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Lesa Milan on how to succeed as an entrepreneur

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

This article was written by Benjamin Davison.

Reality television fans will likely know the name Lesa Milan from her recent debut as one of the stars of Bravo’s series “The Real Housewives of Dubai. Others may be familiar with her Mina Roe line of maternity clothes or her My Little Makers toys designed to help young minds thrive. More than just a TV personality, Milan is a real and accomplished person who takes great pride in both her achievements and her authenticity. “What you see is what you get,” she says. “I don’t have to pretend.” 

What you see today is a Lesa Milan who is not just thriving as an entrepreneur but also as a wife, mother, and all-around well-rounded human being. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Milan was raised in Miami. She stayed in Florida for college, obtaining a degree in journalism with a minor in fashion. Along the way, Milan took the win at Miss Jamaica International in 2010 and eventually relocated to Dubai with her husband, a highly successful real-estate developer. At 33, Milan is living the American dream, even if she happens to be living it in Dubai. While it might seem like her entrepreneurial success came overnight, the truth is that Milan, like any successful businessperson, has worked extremely hard to get to where she is today. What kind of lessons can an entrepreneur learn from her journey to success? 

Lesa Milan: the beginning

Milan’s journey to entrepreneurship began when she was competing on the beauty circuit. While she enjoyed competing, she had a very limited budget for her wardrobe. Rather than letting her budget compromise her sense of style, Milan began designing and creating her own apparel. Soon, her designs began winning awards, and it became evident that Milan had a knack for creating fashionable and flattering clothing. Her design game was so good that other beauty queens began booking her to customize their wardrobes. 

Her days of creating custom apparel for beauty queens laid the groundwork for her next project. Years later, Milan was living in Dubai and pregnant with her first son. While shopping for maternity clothes, she became despondent at the state of maternity clothing. Most of the maternity options available in stores were “very outdated and very old-fashioned,” says Milan. “I felt insecure putting on clothes my grandmother would wear. It just didn’t work.” 

Many women share Milan’s opinion of maternity wear, knowing that most of it is neither flattering nor fashionable. Indeed, many young women have a stigma associated with typical maternity clothes. Milan knew that there was a significant gap in the market and that she had the skills and experience to fill it. 

Look good, feel good

Some may say pregnancy isn’t all about fashion, but chances are those same people wouldn’t be caught dead in a muumuu. While fashion certainly isn’t everything, there’s a lot of truth to the idea that if you look good, you feel good. Taking the time to tend to your appearance is part of a healthful self-care routine. Rather than compromise her appearance, Milan bought oversized garments from traditional non-maternity lines and tailored them to her body. Women would often stop and ask where she had gotten such great maternity clothes, and Milan realized that she had an opportunity. Rather than consigning pregnant women to the burlap sacks and similarly frumpy garments that traditional maternity clothes had become, she could build a line of high-end, fashionable maternity wear that would empower women to feel good while carrying their babies. 

Milan took her idea to her husband, who is not just a financier but also a successful entrepreneur. They talked over the details. He thought her concept was brilliant. Milan had successfully identified a massive gap in the retail market that she was uniquely equipped to fill. Her husband provided some seed funding, and before long, Milan had launched Mina Roe, her now-famous line of elegant and beautiful maternity clothes. 

Today, Milan has leveraged her own experiences as a young, pregnant, fashion-conscious woman into a business that is designed from the ground up to empower pregnant women to look their best. Mina Roe is a leading brand in maternity clothes. Milan’s designs are so good that fashion-forward superstars like Beyonce have worn them. Naturally, Milan is very proud of her achievements as a maternity designer. “Whenever I tell people I’m a maternity wear designer, they feel sorry for me,” she explains. “But [Mina Roe] competes with the best of non-maternity wear.” While traditional maternity clothes often seem uninspired, Mina Roe’s line of products is designed to help pregnant women look good and feel good about themselves during the changes of pregnancy. Milan is pioneering a new idea explicitly designed to empower women to feel their best. In a few short years, Milan has shaken the maternity wear industry and given pregnant women real options to dress fashionably and feel good while carrying a baby. 

Launching Mina Roe

Mina Roe is a success story. Some might argue that Milan had an advantage, given her husband’s ability to provide seed capital. But even though Milan did get some initial funding from him, he didn’t give her any special treatment. He and his company treated her exactly like any other entrepreneur or founder they work with. Milan had seed capital, but it was a finite quantity, which meant she had a limited budget and many responsibilities. Like any other entrepreneur, she had to figure out the nuts and bolts of her operation and find ways to make the business work without going bankrupt or floundering in the market. 

