Through my work with StartSomeGood.com, a platform for helping social good initiatives raise funds and grow a community of supporters, I help social entrepreneurs transform ideas for good into action and impact. I’ve learned a few things from working with these change-makers. Here are seven tips for how to make that great idea a reality.
[See The 50 Best Careers of 2011.]
1. Tell people about your idea. Too often people sit on great ideas, consumed by fear. Fear of failure—what if my idea tanks? Fear of success—what if this takes off and changes my life forever? Fear of copycats—what if someone else steals my idea? The first step in taking action on your idea is simply sharing it with others. When I began sharing my concept of StartSomeGood, not only did I start building the confidence that it was worth doing, I also received the type of feedback that was crucial to refining the concept and model.
2. Find a co-founder. Entrepreneurship is tough. I knew that going in, but still didn’t expect the roller coaster ride I’ve experienced. For this reason, it’s crucial to have a teammate as dedicated to your vision as you are. The journey of an entrepreneur can be lonely. Do all you can to have a partner ready to board the roller coaster with you.
3. Start small. Facebook wasn’t built in a night, and the journey of Google started with a single line of code. Trying to build something of that size leads to inaction by paralysis. Launch. Test your idea. Iterate. But before you dream of a million users, just try to make your first 100 as happy as possible.
4. Take advantage of free tools. Of course you know of Skype, Gmail, and Google Docs as killer—and cost-effective—communication tools. But if you spend a bit of time—especially as a small start-up—you can find all kinds of amazing free tools to help you. From Pivotal Tracker for project management to Dropbox for syncing documents, the capital costs can be extremely low to get started. Oh, and my favorite free tip: Try working from hotel lobbies. The fancier ones have free wifi, fruit-infused water, and some great people watching.
5. Never say no to a connection. I’ve found that entrepreneurs are great connectors, so whenever someone says, “Hey you should meet so-and-so,” take them up on the offer. Get invited to speak at a conference even if it’s a drive away and not your target audience? Jump at the opportunity—you never know who you’ll meet, or how this wonderfully interconnected world will play out to your benefit.
6. Build a support network. You’ve already got a co-founder, but surround yourself with others—both entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs—that will help bolster your journey. Lots of great professional groups exist for entrepreneurs which are important, but equally crucial is connecting with those non-entrepreneurial types that can help re-ground you in reality.
7. Take care of yourself. You’re pumped-up and stressed-out. You’re working 18-hour days and wish that daylight savings time occurred daily so you could bend the laws of physics and have constant 25-hour days. But in this flurry of activity make time for three things: sleep, eating well, and exercise. These seem like the three easiest things to give up, but they’re the three things that ignoring will make your work-life that much more stressful. Disconnect, unplug, eat whole grains, and you’ll be better prepared for the challenges that will come your way.
An idea left stranded somewhere in your brain can benefit only you. By getting that idea out there and starting the process of action, you’ll be amazed at how, in the words of Brazilian author Paulo Coelho “the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” So get out there and do it. Just remember to stop to breathe occasionally along the way.
Alex Budak, a social entrepreneur and travel writer, is the co-founder of StartSomeGood.com. He received a master of public policy from Georgetown University, and a B.A. from UCLA. He is a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentoring, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.