26 TIPS FROM GREATER HARTFORD ENTREPRENEURS AND STARTUPS
Every entrepreneur approaches their journey from a different angle. Here, advice from Connecticut startups and entrepreneurs about everything from asking for help to zig zagging.
ASK FOR HELP
“Don’t be afraid to reach out for help in areas where you’re not as versed—and even areas where you are versed. There are wonderful mentors out there and there are other startups with great stories.”
Matt Cremins, CEO of Voda, LLC
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
“It can be a very lonely feeling, being an entrepreneur. It seems like such a small thing, but the self-doubt can be hard. Believing in yourself is difficult, but so important.”
Katharine Ortiz, Founder of A Little Bird Told Me
“Right now more than ever, Hartford wants you to create. To play. To grow. To collaborate. Since it’s such a small city, you have to play well with others—and you may have to do some grinding. But a little goes a long way here.”
Chion Wolf, Technical Producer, Announcer, and Photographer for WNPR
“If you have the motivation and the personal drive to get it done, you can turn any idea into a profitable business.”
Mark R. Smith, Principal of Macroscopic Solutions
“Having an exit strategy is huge. You always have to prepare. What if someone comes and copycats you a couple doors down? What are you going to do? How are you going to survive?”
Jeff Roux, Owner of Excel Fitness
“I think to be successful you need to be flexible in many different markets. Things are going to change, you have to innovate.”
Steven Laschever, Owner of Laschphoto
“Get involved with the local startup scene. Visit the local co-working spaces, go to workshops, see what the local Chamber of Commerce is offering. I think the entrepreneurial ecosystem is great for so many reasons, but having that support from other local entrepreneurs plus the ability to share advice, resources, and ideas is huge.”
Kate Pipa, Co-Founder and CEO of Genius Box, Inc.
“You cannot expect success overnight. You have to be patient. And you have to know that it’s a lot of hard work.”
Debra Raviv, Co-Owner of Toasted, LLC
“For Hartford to become the innovation spot, we need to be brave, develop new ideas and see if they work. If they don’t work, we can create new ideas. To develop the innovation, you must be open-minded to these kind of ideas. You have to take a risk.”
Balam Soto, Founder and Lead Creative Mind at Open Wire Lab
JUST DO IT
“Do whatever it takes. If you truly believe you have a viable concept go ahead, because the worst thing that can happen is it doesn’t work out and you go back to something else.”
Chris Parrott, Co-Owner of Little River Restoratives
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING
“Take your time. Know what you’re doing. Also, you have to do something you’re passionate about.”
Tony Karlowicz, Co-Founder of Back East Brewery
LEARN BY DOING
“There is no proxy for firsthand experience. While mentors and journal articles help, you really have to experience and learn by doing.”
Delanea Davis, Co-Founder Solstice Strategy Partners
MANAGE YOUR FINANCES
“Ultimately that’s what it comes down to. Do you have enough money to operate? Two words: cash flow.”
Scott Kluger, Founder of Hartford Baking Company
“It’s really important for startups to talk to people about their products, to get first-person responses about what they’re doing—market research, in a way. It’s about going out and meeting people, whether they are investors or engineers.”
Adam Muniz, Chapter Director of New Haven Startup Grind
“If you see an opportunity you’ve got to jump on it. You can’t wait until you think the time is perfect. It’s never going to be perfect. All your ducks are never going to be in a row.”
Jamie “The Bear” McDonald, Co-Founder of Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ
“Provide a service or product you believe in and are passionate about and provide consistency and dependability. Your audience has to be as passionate about your brand as you are.”
Racquel Lunser, Founder of Racquel’s Addiction Fitness
“There’s nothing like failure to challenge your growth as an entrepreneur.”
Adam von Gootkin, Co-Founder of Onyx Spirits Co.
“We also can’t stress enough to continually test and refine your ideas and strategies. This has been invaluable for us and we continue to do this as often as we can. It’s never as simple as ‘build it and they will come.’ You have to know what people need, what they will accept, and what will turn them off to be able to succeed, and the only way to do this is to test.”
David Benoit, Co-Founder of Wearsafe Labs Inc.
“I say to every entrepreneur, mentee or customer talk to: Start small and then prove that your idea and build it from there.”
Serial entrepreneur Tim Laubacher, Founder of Launch EZ
TRUST YOUR GUT
“It is really scary to be an entrepreneur. You need to be one of those people who can embrace the rebellious spirit that everyone has. You need to be the kind of person who can trust your gut. If you really know yourself and you really think you can do it, you can probably do it.”
Georgina Schiavelli, Owner of Black Diamond Body Piercing
“Understand and embrace the chaos but work hard every day to move things forward in an organized and systematic way.”
Callie Gale Heilmann, Hartford Prints!
“Focus on the value you’re bringing to market. Focusing on cost 100% is just a race to the bottom that you can’t win. You have to develop a business plan that will be sustainably competitive.”
Charles Bogoian Co-Founder of Kenai Sports, LLC
WORK TOWARD A VISION
“If you’re working toward a vision, have a mental model you’re working against, and have tried something that doesn’t succeed, there’s almost always something to be learned from the experience.
Derek Koch CEO of Independent Software
“If you take every failure as a setback than it really will set you back. You have to look at any sort of failure or disappointment and say: That didn’t work, let’s try again, let’s try it slightly differently, or let’s just wait because maybe it’s not the right time. You have to look at things constructively—which is hard to do sometimes—but it’s definitely the most important thing you can do.”
Samantha Hines, Co-Owner of Cookshop Plus
YOU CAN’T BE TOO BUSY
“You can’t be so busy that there’s no space to be inspired and innovate. If you become too consumed with the everyday, you lose your creativity. You’re no longer an entrepreneur, you’re just doing a job.”
Holly Wheeler, Founder of Field to Face Organic Beauty
Don’t be afraid to execute what you feel like works for you, but also know that along that path there will be things that divert you and sometimes in order to move forward you have to go left or right. Don’t be so stuck in your plan that you’re not willing to make edits to it.
Shaun Chambers, CEO and Founder BodyRoc Fit Lab
About the Author
Nan Price is Website Curator for Innovation Destination: Hartford.