One of the earliest lessons Milan learned with Mina Roe was about budgeting. Successfully launching an e-commerce business is more expensive than one might expect. “We underestimated everything,” explains Milan. “We did not budget for marketing. In an e-commerce store, you don’t have foot traffic like a store in a mall. Marketing is essential.” Without a proper marketing initiative, Milan struggled to connect with her audience. Rather than give up or ask for more money, Milan took the initiative to sell her products the old-fashioned way. While she reoriented her business and developed a more realistic marketing strategy, she sold her products in person from a location in a local market in Dubai. 

While selling at the market, Milan also worked all major business roles in Mina Roe. She did her own accounting, designed products, worked customer service, and packed and shipped products. “The only thing I didn’t do was probably load the airplanes and the trucks with the packages. You know, DHL did that for me.” As if that wasn’t enough, Milan also taught herself how to do search engine optimization, social marketing, and advertising. 

The key lesson from the early days at Mina Roe, says Milan, is that entrepreneurs should do their research and account for marketing, especially if they’re running an e-commerce operation. Customers are highly unlikely to stumble across your website or product by accident: you have to build a sufficient online presence to get your product in front of the right consumer at the right time. People won’t find your product by accident anymore. You have to bring your product to the market to get the market to your product. 

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

Riding the small business roller coaster

Milan describes managing the enormous workload at Mina Roe as being “like a roller coaster.” Filling every role in your company is challenging, and there were days when the load seemed almost unbearable. But Milan, despite her polished and luxurious lifestyle, is not a delicate flower who wilts under pressure. She is very much not a quitter. “If I start something, I have to see it through,” she says. Even when she faced massive obstacles and felt overwhelmed, “I felt like failure was not an option,” she says. 

Part of Milan’s persistence and determination comes from her family. She was raised by a single mother who had also been raised by a single mother. She comes from a humble background, and even though she lives a high-end lifestyle, she is very much a real person. She is not a trust-fund baby or someone who inherited vast generational wealth. Her predecessors “moved mountains” with scanty resources and endless obstacles, and Milan – aware of this history – was determined to make the most of the opportunities available to her by leveraging the lessons she learned from her closest family. “I come from strong women,” she says. 

Further fueling her passion for her business was her desire to prove herself to herself and others. As a designer, she was often lumped into the “creatives” bucket: people didn’t take her seriously in terms of business savvy because there’s a stereotype that creators, artists, and designers are brilliant minds who are not cut out to be businesspeople. And while Milan’s husband was supportive of her business and believed in her abilities, she felt driven to prove herself to him. Milan wanted to break the mold and prove that she was just as good an executive as she was a designer. 

Becoming a businesswoman

Despite her desire to prove herself as a businessperson, Milan knew that there were some gaps in her knowledge. “I was not a business person,” she explains. “100% I was not.” Although she was well-educated, she didn’t have any formal business training. Her journalism and fashion degree didn’t include finance, accounting, marketing, and advertising. But even though she lacked formal training, Milan is a determined self-starter who learns on the fly. “I knew I had all the tools and the ability to become [a businessperson],” she says. 

Milan’s willingness to embrace learning is a valuable lesson for any entrepreneur. It’s important to believe in yourself and have a positive idea about your own capabilities, but it’s also important to engage with reality and figure out where your knowledge gaps are. While you’re likely very skilled in what you do, there are likely things you don’t know. It’s okay to take a class, read a few books, or self-study to get better at running your business. While learning, you should continue incorporating your niche knowledge and real-world experiences into your business practices.  Indeed, while she didn’t have an MBA, Milan did have an in-depth understanding of her target market and an intimate knowledge of her own products. She knew how to design and made sure to focus on using that skill to create good products while she learned to operate her business. 

One of the keys to Milan’s success is that she focused on what she was passionate about as she operated her company. She was (and is) in business for the right reasons. She didn’t just want to make a quick buck. She wanted to change the way women experienced pregnancy. “I knew I had something that the world needed. And because of that, I was like, I don’t want to let myself down. But I don’t want to let my brand down either because I really believe in it.” Milan’s motivation, in other words, was based on passion. Her drive to succeed came from an internal need to change the world and be the best version of herself that she could be, not from an external desire to obtain money or fame. 

