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Competition is an inevitable social norm and can be so very frustrating especially when you're a start-up. Competition though is healthy for business as it prompts you to do better and magnet more customers/clients than your business rival.

But if you want to dominate the market and win, one of the most vital things to do is to tangibly define your distinctive business proposition.

Make sure that you give your customers good reasons to come to you rather than your competitors. Your unique selling proposition should be obvious – no one should have to ask.

However, where little distinguishes your product or service from your competition, as a business leader you need to make sure that your core processes and strategy set you apart from the rest.

Here are 5 easy steps:


1. Identify and solve the pain points of your customers.

Take a survey and list all the pain points of your customers. It is essential to ask open-ended questions to find exactly what your customers want while using your products or services.

The key here is to provide solutions to the prospects and supply them what they need as opposed to selling them what you want to sell. You only need to fulfill the need, not "sell" anything. Your product or service will automatically start to sell more the moment you fill the void that your competitors are lacking.


2. Build your own niche to have more room for your business.

A market that's already crowded has less scope for expansion. It is essential to offer something unique to your customers in order to build your own niche and minimize the existing competition.

Storytelling is a great way to build your own niche by creatively crafting stories around your products. With the help of stories, you can become a part of your prospect's lifestyle, not remain a stand-alone product or service. Burst offers free stock photography that you can use for creating and promoting stories about your brand across social media.

Specialization always leads to a scalable and successful business. A niche market is reliable, and the prospects are easier to target. Moreover, the customer retention rate is good. Start targeting locally relevant platforms where your target customers might be present and adopt a niche marketing strategy for them.


3. Get the pricing correct.

Perfect pricing strategy revolves around marketing psychology. Before you set your own pricing strategy, it is essential to know the competition. You must identify who is offering the best value for money. The price you set should be standard and must have a competitive advantage.

A great pricing strategy does not always mean lowering the prices of existing products in order to win more customers. Every market is divided into three segments – the lower, middle and upper class. The first step is to identify the class you are targeting. Once you get an answer to that, it will be much easier to set a price that your audiences will love to pay. Sequoia's guide to pricing strategy covers all the tactics to help you set a pricing strategy that can beat your competitors.


4. Make innovation your best friend.

Change is the only thing in this world that is permanent.

Urban Outfitters was able to create a powerful disruptive force because it hired artists instead of businesspeople to manage its stores. They had full freedom in shaping the interiors of their stores, and the result was remarkable. Every Urban Outfitter store was unique, while the competitors' stores all looked the same. The company was able to raise revenues by a massive 500 percent to around $3 billion in the last 10 years.

Innovate with your products and services, and don't hesitate to take the risk. For example, you could add enhanced capabilities to your existing business processes using virtual reality applications like Samsung Gear VR.

Giants like Nokia and BlackBerry were wiped out from the smartphone market because of lack of innovation. Always remember that your competitors are regularly innovating and new entrants are disrupting the marketplace. Your business should innovate often and in a manner that the competition finds hard to follow.


5. Improve your customer service.

People love businesses that provide exceptional customer service. If you delight your customers with great service, you'll make loyal customers who will refer your business to their family and friends.

Hire staff who have a good understanding of your products or services. Ensure that they remain patient and provide satisfying answers to every customer query.

Your staff should greet customers with a pleasing smile and must show gratitude. It is essential to boost the team spirit of your staff and hire team players. Remember to reward the team players, as employees need constant motivation to outperform others.

Your customer care team should always remain courteous and respectful. They must always be responsive to customer queries. They should have a problem-solving approach and always ask for customer feedback. Customer-centric companies are powered by dependable staff who raise the level of customer satisfaction.

It is essential to define your brand, set a USP, and stay ahead of your competition in terms of quality, price and customer service. Moreover, you must talk to your customers so that you can retain them for a lifetime. 

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There’s no doubt that setting up and making money from your own business is one of the most rewarding ways to earn a living and can also be the most challenging. You’re in complete control of your own destiny and the power is in your hands to increase your chances of success and outwit the competition. That also means you’re responsible for all your decisions and for tackling whatever challenges that may arise along the way. So it’s vital you get your business on a firm foundation. Better that, than quit your day job straight away! Here are six key steps you should take.


1. Research your market.

Knowing what the competition knows won’t cut it. Go deep. Dive in to your market and study it like an expert.  

Search Google for keywords that are related to your industry. Don’t get discouraged if the market seems flooded. You can use this to your advantage. It means that it is working for those people and you can make it work for you. There is money there.


