Over 10,000 business books are published each year – an endless glut of advice on entrepreneurship for the taking, mostly given by an older generation who has been around the block and has decades of experience to draw from. The advice is sound but often is not tailored to a young entrepreneur (20s). Add in the fact that the pandemic has changed the landscape of entrepreneurship making success look different.
As a Gen Z entrepreneur myself, I’ve learned a lot in the past several years about what it takes to succeed and what it takes to do the work. Our generation is one of the most entrepreneurial in the modern era. Here are four of the most important things I’ve learned along the way.
This one can be read as trite as at first glance, but I actually think it’s the most important advice I can give. Individuality is one of the hallmarks of our generation – we want to stand out and be unique – and it’s become evident how important this is as I’ve built my business. For your business to succeed, you have to be yourself; if you’re trying to imitate or copy something else, you’re going to be exhausted from doing so, which will ultimately take your energy away from building something great. And, you’re not going to get a good end product because it won’t be authentic to you. The market doesn’t need a business you model after another business you think is cool; it needs your original idea in a way that only you can bring to the table.
Know What You Know
It’s well documented how entrepreneurial Gen Z is. A study from earlier this summer found that almost two-thirds of Gen Z Americans have started or intend to start their own business, but that doesn’t make doing so any less intimidating. Pitching to investors, fundraising, selling your ideas – it can all make you question your idea and yourself. Something I found myself doing early on was disqualifying myself with the speech I was using, saying things like, “I don’t know if this is a good idea, but…” or “this might be crazy, but…” When you’re new at something, anything really, it’s easy to assume others know more than you, but you have to fight that urge to make yourself smaller. Remember that you’re starting a business because you believe you can provide something that was lacking and that you’re the best person to do it. I’m not advocating for you to position yourself as an expert in areas you’re not – no one should be their own business attorney, for example, and I’d highly recommend getting a great accountant – but don’t assume because you’re young and early on your journey that you don’t know your stuff.
Curiosity is Key
As I mentioned above, the best businesses fill a need that someone thought they could meet. But how do you identify that need? It all starts with curiosity. You have to be willing to take the time to notice things around you and question them. Being curious is what led me to completely pivot our business into what it is today. Daylyy started out as a job board for college students, something very different from the social media platform we’re building now. While in the research phase, we were collecting user feedback on an interactive and social feedback element of the product and I kept seeing the same sentiment come up over and over again – how people were fed up with the produced, fake nature of social media. From there, I followed the spark: what if we could make social media better? What if I could change it? That’s how we ended up with Daylyy – but without the curiosity to follow an instinct I had, we never would have pivoted.
Be Honest with Yourself
One of the reasons Daylyy exists is to create a better, healthier social media experience filled with less toxicity and fake glamorization. Social media glamorizes a lot of things, but one that I see a lot of is “hustle” culture. Some influencers would have you believe that starting your own business is nothing short of the most fun you could ever have all day, every day while saving the world all from your minimalist-chic office. While being an entrepreneur has countless exhilarating, rewarding moments, most moments are far from glamorous. You’ll need to make sacrifices that will most likely make you feel out of the loop and behind your friends. Nearly every single one of my college friends moved to NYC after graduation and they’re having a great time living that post-grad, 20’s in the city life. To make my vision work, that wasn’t an option for me; I needed to save money to get Daylyy off the ground, so I stayed close to home. I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made for a single second; building this company is my passion and it fills my cup every day, but it didn’t just land in my lap. I had to be willing to give things up to make it work.
Entrepreneurship is a wild ride – you’ll have super high highs and the lowest of lows, sometimes all in one day. But it can also be the best decision you’ll ever make if you have the right mindset and stay true to yourself.
If Austin Anderson, Gen-Z founder of new social media platform Daylyy, had his way, people would post more and worry less about impressing others, and stop being their own worst critic. Social media isn’t going away, so he rewired social media as we know it. Austin’s startup journey began pre-pandemic when he was a recent graduate of the College of Charleston and created a job board app for college students. As the platform progressed and the next step was to design an interactive, social element, his user feedback revealed people were becoming increasingly fed up with the fake nature of current social media. That’s when he decided to pivot and take the future of social media into his own hands. In 2021, the path of Anderson’s original app forever shifted from careers to content, and his mission became what Daylyy is today. Daylyy is a gut punch to the platforms that breed negativity and bullying and offers a casual social media environment focused on authentic content, a positive and healthy experience, and sincere relationships. His message is simple: You belong here.
Entrepreneur photo courtesy: Austin Anderson