In Part I, I discussed my searching of what to do in life as it pertains to a career and discovering that I am happiest when pursuing entrepreneurial projects much more that a steady high paying but mundane career. The problem with that is my discovery happened later in life after marriage and children and “settling down”, hence making me a nontraditional startup entrepreneur by today’s standards. In this follow up, I discuss the obstacles in the way and how I am overcoming them.
Obstacle 1 — Time
Because I need to work full time, I have less time to focus on startup projects. And because I also have a family and spend time with them, there is even less time. This is why it’s so hard to turn an idea into a business at this stage in life and many are discouraged to try.
But I have one thing in my favor: my work schedule. You see I work 12 hour days, so I work about 15 days a month. This gives me extra days off that most people don’t have, and believe me, I’m taking advantage of it. Some weeks I will have Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Thursday, and Friday off. And then other weeks it’s less. But I get weekdays off, so I can conduct business or travel during the week, for at least a couple days at a time. I can fly to San Francisco for a day or two if I had to.
If you are a nontraditional entrepreneur with a busy full time job with only evenings and weekends available, you can still overcome this obstacle. But you will need to prioritize some things and make some sacrifices to achieve your goals. Maybe you will sacrifice sleep, watching tv, washing your car, playing video games (I hear some 40 somethings still play video games!), home projects, or other recreational things. I would not recommend sacrificing family though. It will just need to their resentment and your eventual regret, in my opinion. By there are plenty of other things to sacrifice. Remember the nontraditional startup entrepreneur route is not the easiest!
Obstacle 2 — Resources
I know front end web development and have been doing websites since 1996 when I taught myself HTML and made text-based websites (best way to learn it, by the way). But I am not too experienced with coding languages and can only do some basic database commands but that’s about it. So I needed a co-founder that did know what I don’t, and I just happened to already know someone — my business partner is a web developer. Perfect……or is it? You see, he is in the same position as me: employed full time, family, etc. He’s another nontraditional startup entrepreneur. So his time is limited, perhaps more than mine.
Because of our situations and limited time, we realized maybe we need to outsource our project. I mean, my co-founder codes all day at work. It’s hard to come home, eat dinner, see the kids, and then start coding more in the evening. That is very hard to do. Albeit, he has done it. He created online auction sites for llamas and alpacas from scratch. And he coded it in the evenings and weekends when he had time to spare.
But for a new site like LivestockCity, we knew we would not get very far fast without extra help. We considered giving up some company equity for a third person that would be a coder and come in to code for us. But that was actually hard to find someone. After two candidates said they were not interested, we decided it might be better to not give up equity anyway. We decided to just outsource and we would pay for the outsourcing by hosting online llama auctions. This is exactly what we did. This way, we could get the bulk of the website completed and then we could take over. I know many look down upon this, but I say, when it is necessary, it is a great option. We would not have a site right now without outsourcing. We don’t know any millennials that want to work for our idea — they have their own ideas!
Where We are At Now
We are close to our official launching, but first we are fixing and changing some sections we feel differently about now. Looking back we should have implemented a “lean startup” approach, but it’s too late for that now. Over the the next few months, we will trying to attract users, talking to lots of livestock farms, and making pivots as needed. All the while, we will still be at our regular jobs. We might utilize some family members and friends to help us out as needed. Once momentum begins building, things could happen quickly. To date we haven’t really pursued investors — it’s just not something we are trying to do right now. Besides, I have always believed that if our business is really great, investors will come to us.
This without a doubt is the single scariest thing I will do. I will let go of my security blanket job and move to full time CEO of LivestockCity. But as a reminder, most startups fail. I have dependents, and this is a risky move. Yet, the startup will require 100% of my attention. The question is when will I do this? Will the timing ever feel right or comfortable or safe? I have a feeling it will never feel safe. There’s no guarantee it will be a safe move.
Up to now, all of my business endeavors have been part time. I did web design, fish breeding, and ran llama/alpaca marketing websites part time, while generating part time income. And I always wished I could do these things full time. Those businesses were not big enough to be full time businesses because the markets were very small. LivestockCity has the potential to be a full time business with markets that are 20–1000+ times bigger than what we normally dealt with. I’m not ready to quit my job yet. Taking risks does not mean acting foolishly. I think I will know when the time is right.
Yes, the nontraditional startup entrepreneur has some extra hurdles to contend with. Perhaps I’m a little late to the game. Or am I on a continuing journey that started back in graduate school when I decided that this new thing called the internet could be used to sell Siamese Fighting Fish (and shareware to go with) and then that led to obtaining and selling llamas, which led to creating national llama/alpaca marketing/auction websites and gave me the idea to expand it into all livestock? The timing has never been right in the past, but I’ve never felt so close as I do now either.