2. Set a tangible financial goal.

Successful people always set new goals every six months and always stretch my initial mark. Work backwards and figure out what you need to do each day to get to where you want to be. Set a goal that is a stretch for you and look at the steps you need to take every day to accomplish that goal.


3. When you create a website, make the content shareable.

It’s great to reference some the leaders in your space, but when you are developing your own brand, it’s important to create unique content on a single hub. A site that your readers and viewers can reference back to, for more of your incredible content.


4. Build on a list.

Email is best form of currency online and building an email list is one of the most important tools in building a business. As you develop your shareable site, begin building a list of emails of the people that visit your site. Then continue to provide them with value. This will translate into buyers for the future launch of your product or service.

Adding in an opt-in form on your website and having a place to store your emails are the first two steps to building your email list. Free resources allow you to collect email information on your website. To store email addresses, I recommend the program Aweber, which even offers a free 30-day trial.


5. Launch a sellable product or service.

If you have a financial goal that you’ve set out for the next six months, then you have to sell something. Take the time to figure out the biggest challenges your audience is facing and build your relationship with them. Then create something that solves their problem. I know this is easier said than done, but it’s critical. Your leads come from your list, you convert them to customers, follow up and build a relationship.  


6.  Don't wait to have it all, Start NOW and improve as you go.

A lot of people waste time thinking about making things perfect before they launch their business. The logo, the website, the copy -- everything. This is a waste of time. Sell your product before you make it by offering a pre-order. Focus on getting sales and attracting leads. Successful companies launch all the time and they aren’t perfect.  

Think of Facebook and all the changes and improvements it has made. Start with a small product and always be improving.  Launch online you can sell over and over and not have to trade time for dollars.

The most important thing is to enjoy the process and know that you don’t have to make it perfect. Start today. If not now, when?

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Success in entrepreneurship isn’t just about your idea or your money. Plenty of people have interesting ideas or a lot of cash to throw around — and they never quite manage to find success in their ventures.

If you want to be an entrepreneur, take a step back and evaluate whether or not you have the following characteristics. (And remember: if you don’t have these traits now, you can develop them down the road to improve your chances of success.)


1. Self-Motivation

One of the most important traits of entrepreneurs is self-motivation. When you want to succeed, you need to be able to push yourself. You aren’t answerable to anyone else as an entrepreneur, and that sometimes means that it’s hard to get moving without anyone to make you. You need to be dedicated to your plan and keep moving forward — even if you aren’t receiving an immediate paycheck.


2. Understand What You Offer

As an entrepreneur, you need to know what you offer, and how it fits into the market. Whether it’s a product or a service, you need to know where you fit in. That means you need to know when it’s time to tweak things a little bit. This also includes knowing whether you are high end, middle of the road or bargain. Being able to position yourself and then adjust as needed is an important part of entrepreneurship.


3. Take Risks

Successful entrepreneurs know that sometimes it’s important to take risks. Playing it safe almost never leads to success as a business owner. It’s not about taking just any risk, though. Understanding the calculated risks that are more likely to pay off is an important part of being an entrepreneur. You’ll need to be willing to take a few risks to succeed.


4. Know How to Network

Knowing how to network is an important part of entrepreneurship. Sometimes who you know is an important part of success. Being able to connect with others and recognize partnership opportunities can take you a long way as a business owner. Figure out where to go for networking opportunities and make it a point to learn how to be effective.


5. Basic Money Management Skills and Knowledge

We often think of successful entrepreneurs as “big picture” people who don’t worry so much about managing the day today. And it’s true that you might have an accountant or other team members to help you manage the business. However, if you want to be successful, you should still have basic money management skills and knowledge. Understand how money works so that you know where you stand, and so that you run your business on sound principles.


6. Flexibility

To a certain degree, you need to be flexible as an entrepreneur. Be willing to change as needed. Stay on top of your industry and be ready to adopt changes in processes and product as they are needed. Sometimes, you also need flexibility in your thinking. This is an essential part of problem-solving. You want to be able to find unique and effective solutions to issues.


7. Passion

Finally, successful entrepreneurs are passionate. They feel deeply about their product or service or mission. Passion is what will help you find motivation when you are discouraged and it will drive you forward. Passion is fuel for successful entrepreneurship. If you find yourself losing your passion, that might be the clue that it’s time to move on to something else (that stokes your passion). There are many serial entrepreneurs that create successful businesses, sell them, and then create something else.

As you consider your characteristics, think about how to better develop them to help you become a better entrepreneur.

