This is the story of how I understood investing yourself at a young age when I had nothing else. My perception of success was to create something for myself, from scratch. It was more of a challenge that was lead by the competitive spirit I always had.
My “baby’ – as I like to call my first real business idea that achieved something grew inside for a very long time. Somehow the simplicity of doing a daily process ever more efficient seemed to attract my attention. Basically, the model was to collect e-waste from any source available, do selection and do export at the end. The catch was that there were no companies that specialised in the process – the opportunity! Towards the finish of my college, which by the way was business school because I knew it would help me achieve my long-term goals, I was ready to take a leap of faith.
As a 20 year old I had no money and did not want to ask anyone for help (I now despise myself for this). My future company was created to be as efficient as possible so I would not need as much money. But when you have a clear goal for the future there is nothing to stop you and any problem is just an obstacle. So was my problem. There had to be a way to do it
The Solution – Investing Yourself
I remember banging my head for days until I wrote a list with only one item. The name of the list: “My possessions that could be invested” – the only item on the list – MYSELF. Finally we are moving towards something. The moment I saw myself as an asset I employed by business knowledge. The asset had only one restriction, and no it wasn’t imagination, it was TIME. So technically investing time (a limited asset) was the only thing that could lead to achievement. Once I was the asset, what could I possibly do to get at least basic funding?
Back to basics – COMPETITION! The national business plan competition held yearly featured over 100 of the best business ideas in the country. I invested myself in the competition because the first prize money were just enough. In the month leading to the application, there were hours spent in rewriting the actual application, which btw was around 1000 words in total (explaining the idea, innovation, market opportunities, business model and such). And as you can imagine – SUCCESS! My idea was picked in the top 30 and continued on in the competition.
The following 3 months lead to the creation of a business plan. But using my asset, I spent endless hours learning to write business plans from any resources available. Then there was the research – I did interviews, contacted potential suppliers and customers, got feedback and improved. The final outcome was a moment of pride. But it was still not over. I got news the business plan was chosen in the top 10. Imagine the happiness. Yet now the most important part came – the presentation. Investing my asset further, I created, presented and eventually won the competition hands on.
Reflecting today on the whole process has helped me understand quite a few things crucial for young entrepreneurs. What is the common sense behind investing yourself? First of all even when there seems to be no solution to a certain hurdle, it does not mean that there ACTUALLY is none. You just have to think out of the box and be ready for drastic measures. Second is that there is no bad experience. Starting a business at an age before 20 does give knowledge and experience that you will not recognize in the near future. Just sit tight and revise your state of mind once a year. You will see how you perspective changes and makes you far more responsive to the world around you. Third – confidence. Imagine doing all that you have with all the restraints that you had! Now that is some undertaking in itself. Why not do it again, even better, on a bigger scale, change everyone’s life?
Til next time!