Entrepreneurs give advice for starting a business

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    By Shane Bevell

    For those interested in starting their own business, advice from some of the most successful entrepreneurs could be the start of something big.

    Jonny Day, a BYU graduate and winner of the 1999 Student Entrepreneur of the Year at BYU, had a name for his company before the company actually existed.

    Day, founder of Afroman Productions, said his company’s name was originally a name he and his friends used when they threw parties and sponsored snowboard and skateboard events.

    Afroman Productions sells skateboards, funky clothing and stickers in 20 states and abroad in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

    In the spring of 1999, Day said he decided to start a full-fledged company and began selling in local shops.

    “My last semester of school, me and some other guys worked at it (the business) in all our spare time, and since then we have been doing it full time,” Day said.

    It is important to find a niche in an industry where an angle has not been developed, Day said.

    “Do something you are interested in,” he said.

    Curt Allen, chairman of myfamily.com Inc. agrees with Day about focusing on something specific.

    Most new companies die of indigestion, not starvation, Allen said.

    “There are so many opportunities out there, but people try to do too much,” Allen said.

    Focus on a market and a product or service, and be the best at what you do, Allen said.

    “Pick something you love,” said Chris Lydiksen, founder and CEO of motorcities.com, a car enthusiast Web site. “Being an entrepreneur will really stretch you and your family. Do something you love because you will be walking uphill the whole way.”

    Entrepreneurs should know the market they want to target inside and out, Lydiksen said.

    “Be able to call yourself an expert in the market,” Lydiksen said.

    Have good intent, Day said. Nothing is easy and nothing will come easy.

    “If you are serious and dedicated, you will do well, unless you have a bad idea,” Day said.

    “Do something you like and something that will keep you going, because from what I’ve seen a lot of people try to get rich quick and that isn’t very practical,” Day said.

    Donald Livingstone, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the Marriott School of Business at BYU said those interested in starting their own business should not be afraid to try.

    The risk-reward ratio is tilted toward reward, Livingstone said.

    Lydiksen said being an optimist and having an inordinate amount of self-confidence is vital.

    “People should know you are confident,” Lydiksen said.

    If the entrepreneur is excited, has a good idea, and does not mind giving time, financial backing will be available, Livingstone said.

    Livingstone advises those interested in starting their own business to not take it too seriously.

    “Your life doesn’t end,” Livingstone said.

    “Time is your most precious commodity,” Livingstone said. “Find the balance between friends, family and the gospel.”

    Day said everything he tried to do when he started his business was an obstacle, but having personal motivation helped him overcome those obstacles.

    Entrepreneurs need to be aware of the rule of two’s, Livingstone said.

    “It’s going take twice as much time and twice as much money as you thought, and you’re only going to earn half of what you thought you were going to earn,” Livingstone said.

    “If you like to be in the comfort zone, this isn’t the business for you,” Livingstone said.

    Livingstone said that is why it is important to have a support group.

    “You’re stronger as a team than as an individual,” Livingstone said. “People are afraid to share rewards with others, but finding partners and bringing them in at the right time can be an advantage.”

    “Partners can complement your strong points,” Livingstone said. “Most successful entrepreneurs are team-oriented.”

    Successful entrepreneurs should not rely on the opinion of friends and family, Livingstone said.

    “Most people are going to those who don’t want to hurt their feelings,” Livingstone said.

    Livingstone advises those who are interested in starting a business to invest time to get the opinion of an individual third party.

    Being close to customers is another important part of business, Allen said.

    The biggest failure of entrepreneurs is that they forget whom they are serving, Allen said.

    “If you can make customers happy, they will be loyal and you can make a successful company,” Allen said.

    Allen said he joined the company two years ago and had three goals: build a team, raise capital and launch myfamily.com.

    “We built a team because we were successful in recruiting world class talent,” Allen said. “We were successful in raising $75.5 million from companies such as Intel, AOL, Kodak and Compaq.”

    Myfamily.com was launched in December 1998 and became the fastest growing community site on the Web, Allen said.

    Lydiksen said he loves his business, but added that it has not been easy.

    “It keeps you up at night and gets you out of bed in the morning,” Lydiksen said.

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