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28 years old Sonia Mugabo is a stern businesswoman, passionate fashion designer, and fashionista in Rwanda. She is the founder and chief executive officer of the fashion label Sonia Mugabo; SM,  which she named after herself.

Sonia Mugabo (“SM”), is a Rwandan-based fashion brand offering an eclectic mix of African trends and contemporary style. SM offers both bespoke as well as ready to wear designs.

A pioneer of Rwanda’s fashion industry, Sonia is setting the standard for Rwandan fashion in global and local markets. Since its start three years ago, SM has cultivated a loyal following of customers who value the brand’s innovative and high-quality designs.

During her early years, she interned at Teen Vogue in New York. 


In an interview with She Leads Africa, when she was asked: What impact the nascent nature of Rwanda's fashion industry has had on Sonia Mugabo and other fashion businesses in Rwanda, she boldly replied-

Most people in Rwanda wear second-hand clothes imported from Western countries, which basically means Rwanda’s local talent is largely ignored. Luckily, with the aim to encourage consumption of local products, the Rwandan government is putting a stop to the importation of second clothes.
As such, local designers are seizing the opportunity to build brands with a strong Rwandan heritage as well as creating jobs and inspiring young talent to pursue fashion careers. I believe emerging markets, like Rwanda, are centres of innovation since they’re compelled to innovate to solve unique challenges.

Sonia was among the 3 young entrepreneurs to make the 2017 Forbes 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs.

She took to her Twitter handle to share her excitement.

“We made it to the 2017 list of Forbes 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa."

As of March 2017, she owned two branded stores in Kigali. She is a reader of the English language daily newspaper, the New Times, and also wrote to the Editor in January 2017, noting that Sonia Mugabo(SM) is an inspiration to the youth.

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Women are building empires in the world today despite certain biological and societal barriers that may slow their efforts and progress. They never stop but continue to push forward.

Grace Amey-Obeng is the fifth richest woman in Ghana with a net worth of $100 million. 

She is the CEO of FC Beauty Salon & Cosmetics is believed to be one of Ghana’s richest women with over 95 employees and an estimated yearly turnover of $15 million. 

She is the fifth richest woman in the country. Her net worth is estimated at $100 million which is sourced mainly from the cosmetic industry. Mrs. Amey –Obeng received her beauty education at Croydon College, London. She later returned to Ghana and with $100 started her own business. Now Forever Clair group of companies includes a beauty clinic (FC Skin and Beauty Klinik), a firm that supplies salon equipment and cosmetics (Forever Clair Skin Care) and a college (FC Beauty College). It has eight branches in Ghana and exports to Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ivory Coast, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Some subsidiaries of the powerhouse include skin care products and a beauty college. She is ranked as the 79th richest person in Ghana.

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Kemi Lala Akindoju @lalaakindoju on IG, fondly called "LalaAkindoju” is a fast rising actor, drama instructor, casting director and producer. She grew up in Lagos and started acting professionally in 2005. She has since featured in over 70 stage and film productions around the world. She was announced Actor of the Year at The Future Awards 2010 and was also nominated for the same award in 2012. She holds a Masters Degree in Media and Communication from the Pan-African University. Lala was part of the team of actors selected to perform at the Theatre Royale Stratford East as part of the cultural events at the cultural Olympiad during the London 2012 Olympics. She is a member of the faculty at the Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts (LAPA), where she functions as a facilitator and teaches improvisation drama.

With resounding experience as an actor, and a growing experience as a director and producer; Lala now runs The Make It Happen Productions which is a production company targeted at telling African stories through all mediums; especially film, television and stage.

She produced The V-Monologues in May 2013, worked as the casting director and associate producer with Ndani TV for 'Gidi Up' and played the lead role in Tunde Kelani's Dazzling Mirage.

Lala is the convener of Open Mic Theatre, a hub for actors to bond and network and a one-stop shop for fresh talent. She is also passionate about changing the world and has become a global shaper with the World Economic Forum. She has since been selected to attend the summits in Addis-Ababa and Davos and the US.

Culled from IMD

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It’s hard to believe, but locating investors is not the hard part of getting funded - in fact, through the process of trying to raise money, an entrepreneur might have opportunities to talk to upwards of 40 to 50 investors, depending on their idea and location.

However, just as it takes a quality idea and pitch to find success, it also requires a quality investor - one who works in the same field as the company, one who is able to shed wisdom throughout the development of the company, one who can come to a reasonable financial agreement that suits all parties involved. And that doesn’t come without due diligence, a well-crafted pitch with a realistic business plan, and a lot of research.


