after that 3m flew by, i walk out of the room and there is miss amy cosper standing right there. hesitating a moment, i convinced myself to walk up to her and pitch her too.  why not go straight to the top right?

on 2 shout-outs
ok fast-forward to tuesday night.  after she was introduced, she looks at me and says “by the way, i love my fitbook!” in front of a room full of people.  i was speechless.  yes, me.  so the interview continues and cassie finishes up by asking her the one question everyone wants to know from an editor: “how do i get in your magazine?”.   she goes on to explain that she appreciates “brilliance that solves problems” and that anyone on twitter that can get her attention in 140 characters is someone worth talking to.  then she turns to me again and says: “i remember meeting you, what was it, 2 years ago?  i remember your pitch – i’ll never forget it.”  wow. because i’m part italian, somewhat sassy, and have no filter whatsoever, my response: “well then, put me in your magazine!”.  her reply: “maybe i will,” with a sly little grin.  so does this mean i’m “in”?  not necessarily (but i hope so).  it means to me that something i did was memorable – and that sometimes, even when i’m really nervous to approach the press or prospective customers, it pays off to be bold and do it anyway.  i must say i was doing my little “happy dance” in my head the rest of the night (and possibly in my bedroom later that night) - and haven’t stopped since.

on being born an entrepreneur
being an entrepreneur is at the heart of who i am – it’s in my blood – and fitness is my passion, hence the launch of fitlosophy!  a third generation entrepreneur, it all started (this entrepreneur itch!) when i was actually just a baby. my mom was the office manager for my grandfather’s business and i was literally in the playpen as a newborn.  it was there where i launched my very first business, a lemonade stand of course, and i got my first taste of being a (little) business woman. i also started working in my father’s bakery when i was just 7 – because i begged him, not because he wanted me to!  he made me memorize all the prices and i had to show him that i could use the cash register all the while perched on a milk crate because i wasn’t tall enough to reach yet.  these early experience shaped who i am, but i have no doubt in my mind that i was born to be an entrepreneur.

on finding your passion
identifying what to apply entrepreneurial energy toward takes some soul searching – but you will find it.  one thing i heard from jack canfield on finding your true passion: look at what magazines you read and it will tell you something about how you love to spend your spare time.  since i was a wee one (ok, 12) i started reading entrepreneur magazine (hey, a girl needs to do her reading so she can properly run her lemonade stand!).  then around 15 i started reading every magazine that was available on fitness and nutrition. so that was a light bulb moment for  me when i realized this about 3 years ago.  i had the drive and innate desire to be an entrepreneur and finally found what i was passionate enough about to devote my heart and soul.  trust me: you better love what you do because you will eat, breathe, sleep, and LIVE your company 24/7.   lucky for me: i do.

on setting (big) goals
a personal goal i set for myself 10 years ago?  to be featured in entrepreneur magazine’s young millionaires issue that features successful entrepreneurs under 40.  so my inner-most secret goal is not so secret anymore and the clock is ticking: 10 years before the big 4-0.  dare i share that with the world?  (ok, just my loyal blog readers, but still)  it’s like any goal, whether it be personal, business, or health-related: tell others – it will hold you accountable and drive you like no other.  so there you have it.  the other night just reignited my passion and drive to reach that goal.  hearing the editor of one of my all-time favorite magazines say she remembered me and loved my product?  i guess it means i’m doing something right.  but i truly believe that if i just stay focused on what i’m doing and why i’m doing it, the rest will follow.  right now: fitlosophy is my passion and i truly am fulfilling my dream of changing the shape of the world – literally.

what’s your dream?  do you have that entrepreneur itch? share your thoughts with me, and who knows…amy might just see them too!

now get off your bum and go make something of this life!
angela



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