Dream big, start small. It would be cliché at this point to mention the multi-day building process Rome underwent before it became Rome, but it’s cliché for a reason. It is true; Rome was not built in a day. Neither were any of the most successful businesses that are here today.
Too many people all over the world have big dreams but cannot (or will not) act on them because they want to start big as well. Google, Apple, Microsoft – the giants that entrepreneurs all long for their companies to become started off most modestly in their founder’s garage. How many Facebooks will never reach the cradle because those in possession of the idea want to start in a mansion?
The amount of resources and opportunities one has access to will certainly vary from country to country, and most of the time even within countries. However, people are people and everyone is at risk of falling into the same intellectual traps that hold them back.
Enabling Entrepreneurs Abroad
This was what we found while conducting business training in Haiti. One does not need to travel to Haiti to be aware of the lack of opportunity and financial resources there. But what Haitians lack in resources they make up for in hope and perseverance. Wanting to help like-minded people achieve their dreams, Business Improvement Group partnered up with Breath of Life Haiti to help entrepreneurs – and potential entrepreneurs – in a remote mountain village in Desarmes.
There we met 60 aspiring entrepreneurs that were dreaming big, but believed were held back by their lack of resources. When we started speaking to them about entrepreneurship, one woman mentioned that she wanted to start a bakery but couldn’t figure out how to get all the resources she would need to get started. We took the opportunity to turn this into a group learning exercise, with everyone shouting out items this woman would need to open her bakery. There was the obvious – a building, a large oven, the ingredients for bread, wood for the oven, etc. – and less tangible things like financing and experience selling food. With the list complete and the estimated costs equal to several years of typical Haitian earnings, the woman felt vindicated, seeing no way she could ever get all of this in a remote part of a desperately poor country.
But that was just the issue holding her back, which lead into the biggest service our training team could offer this woman.
Go with What You Have
Did she have an oven in her home? Yes. Great! She would not need to invest in a building nor an oven. She’d never thought about starting out in her home. We asked if she baked bread in her home before. Yes. Great! She would not need to invest in any of the utensils or other items required. One-by-one, we crossed items off the list until only the base ingredients and wood for the oven were remaining – and at a cost that as much more within her reach.
We asked her if it were possible to bake a dozen loaves one morning, take them to market and sell them, then reinvest the profits. Make fifteen loaves the next day, and so on. We asked her if she could start that week. Yes. Great!
Rather than waiting until she had everything she needed to pursue her dream of owning a bakery, she needed to get started using the resources that she already had available. Dream big, and start small. There’s nothing wrong with thinking into the future about having a grand bakery in the city churning out thousands of loaves a week, but there is something wrong with letting that vision hold you back today. Other aspiring entrepreneurs in attendance began to follow in suit, most notably was a middle-aged gentleman who had sketched out a detailed multi-year plan to go from being a roadside vendor of rice and beans to a full-service market store with 5 employees!
BIG in the Beginning
We wanted them to understand that this concept is universally true, even in the most prosperous economies like the United States. While we may have more resources and opportunities here than most other countries in the world, aspiring entrepreneurs are just as stymied here as our friends in Haiti. So we shared our humble beginnings to further drive home the essential characteristic of a resourceful entrepreneur. Business Improvement Group incorporated in December of 2011 on a shoestring budget, using our seed money for initial marketing efforts and licensing training content. We opted to forego formal office space and would regularly meet up in libraries and coffee shops.
Initial marketing efforts did not bring any clients, and we quickly ran through all our cash. Taking on a full-time job, I began taking on small consulting projects through my personal network, funneling 100% of the side job revenues into the business to begin building back the cash balance. What I found was that the completion of each side project brought another side project. Finally, in April of 2016, we had enough cash on hand and client work lined up to fully support me as our first full time consultant. Again, completion of each project brought on more client work; more than enough for one person but not enough for two. To cover the additional work, we’ve recruited several part-time consultants and interns. Plans are currently in place to support 3 full-time consultants within the next several months.
The Birth of a BIG Legacy
The idea of starting small and slowly growing your business was anything but new to me.. I learned about humble beginnings at the age of 15, I began working part-time after school at Passaic Electric Motor Shop, a small repair shop owned by my grandfather, John Doremus. I learned many life lessons over the years at “Pop’s Shop”.
The story of Passaic Electric Motor Shop follows the dream BIG concept perfectly. My grandfather started his business many years prior to my employment there. Obviously, he didn’t always own the store space, nor was it passed down to him from family. No, John used to work in a plumbing supply store. However, store customers would on occasion need an electric motor repaired, and they knew that he knew how to do it. After a long day in the store, my grandfather would bring home the motors that customers would bring to him for repair. After building up a clientele , he eventually bought a shop and employed several “motor men” over his tenure of 50+ years in business.
John had a great run with Passaic Electric, making many friends in the community while helping companies and homeowners alike. On February 13, 2009, my grandfather passed from this life. The shop was closed and the building was sold. However, his legacy continues to live on.
Don’t wait any longer – go out and start something today; you never know what it may one day become.
Dream BIG, start small!