When you’re looking to start raising for your company, consider these five ways to find angel investors and five ways to find venture capitalists.


1. Through top-tier business schools

Call the closest university with a strong business or entrepreneurial program. They generally have a strong network of investors and successful entrepreneurs from their faculty, alumni, and guest speakers. Ask them if they might be able to point you in the direction resources.

 

2. Through your industry friends

If you know of other founders of companies similar to you in your industry who have found investors, ask them for their recommendations. As many investors specialize in specific markets, like biotech, retail, travel, or mobile app developing, they tend to find companies through networks. So secure yourself within those networks, do your research on angel investors who work in your field, and try to get an introduction.


3. Online 

AngelList, Microventures, LinkedIn, and even Quora can be effective sources to find angel investors. With online resources, be sure that you can establish some sort of credibility. The easiest way is by looking specifically for investors in your own market (so, AngelList makes it easier, as it sorts investors by region or industry).

 

4. Angel investor networks 

Angel investor networks are member-based networks that tend to service by location. They are often operating from a fund that has been set aside by an investment firm to source deals for the network. Applications are prescreened, the angels can retain their anonymity, and founders can find themselves getting offers from up to a hundred investors for one venture (as opposed to going from angel to angel individually).


5. Crowdfunding

With all the crowdfunding platforms available, some with targeted industries such as arts, science, business, startups, and others with angles like

equity investments, loans, and venture networks, those who want to get seed funding to have plenty of opportunities to try their hand.

Ideal for companies who are either active participants in their industry (say, a new indie production company who has close ties within the film industry), or founders who don’t mind the bare minimum of guidance, or people who are extraordinarily good at social media and customer outreach, crowdfunding is a viable option to maximize the number of potential views by investors in one go.


6. Your city’s entrepreneurial community 

Perhaps the first thing you should do when you’re ready to take your project out of the garage is to get involved with the other founders around you. Join regional tech and startup groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, attend events, help out with an organizing committee, and meet as many people as you can. And be a human being, not just a pitching machine - ask for advice, but also give advice when you can; talk about struggles in the life of an entrepreneur, and get to know some of the other founders, investors, and the tech community around you.

When you connect with the members of your community as a human first, then you can build stronger relationships and work together to help each others’ companies cross the finish line.


7. Prove you are market ready

When you’re at the stage to start pitching to VC, you should be established in some way. You could have major name recognition, or your company could have a huge social media presence; your prototype should be working and showing signs of traction.

 You should prove that there is a market for your product. Scan your business model and associated numbers through a calculator, and make sure that you can defend your model when you (inevitably) get asked for it. The more risk that a potential investor can see in your company, the less they’ll want to invest in it.


8. Do your research and compile a list

Take an inventory of your immediate network of industry people, and compile a list of investors they suggest that will align with your vision and goals. With thousands of venture capitalists across the country, all you need is a solid list of 30 to 50 who can give you at the attention and capital investment that you’re looking for - and the best come recommended.

Tap into investors in your network, reach out to them in a low-stakes environment, lay out your ideas, ask for feedback, and always incorporate their advice into your next pitch. 


9. Through your mentors

If you don’t have industry mentors, you should consider connecting with a few before you start shopping around for investors. Your mentors see you through significant parts of your journey; they get to know your company, and you as a founder, and also have the experience to offer their guidance to help you navigate the industry.

They could be successful entrepreneurs themselves, or investment experts, or leading influencers in your field. Likely, they will help you to understand what investors are looking for, or even introduce you to some who could be potentially compatible with your vision.


10. Apply to Accelerator programs

Offered by investment firms, seed funds, universities and other large established entities, accelerator programs are found pretty much all across North America. Some of the top accelerator programs are hugely competitive, like YCombinator and Techstars, but the payoffs are big. Basically weeks-or months-long boot camps for the sole purpose of launching a company with classes and talks by highly regarded entrepreneurs,

Accelerator programs are a great way to meet other founders, get real-world guidance from industry mentors, and smooth out some rough edges. Some accelerators offer a seed investment in return for equity, and they usually culminate in a Demo Day presentation in front of an audience of investors. 


Looking for funding for your startup can be overwhelming, but these 10 strategies are the ideal place to start.  Source

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Meet Adaora Mbelu, the founder of A2 Creative, a thriving brand management company.

