When starting out with your business or brand especially if it’s your first try, money won’t be readily available.
In fact, according to Fundera, only 0.05% of startups raise venture capital. Now, this is not true to venture capitals only but also any form of financial aid at all.
Raising funds to start your brand or business is not as easy as it seems from afar.
Statistics have shown that there are approximately 100 million new startups opening each year, this is against just about 10,000 VC firms that exist globally.
The odds are getting even smaller.
Everyone who has taken steps to start up something will tell you it doesn’t always turn out as the plan says it will be. It seems everyone understands better when they get into the ecosystem.
Personally, my journey to starting my brand and business wasn’t any different.
Somehow, years before I took the first step, I had this picture of having more than enough funds to set up an office space, run continuous ads for months, produce thousands worth of products, and just master-scale within the first year and half (wherever those thoughts came from. lol)
As you now expect, there was practically nothing. I had spent so much developing my skills, buying books and materials, increasing my knowledge and I was left with nothing; nothing enough to have the mega startup I dreamt of.
But I needed to start anyway.
At that point, the word “startup” made new sense to me. I understood why it wasn’t called starting but startup: you had to start, then you go up; or start upwards, which means you were on the ground.
Starting actually happens at ground level, then you find your way up.
Now, being left with just a desire and so much substance within me that I could not afford to just sit and do nothing, I started thinking of ways to outsource what I didn’t have or precisely, make do of what was available.
You know, most times, our eyes never see how much potential is embedded within what we have already because we have trained our mind to believe that the “seamless plan” we have developed, or anything that looks like it, is the only route to where we are going.
But this is earth; the shortest way to reach West is sometimes going East.
Once we can close our eyes to the “ideal resources” that we “need” and focus on what we have at hand, we will discover more potential than we knew ever existed.
Sometimes, the great resources are the despised things around us, like an abandoned electronic gadget. Other times, we are the great potential— our secondary hobby or enchanting personality.
This was where I was. I was able to find a currency that I always knew I had but never knew was a purchasing currency.
It was a strength of character.
Over the years, through engaging in various volunteering, I had been able to build up credibility for myself (not my brand or business now).
People had proven me to be committed to duty; others have proven my ability to make good out of whatever was committed to my hands.
I had passed several tests of financial integrity, I had passed various morality tests. In a simple statement, I had gathered social capital through strength of character.
The keyword here is not social capital but strength of character.
With strength of character, getting unlisted “VC firms” and individuals to fund my dream wasn’t too difficult. In fact, it was almost spontaneous.
Without asking directly for help, by just sharing my ideas with them, it seemed they were already waiting for me to bring up a project for them to fund.
This funding didn’t come as big runway budgets but they were enough to take my startup step by step the startup process, and all the IRR the investors wanted was my growth.
Clearing up the doubt of why it was so, there were other people who presented their ideas to the same individuals and didn’t receive any support.
You call it favour? I call it social capital built by strength of character because really, favour isn’t luck; it is a workable possibility that can be worked and reworked again.
According to Corporate Finance Institute, the three qualities VC firms look for in a startup are (i) huge market (ii) differentiating technology (that is, a system different from what everyone else is doing), and (iii) incredible people.
“Of the above three criteria (market, technology, people) most venture capital firms will say the decision largely comes down to people,” because a great idea with the wrong people won’t amount to much but a wrong idea in the hand of the right people can still be transformed into something great.
It’s like Simon Sinek said, “we should invest in people, not ideas.”
Strength of character, you must know, is not a currency that purchases the love of VC firms only, it is actually one of the principal determinants of the growth of startups, especially when there’s just a sole entrepreneur.
Many people will meet you before they see your product or service, since at that point you are the salesperson, marketer, distributor, HR, customer service, and sometimes, the brand ambassador.
Strength of character will get you your first client, referrals, sales, feedback, debenture, until you are big enough for people to trust your brand and product.
But the trust must first be in you.
Some indispensable character traits that will sell you anywhere or rather buy you money include:
- Integrity. You must remain who you say you are in all circumstances. Integrity is about being true to your words, and being true to the truth.
- Faithfulness. You must be able to remain faithful to any task placed in your hands until desired results are obtained. Abandoning projects repeatedly does great harm to the trust others have in you.
- Respect/positive regard towards others. If you don’t take people seriously they won’t take you seriously either.
Remember, strength of character gets you social capital and social capital is the strongest capital you will ever need in growing your business or brand — it will buy you money.
Starting up a successful business or brand is largely made impossible by the absence of capital. Strength of character is an important currency that can help you get social capital and in turn, money. Integrity, faithfulness and respect are important character traits that give strength of character.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.