Three entrepreneurs took the stage at 1 Million Cups this week to offer advice on navigating the tough world of entrepreneurship.
Alex Altomare, co-founder of BetaBlox, Linda Buchner, co-founder and president of Minddrive, and Ben Kittrell, co-founder and CTO of Doodlekit, all spoke about the variety of hard choices entrepreneurs face.
On handling tough decisions…
Altomare: The best advice I ever received on this subject was when someone said to me, “Alex, it’s all about options. Every business person should pursue options.” I boil it down to which path opens options instead of closes options. That’s made a big difference.
Kittrell: We faced a lot of tough decisions because we were programmers and not entrepreneurs or marketers. A lot of the decisions we made were from advice we found in books and stuff. A lot of decisions that we had to make without a lot of help and education that definitely could have gone one way or another.
On good and bad decisions in their own businesses…
Buchner: We started off being open source with the information about how to do our program in other cities. The time we spent on those calls didn’t lead to people actually starting Minddrives, and we’ll never get that time back. Concentrating on how to expand in Kansas City was a great decision. I met with a couple alums from the Kauffman Foundation who helped us think through scalability and what a franchise of Minddrive would look like.
Altomare: Proven methods don’t always work. When we rolled out our education, we hired a professor to run our class. That didn’t go well. We ended up having to create a curriculum from scratch because theory and the academia thing doesn’t offer the tangible tools our entrepreneurs needed.
Kittrell: We always focused on the product and trying to make the product better and that only took us so far. We really had to go out of our area of expertise. Now having gone into that and stepping outside of our comfort zone to do things like drip email campaigns and connecting more intimately with our customer. You learn that it’s not that difficult.
On staying revitalized…
Kittrell: One of the things that’s really helped me, honestly, is events like this. I started coming to 1 Million Cups back when it first started. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a direct thing, just being here, hearing different things can spark a new idea. When you sit in your office you only have what’s in your mind. You can’t get something else like you can when you attend events and interact with new people.
Altomare: It’s the community. There’s so much energy in the entrepreneurship community here in Kansas City. Being a part of that helps you see things that you didn’t see before. Once you’re an initial catalyst for something, surrounding yourself with good people is something you can’t do soon enough. Bring people around you and give them incentive to work and believe in this and trust them to help you carry it forward.
On motivating people to buy into your vision…
Altomare: Creating incentive for people goes beyond giving them money to pay them to do it. You have to find what triggers them and what drives them to get involved. Show meaning and purpose.
Buchner: Provide meaning and purpose. Everyone has a desire to help other people. Engage people in your story and get them to buy into your story.
Kittrell: Challenge people to do more than they believe is possible. Giving them a challenge and helping them believe they can meet it gets them to do more