Adaora is a passion-driven Creative Industrialist and Entrepreneur, and Blogger at Ahdora.com who took a keen passion for entrepreneurship with the view to create viable business strategies for organizations to adopt. With her company 'Innovation Factory' which she founded in 2011, she has been able to positively affect the business growth of her clients by developing successful branding strategies based on an extensive feasibility study.
She is a young Creator. Born into a diverse family background, a Nigerian Father and a Sri Lankan Mother, she considers herself a world citizen. She was born in Colombo, Srilanka, and raised in Lagos. Adaora’s journey in creativity and leadership started as a child, when she represented her primary school at the Lagos State Debate competition in the early ’90s and often appeared on the then popular children’s TV program “Speak Out” and “Children’s Variety”. Adaora was also vice president of the music club and health prefect of her primary school, where she coordinated the music band and represented the school at various music competitions.

Adaora is barely 30 but her resume reads like she is century old!!

Adaora Mbelu-Dania’s track record includes being behind Guinness’ recent new product launch in its second-largest market, Nigeria.

According to her, she draws her inspiration from people.
“I am inspired by people,” she says.
But inspiration is different than personal foundation, which she describes succinctly: “My recipe for success is God, love, discipline, patience, and forgiveness, in this particular order.” Mbelu-Dania's business evolution is seen in her mindset 'change'.
“My greatest mistake was thinking that I had to streamline and choose one thing,” she says.
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John Rampton- You just walked in the door from an exhausting day at work. You’re hungry and spent, just wanting to catch your breath for a minute. You grab something to eat and then veg out in front of the TV. Next thing you know, you've just binge-watched five episodes of the latest Netflix show.


While that’s okay occasionally -- we all need ways to decompress and shut down -- this isn’t a healthy habit. That’s why the most successful people in the world spend their free time learning.


During a five-year study of more than 200 self-made millionaires, Thomas Corley found that they don’t watch TV. Instead, an impressive 86 percent claimed they read -- but not just for fun. What’s more, 63 percent indicated they listened to audiobooks during their morning commute.


Productivity expert Choncé Maddox writes, “It’s no secret that successful people read. The average millionaire is said to read two or more books per month.” As such, she suggests everyone “read blogs, news sites, fiction, and non-fiction during downtime so you can soak in more knowledge.”

If you’re frequently on the go, listen to audiobooks or podcasts.


Maybe you’re thinking: Who has the time to sit down and actually read? Between work and personal life, it’s almost impossible to find free time. After all, if Barack Obama could fit in time to read while in the White House, what excuse do you have? He even credits books to survive his presidency.


President Obama is far from the only leader to credit his success to reading. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, Mark Cuban and Jack Ma are all voracious readers. As Gates told The New York Times, reading "is one of the chief ways that I learn, and has been since I was a kid."


So how do they find the time to read daily? They adhere to the five-hour rule.


Breaking down the five-hour rule.

The five-hour rule was coined by Michael Simmons, founder of Empact, who has written about it widely. The concept is wonderfully simple: No matter how busy successful people are, they always spend at least an hour a day -- or five hours a week -- learning or practicing. And they do this across their entire career.


Simmons traces this phenomenon back to Ben Franklin, who was constantly setting aside time to learn. Franklin generally did this in the morning, waking up early to read and write. He established personal goals and tracked his results. In the spirit of today's book clubs, he created a club for artisans and tradesmen; they'd come together to pursue self-improvement. He also experimented with his new information and asked reflective questions every morning and evening.


The three buckets of the five-hour rule.

Today’s successful leaders have embraced Franklin's five-hour rule by breaking the rule into three buckets.


Read: Self-made millionaires including Mark Cuban and Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, read between one and three hours daily. Elon Musk learned how to build rockets, which lead to SpaceX, by reading. Besides expanding your knowledge, Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, says that “reading can give you a good head start; this is often what your peers cannot obtain. Compared to others, readers are more likely to know other industries' strategies and tactics.”


Even if you can't commit to an hour or more of reading every day, start with 20 to 30 minutes. I always have a book with me so when I’m waiting for a meeting to start or in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, I can read instead of waste time on my smartphone. You could also try audiobooks during your daily commute or when exercising.


Reflect: The five-hour rule also includes reflecting and thinking. This could be just staring at the wall or jotting down your thoughts. For example, Spanx founder Sara Blakely is a longtime journaler.


Focusing on the past gives you a chance to learn from mistakes you've made, as well as assess what you did correctly. As a result, you’ll be better suited to achieve your goals and improve your life. In 2014, a University of Texas study found that mental rest and reflection improves learning.


