By Alice Deng
I’ve learned many lessons throughout my journey of establishing RSVP Speech (www.rsvpspeech.com), a non-profit dedicated to organizing free public speaking classes to students worldwide. These are my most treasured tips that I’d like to pass along to fellow entrepreneurs:
Identify problems. Good ideas come from seeing a problem and envisioning a solution. For me, it was a problem in my own life that I wanted to solve in order to make an impact on the world. Look around you and identify problems that you see yourself and others struggling with. What unique perspective do you have that might help you generate an innovative solution? Your organization could also be dedicated to raising funds for an important cause: http://www.universalgiving.org/
Look for mentors. They are everywhere! You can learn so much in life simply by asking others for advice when you need help. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely and demoralizing experience, if you don’t have mentors and role models to guide you through it. Don’t forget that mentorship is a rewarding experience for the mentor, too, and most people will be happy to help you if you ask.
Test your ideas. Ideation and market research are critical to the design of a product. Get feedback from everyone who will give it to you—this will help you understand your end user and make your product/ service better.
Do the math. It’s easy to get caught up in your idea and think it will work out no matter what, but you won’t really know until you write up a business plan and do some number crunching. There are some numbers you won’t know in the beginning, but once you pilot your product you can continuously revise your plan and understand your true cost vs. revenue breakdown. For non-profits, especially when starting out, keeping track of the grants received and how they are allocated is crucial since the funds coming in may not be stable.
Don’t give up. You will want to throw in the towel on a regular basis. You will hit roadblocks that seem insurmountable, you will have sleepless nights, and you will wonder if it’s even worth it. The answer, in my book, is a resounding “YES.” Even if RSVP Speech failed, I would never regret a minute of the time I put into it. Starting a company and sticking with it through the challenges has made me a stronger person than I knew I could be.
Take a deep breath and enjoy! Managing RSVP Speech was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had! No matter what scale, the effort you have made will have positively impacted at least one individual. Good luck!