Rookie Mistakes: 5 Lessons All Young Entrepreneurs Learn The Hard Way

There comes a time in every 20-something’s life when they question the stale, 9-to-5, cubicle way of life. That time for me was four years ago, before I was even a 20-something.

Instead of shoving my dreams inside of the “shoulda, coulda, woulda, but I didn’t” box that most people keep nearby, I decided to hit the unblazed trail with my youth travel show concept, #shutupandgo.

Ever since nailing my first few pitches that sent me and my business partner all over the States and Latin America, I haven’t regretted a damn thing.

However, back in the dark days, I had not yet passed business woman boot camp and my newbie tendencies probably scared off 50 percent of my potential clients, partners and investors.

Here are five rookie mistakes all young entrepreneurs make, and how to avoid them:

1. You send long, detailed emails

Of course, you should know by now that sending an email with smiley faces and exclamation points in exuberant amount is just a no-no. However, what you probably haven’t gotten into the habit of doing is writing an email, and then chopping it in half. Make those executive cuts.

Also, don’t be offended if the CEO responds with one word, or if you’re lucky with one sentence. Take out the sender in the “To” field before you even start your draft; this will prevent those embarrassing “sent too quickly” emails that will make you feel like a dumbass and piss any executive off.

2. You’re too afraid your idea will get stolen

There was a three-month period where my partner and I were afraid that our show concept would be stolen, simply because we were newbies on the block

Here’s the thing: It probably will get stolen. That’s okay, though. If you’re a triple OG entrepreneur, you can a) execute the idea or concept better, and b) come up with a business plan even more brilliant than the first one.

It’s probably not a bad thing to get your products patented, but all smart people steal and replicate. Get used to it and get ahead by continuously thinking bigger and better.

3. You over-network without making sh*t happen

Networking for the sake of networking is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen and done in my entire life. Successful entrepreneurs know the stage their business is in, and do whatever it takes to nurture its growth at that particular stage.

In the very beginning of your business, you need to be spending every waking moment working on your product. If that’s running a factory of dildos, then you’ll be swimming in dildos for the next six months. No friends, no dating; the more minimalist you keep your life, the better.

Once you get your product to the beta stage of something decent to present to the outside world, you put on your fancy pants and go out to those bougie networking events where everyone “knows someone.”

My first tip for networking is that you should NEVER -- I repeat, NEVER -- expect people to do a damn thing for you. However, you should use these rounds of social interaction as a focus for testing your potential target and people in general.

What do they always ask questions about? Is there a way you can make your pitch clearer, more engaging, funny and relatable? If you take on networking as a sociological experiment that can make your product better, you’re never wasting time -- unless you don’t realize when it’s time to stop networking.

The producing to networking ratio should be even; get back to work and the right people will come organically.

4. You worry about problems instead of solutions

This next one has seriously limited my friend group because if you’re a problem talker instead of solver, you’re getting cut. In a very basic sense, life should be seen like this: Rather than complaining you don’t have money or time, you should find ways to make things work.

You have a choice, people. If it means Googling everything you don’t know until you do know how to fully code and design your own website, congrats, we should be friends.

I graduated from business school this year, but two years before getting my diploma, I was already making international business deals happen. At the same time, I was learning how to edit videos, develop websites and produce massive budgets to pitch companies.

No, I’m not rich and things don’t come easily. In fact, I’m an immigrant who was raised by a single mother; I've scrubbed toilets since age 8 just to contribute to putting food on the table. You can solve your own problems, and a smile in the process won’t hurt, either.

5. You consider options B and C as legitimate options

I admit it: I entertained two full-time job interviews right after I graduated. I fell into the trap of considering options B and C.

Luckily, the universe didn’t let me accept the jobs even if I wanted to. The first job interview I went on was to be a new business coordinator for a massive marketing agency.

I walked into the CMO's office, and before I said anything at all, he looked at me and said,

Joanna, I want to let you know that I’ve watched all of your videos, I’ve read your blogs. Although I think you could do this job very well, I think a 9 to 5 would be an injustice to your show and company. You have too much potential.

Thanks for that slap, universe. Option C was an interview with a travel company that randomly called me after I had applied six months earlier.

I was confused, but due to the financial sh*thole I had dug myself into, I felt as though I had no other option; I would go on the interview and accept the job if it was given to me. (You always have a choice, people.)

I went through the first two interviews and the company loved me. I even charmingly spoke to the CEO in French on my way out.

Come on, I had it in the bag! Turns out, they made me wait two months for the response due to internal setbacks, and in that month, amazing new opportunities for my own company came through.

Believe in your ability and persevere. If you’re a legit entrepreneur, you don’t wait to start your company, and you don’t make fallback plans. You shut up, buckle into discomfort and make sh*t happen.

Photo Courtesy: Paramount Pictures/The Wolf of Wall Street