Need help getting started? Schedule reflection time in your planner. I’ve found blocking out 15 to 20 minutes after lunch is ideal because I’m coming out of that post-lunch slump. But start small: allocate five or 10 minutes per day, and then work your way up so you’re not overwhelmed.


Know the questions you want to ask. Stick with just two or three questions focused on that specific day. For example, if you attended a conference, ask, “What were the key takeaways?” and “How can I apply this to my business?”


Experiment: The third and final bucket is rapid experimentation. Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison became leading inventors and thinkers because of their experiments. We have Gmail because Google allowed employees to experiment with new ideas.


The reason experiments are so useful is that you have facts, not assumptions. Experiments show you what’s working. You can learn from your mistakes and obtain feedback from others. Best of all, experimentation isn’t that time-consuming. Most of the time, you’re testing through the same activities you'd perform without testing.


Jack Ma even recommends applying the knowledge you’ve learned to a real-life scenario. For example, after reading a book about collaboration and teamwork, you could take on new volunteer work to put that knowledge to use.


When you make learning a habit, you’ll be more successful and productive in life. By investing in a reading habit, you can ensure you're growing yourself -- and your company -- every day.

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Everyone makes mistakes, bankers, lawyers, doctors, engineers and most importantly entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is so very sensitive and greedy as it is in constant need of your attention and focus especially when it is a start-up. Slipping off here and there is not a jail time crime but as a start-up, constant tripping can become costly down the line.


"The biggest mistake you can make is to be afraid of failure. Failure is key to your success, and jumping into your fear is very positive for your future business. How you pick up after failure and learn from your mistakes is the key to great success." – Audrey Darrow, president, Righteously Raw

"Being organized is key. Running a small business is like being a circus ringmaster. It's normal to have dozens of things happening at once. So, I have a daily task list, things that I need to do. And I list them by their priority. It sounds simple, but it works, and makes me far more productive." – Tara Langdale-Schmidt, founder, VuVatech

"The biggest mistake a business owner can make when launching a startup is misinterpreting the market. Whether it is underestimating [or] overestimating costs, appealing to the wrong target demographic, or poorly gauging the demand, misinterpreting your market can end your business before it even starts." – Nabeel Mushtaq, COO and co-founder, AskforTask

"As a startup, there is sometimes a lack of self-awareness. Founders in the early stage are not great at delegating work to their team members. They try to do everything that they possibly can to cut costs, but really, in the long run, they should have delegated the things that they are not good at and focused on their strengths. If you are aiming for multiple targets at once, you are very unlikely to hit one." – Matt Pyke, founder and CEO, Fly High Media

"By far, the biggest mistake a startup can make is hiring employees too soon, such as hiring full-timers when a part-timer might make more sense, or hiring an employee when a subcontractor could have done the same job/function. It is very easy to run a small business with part-timers, subcontractors and the services of other professionals." – Joseph C. Kunz Jr., CEO and president, Dickson Keanaghan

"[It's a mistake] focusing on raising money instead of customers and product-market fit. Once companies have a product, many focus on raising money. But they should focus on customers and product-market fit, making sure their value proposition and offering resonates with a market and will get traction." – BJ Lackland, CEO, Lighter Capital

"One of the biggest mistakes a business owner/entrepreneur can make when starting a business is the failure to implement contracts. No matter how good relationships may be, they can come to a screeching halt when systems and agreements are not put in place." – Michelle Colon-Johnson, founder, 2 Dream Productions 

"Paying yourself too little or too much [is a mistake]. It's often easier to determine the salary for a new hire than determining an owner or partner's pay. Consider paying yourself a percentage of revenue. Whatever you choose, make figuring out your pay and that of your partners a practice and foundation to healthy expectation of management." – Diana Santaguida, co-founder and creative director, SEOcial 

"Having been a first-time founder who made many mistakes, I realize in hindsight that I never made decisions fast enough. I was slow to recognize that a relationship with a business partner wasn't working out, that my customer wasn't willing to pay enough money to sustain our business, that investors weren't interested in funding my business no matter how much they liked me, etc." – Sam Rosen, CEO and founder, MakeSpace

10. Grow at the right pace.

"I have had a lot of people who want to invest in my company. One of the biggest mistakes you can do is partner with someone just because of the money. The investor is more important than the money. You need to pick someone that shares your vision and morals. It is OK to be picky when it comes to an investor." – Tara Langdale-Schmidt, founder, VuVatech

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