Persistence and Creativity Key for Startup Businesses

Salt Lake City—Everyone is online. The hyperconnectivity of the internet and ubiquity of access has brought an unprecedented opportunity for ideas to turn into businesses—by virtually anyone.

As any entrepreneur can attest, the path from idea to business is full of obstacles. At the Utah Women’s Summit Tuesday, three startup experts tried to tackle some of the most common challenges entrepreneurs—particularly those who are women—face.

Alison Faulkner, creator of The Alison Show, said her business started through her desire to make a living dealing with crafty things, and devised several paths that would take her to that goal. In her case, she said, she created her brand through blogging for various people and built her business from there. When one avenue didn’t work, she tried another.

“It’s staying true to the core of what you’re doing and being able to mold what’s working for you, and stemming from there,” she said.

Vanessa Quigley, co-founder of Chatbooks, was a part-time opera singer and mother before she and her husband got the idea to create a business that let people make physical photo albums out of the pictures they had posted online. Being an entrepreneur was far outside of her life plan—as was, for the Florida-based family, moving to Utah. But both things represented kismet for a new, unplanned path.

“Opportunities present themselves, and you just go with it,” Quigley said.

Angela Brown, executive editor of SLUG Magazine and executive director of Craft Lake City, said entrepreneurs should be aware that slumps in ambition or progress will happen (and frequently!) and they need to be pushed through. Brown said to prioritize basic care, which can often drop down the list in times of hardship, and Faulkner added that budding entrepreneurs should not feel guilty about asking for help—especially when childcare is involved.

Faulkner said she feels she has been underestimated often in her entrepreneurial journey. Her educational background is in advertising, but people would sometimes dismiss her as someone very green to the business world because of the fun, bubbly brand she was creating, she said. That could be frustrating, but she ultimately realized that the quality of her product wouldn’t be increased by insisting that she was smart or capable—instead, she said, she’d just show clients just what she could do.

“Being underestimated is the best position to be in, because you can over-deliver and blow their minds,” she said.

Brown said entrepreneurs, and especially women starting their own businesses, are also going to have to sometimes stand up for themselves and their product when talking with clients or investors—and sometimes even friends and family.

“There’s going to be a time when you’re the only woman in the room, and you have to be confident in yourself and your product,” Brown said. “It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to a place where others can see your vision.”

For advertising and sales based online and through social media, building a following can make or break a company—but that doesn’t always mean making connections with the person or website with the biggest following is always a magic bullet. Quigley said sometimes people with an average following can be more impactful than those with a very large online presence, if their followers are also very active on social media and apt to tell all of their friends about a product, too. Faulkner said entrepreneurs should consider what they can do for the larger or more established brand, site or person, not the other way around.

And above all, the panelists agreed, believing and having faith in an idea can go a long way when the going gets tough.

“[I remind myself] I’m already as awesome as I need to be. It’s not a year from now or 10 pounds from now or more followers from now—your idea does not become any more brilliant because people believe in it, so don’t wait until then,” Faulkner said.