Starting Up

by Calista Goh May 07, 2016

Starting Up

Taken from Calista's personal blog: Anything But Salads


Starting a business isn't a walk in the park. And if you think it is, you're wrong.

Running a start up has its perks - the realization of your idea (ego), freedom (liberty), unprecedented learning opportunities (growth), enthusiastic team (energy & spirit), optimism and idealism. You tend to attract like-minded individuals with a shared vision and common goal. It's a very nurturing environment - everyone's in it to win it. Everyone's in it for the haul. Freeloaders are unaccepted and quickly off-loaded. You get as good as you give it.

Running a start-up also has its glamour - think Facebook and it's Hollywood remake of its beginnings - "The Social Network". It sounds cool - "I run a start-up". It demonstrates a unique personality type - tenacity, optimism, vitality, power and control. It's a visionary person with a mission and the power of execution. It sounds glamorous.

But the truth is, running a start-up isn't as glamorous or as "WOW" as people assume it to be. In fact, it's intensely complex and involves a myriad of different subjects/entities.

Coming from a traditional Asian family that subscribes to traditionalist conservatism, entrepreneurship is not fully supported "until [I] have shown success". The definition of "success" in my family's view tends to be disposable income + branded goods + cars + other 'assets'. To them, "success" is finding and keeping a stable job, ideally prestigious too, and earning a steady income. For those of you coming from an Asian background, I'm sure you may have heard any one of the following before:

"No, get a job first, earn some income then start your own business."

"You shouldn't do it - it's too risky. It's safer to just get a steady job."

"What's the point of going to university if you're not going to apply what you've learnt?"

"Starting your business can be done any time - you should work 1-2 years and get some experience before you do your own business."

For those of you who have either had start up experience or are still running a start up, you will know that:

(1) Time waits for no man - neither do business opportunities.

(2) No amount of education will truly prepare you for the tasks of running a start up.

(3) It takes a unique personality type to run a start up. It's not for everyone.

(4) Security is a figment of your insecurity and mind (a universal truth - you are as secure as you THINK you are)

Taking flight. You go as far as you want yourself to go.
Truth be told, running a start up, as most entrepreneurs will tell you, begins with a good idea that is well-planned and realistically executable. Whether the business survives, and then thrives, depends on the founder or co-founders - the business plan, the team they put together, funding, their management abilities, their level of optimism, their ability to manage stress and adapt to changes readily, their ability to think ahead, their strength of will and determination, and on many levels, an idealistic sense of optimistic ignorance.

From my own experience, the process of running a start up involves breaking down a big task (The Goal) into a list of smaller tasks (Milestones) and achieving them quickly, efficiently and effectively. Often, I am aware of what the bigger picture is and I know what it'll take for the company to get there, but I am focused intently on the next task(s).

My life as an entrepreneur involves accomplishing things on a never-ending to-do list

And I love it!

Starting up is no walk in the park. There has been a over-glamorization of the career and an unrealistic appreciation that starting up only requires a great idea. 

Sorry folks, that's wrong.

Start ups are all about execution of ideas....

Maybe this would address it succinctly:

Credits to DepositPhotos.

A good summary but too simplistic IMO.

I think it's more like:

Idea + Execution(Hard work x Smart work x Plan) + Team + Luck = Success.

There's no point having a fancy idea if it's not

(1) Realistic;

(2) Executable; &/or

(3) Addressing a need/want that currently exists in society.

From my own understanding and through reading about various entrepreneurs' advice, trying to create a demand, instead of fulfilling a demand, has a very high failure rate. You should be addressing a supply deficit - giving the consumers what they want, not what you THINK they want, or forcing them to want what you want for yourself.

Entrepreneurship isn't completely egocentric, although it can be. The lifeblood of businesses are consumers. That's a mitigating factor that prevents start ups from playing God. Consumers' wants, needs, problems and complaints are what ground start ups. It's what we thrive on. It's where the roots are. Forgetting consumers or failing to give consumers what they want or what they'll want in the future results in failure. Remember Friendster?

Starting up can be heaps of fun too, don't get me wrong. There is a shared sense of ownership and belief and faith and trust. It's team work and cooperation at its finest. It's knowing that you individual efforts translate into salient successes. And it's also clear that these successes are attributed to your efforts. It's a lot of hard work, but it PAYS OFF.

If you think starting up is a walk in the park, think again. It isn't.

There is a reason why there's only a 8% survival rate for start-ups within the 1st year of business, and a 1% survival rate of start-ups after Year 2. Want more stats? See here.

At the end of the day, I know I made the right choice for me. I've had desk-job experience and I did it - routinely. It was boring. I learnt nothing. I was stagnant.

Since starting my own business.... I love it and I'm happy.

I'm innately a risk-taker. Tenacious to a fault, loves details, perfectionistic, workaholic (not good), creative and in love with problem solving. I'm not saying all entrepreneurs should or must have these traits, but this is what works for me. And it seems to be what has helped me through the darker days of starting up.

Regardless of the ups and downs, there's one thing I know: I'll never stop creating and I'll never stop starting up because 


I love it.


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Calista Goh
Calista Goh


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