Lessons from a Start-Up

I had the amazing opportunity to create a non-profit organization with my classmates in a First Year Seminar class my freshman year at UNC. Even though I am less involved in the organization now than when we began, I think about it all the time. Because I was by no means an expert at start-ups, I had a lot to learn, so I thought I would share some of my take-aways from the experience in the form of a listicle.

  1. Passion is what drives start-ups. It doesn’t matter how “good” your idea is, or how much people “should” care about your cause. Whether it is a non-profit organization or a corporate start-up, in order for it to succeed, you have to be passionate about it. You have to believe in it, and feel the drive that makes you want others to believe in it too. When the organization is first born, everyone will be full of energy and pumped up about it. However, the passion you have is the fuel that you need to sustain that energy past the “honeymoon phase,” if you will.
  2. Build a strong leadership team assigned to specific tasks. Delegating tasks is hard, especially in a start-up where there may be only a few people working together who all want to do a little bit of everything. However, making sure that each person is responsible solely for a few things will ensure that those things get done. No one has to stay confined in their one role, but they can be the one to take charge of their few projects at the least. This ensures that everything gets done, and keeps the start-up from dying because of forgetting to keep up with the maintenance.
  3. Make sure everyone knows the “why.” What makes start-ups so inspiring is that someone identified a problem and had a passion for developing a solution. When new members join your team, make sure they know the full story – or at least the key details. That may entail giving them a 30 minute history lesson on how the problem and solution came about, or it may mean taking a quick road trip to visit the place where the action happened. As the start-up grows, you will probably want to develop some sort of on-boarding education program. I believe that this is what will keep the original mission alive, regardless of how leadership/employees/products/goals change over time.
  4. Have regular organization-wide meetings. Pick a time to have everyone get together to discuss the projects they are working on, their progress, and any other general updates. For a start-up business that has an office, this may mean meeting once on Mondays and once on Fridays to keep everyone on the same page week-by-week. For an on-campus college start-up, this could mean meeting once every two weeks via Google Hangout. This will help hold everyone accountable, encourage collaboration, and keep everyone in the know.

I’d love to hear what others have learned from their start-up experiences, so please comment below!

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