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

CEO, entrepreneur…and mom

Her passion for her business is real and tangible, but Milan’s core sense of purpose is built on her identity as a mother. “I’m a mom first, and then I’m an entrepreneur,” Milan says. Since she was young, she knew she wanted to have children and raise a family. Being a mom is a deeply meaningful and important part of her life. That passion for parenting is a big part of what has driven her business to success. Milan’s goal is to empower moms and moms-to-be to feel their best and embrace the changes that come with pregnancy rather than hiding them. She knows and understands what pregnant women want and need because she has birthed three children. 

As much work as it is being an entrepreneur, being a mother is far more difficult. “People don’t give housewives and stay-at-home moms much credit,” Milan says. She goes on to explain that modern women are constantly being made to feel like they’re inadequate if they are “just” a mom or housewife. But raising children and maintaining households are both full-time endeavors in their own right. Tending to the physical and emotional needs of children is difficult and exhausting, and yet, women are often made to feel like they should be doing more. “I think social media especially has bullied everyone into thinking that they need to…start a business to be successful. And that’s not true,” Milan says. Being a mom is a lot of work, and women who dedicate themselves to the noble enterprise of mothering are doing more than enough work without having to engage in hustle culture. Indeed, Milan explains, as difficult as entrepreneurship is, parenting is harder. “Going to work was almost like a little vacation,” she laughs. Parenting is a full-time job, and Milan says she would never want women to feel bad or inadequate for not piling more work onto themselves. “I’m not trying to discourage entrepreneurs,” she explains, but people who are thinking of launching their own enterprise should gain a deeper understanding of what it requires before they decide to dive in. 

So how exactly does Milan manage to keep her business running while parenting three young children? The answer, she tells us, is in compartmentalization. You should be able to turn off Mom Mode to turn on Boss Mode when the time is right, and vice-versa. If you try to manage all of your responsibilities in one mode, you may begin to feel overwhelmed. If you’re at the kids’ soccer game, be at the soccer game, not buried in Outlook or Slack. And if you’re at a board meeting, be at a board meeting. Separating your worlds, and building healthy boundaries between work and family, is essential to staying sane while building your business. “Being a mom in itself is so hard, and it is so much work, that if I allowed it to intertwine with being an entrepreneur, I feel like I would have probably quit…I’m a mom first, and then I’m an entrepreneur.” 

Building the brand 

When you’re launching your business, it’s hard to overstate the importance of branding. While some conflate branding with advertising, the branding process is more than just picking cool fonts and colors and making ads: those tasks are advertising, not branding. Building a brand is designing the feeling and experience you give the consumer. When Milan was building Mina Roe, how did she manage the branding process and pick a feeling or experience to give to her customers? 

“The first thing everyone suggested was me being the face of the brand,” says Milan. Many of her peers thought that she should be the spokesperson and representative of Mina Roe. They envisioned her as the face of the brand. But Milan had reservations about this idea. She believed that the brand was strong enough to survive on its own. She also worried about the ramifications of conflating her image with the brand. “I believe haters do exist,” she explains. “I think sometimes people will not buy a product, not because the product isn’t good, but …because they [think] oh, she already has a lot of money, I’m not gonna give her extra money.” 

Another benefit to not having a celebrity face attached to the brand is that one can leave the baggage of the celebrity world behind. “Does anyone know who owns Louis Vuitton? Or do they just go out and buy Louis Vuitton?,” asks Milan. She wants people to like her products on their own merit, not because they also like her. The converse is also true: Milan worried that some customers might see her and decide not to buy because they disliked her hair, her skin, or something else about her. She decided that Mina Roe could stand on its own without needing her to be the face of the product. “I just needed my products to speak for themselves,” she says.  

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

Should you be your brand?

Milan’s decision not to be the face of Mina Roe sparked some controversy. Her husband, for example, wanted her to be the face of the brand to help generate a story that customers could relate to. He reasoned that if customers could see the Mina Roe story and associate it with Milan, it might help them connect with the brand. 

Milan’s vision, however, was for customers to connect with the brand more emotionally. Rather than connecting because they liked Milan or her personal story, she wanted her customers to connect to the brand based on how they felt when they were wearing it. The feeling of empowerment and positivity that comes from wearing something beautiful is the feeling she wants customers to associate with Mina Roe. She wants her customers to understand that they don’t have to settle for the frumpy burlap sacks that are commonly sold as maternity wear: they can be pregnant, beautiful, and fashionable.  

But aren’t there cases where being the face of your own brand and promoting your own enterprise is a good idea? Does Milan think this is a bad strategy for everyone? In Milan’s opinion, building a brand with an independent identity is better. First, having a brand with its own identity creates the impression that the brand is bigger than it is. “Perception is reality,” explains Milan. In the early days of Mina Roe, when she was handling all of the brand’s responsibilities, she was her own customer service rep. People would sometimes call multiple times and not realize they were speaking to the same person, which created an impression that the brand was bigger than it was. 

Another reason Milan chose not to be the face of Mina Roe was that it empowered her to run the company without having to worry about her own image. “Before, I used to be just like, run that ad now. Now, I’m like, okay, let me see the ad.” She explains that putting your name on your brand adds a whole dimension of pressure that doesn’t exist when your brand is its own entity. 

Keep your identities separated

Keeping your brand and true self separated prevents you from conflating your identities. Any experienced entrepreneur knows that failure is an option. Be that as it may, failure usually doesn’t feel good. If you’ve tied your entire identity into your brand and it fails, you might feel as though you are a failure. If customers or other people talk smack about your brand or dispense cutting criticisms of it, and your brand is tied to your identity, you will take it personally and feel bad. Compartmentalizing your identity and your brand is essential for your mental health and well-being. 

Once you cross the line and associate yourself with your brand, you’ll feel an extra layer of pressure on everything you do. Now that the world knows she’s the mind behind Mina Roe, Milan says the vibes are a little different. “It’s extra pressure,” she says. Before coming forward, she says, “I was solely focused on the business.” But once you’ve associated your identity and yourself with your brand, it’s impossible to go back. Keeping your identity and brand in separate mental compartments is a good idea for any entrepreneur, especially in the early days. When you inevitably experience setbacks or failure, compartmentalizing helps you not to internalize the failure and minimizes the emotional distress that failure can bring. As your brand becomes more successful and develops a more sophisticated individual identity, it might make sense to come forward. Publicly taking ownership of a thriving company is a hugely validating experience.   

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

The validation of success

Running a company that isn’t directly tied to your image builds a different kind of confidence and self-validation. In Milan’s case, where she is a well-known personality, attaching her face to a product might seem to some consumers like a cash grab or even create the impression that she’s just a celebrity endorser. To avoid confusion, Milan quietly grew the brand for about five years before coming forward as the mind behind the business. During that time, celebrities like Beyonce found and wore her brand, all without Milan having to lean on her connections or use her image to generate traction for Mina Roe. Building the business behind a brand name that was not her name was a validating experience for Milan: she has proven, beyond any doubt, that she is a skilled businesswoman and a talented designer. By building success before claiming success, Milan says, “You’ll have that inner confidence and self-validation…you’re untouchable.” 

Balancing it all

Getting to the point where we can publicly proclaim the success of our enterprise is everybody’s dream. But sometimes, it feels like there’s no way to get there without compromising on our family, our social lives, or our hobbies. How can people balance their lives to get to that point? The lifestyle of the modern entrepreneur is often rather hectic, despite the popularized image of the Tech Bro who works two hours a day. It’s one thing to run a business, but it’s quite another to run a business while maintaining an appropriate work-life balance and caring for yourself. Like any other entrepreneur, Milan’s workload is intense. Not only is she a very involved parent and a devoted wife, but she also runs a company and stars in “The Real Housewives of Dubai”and she does it all while still going to the gym and taking care of herself. What can we learn from how Milan balance all of her commitments? 

‍You can’t pour from an empty cup

Milan’s advice is simple and scientifically valid: you should start by taking care of yourself. If you are not operating at your peak capacity, you will struggle to fulfill your various obligations appropriately. Milan is an exercise buff: on a typical day, she spends at least 45 minutes at the gym before she tackles her other responsibilities. “I’m a cardio junkie,” says Milan. “I think working out definitely helps me to escape everything.” Milan is so fit that she is considering becoming a triathlete. 

Regular exercise is, indeed, an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Science shows us that regular exercise is not only good for the body but also improves our cognitive function and mood. If you want to perform at your absolute best, there’s no way to dodge exercise. Doctors recommend getting 20-30 minutes a day of exercise at least five days a week. This sounds overwhelming until you realize that basic things like walking count as exercise. Getting up half an hour earlier and taking a walk is an achievable exercise goal for almost anybody. 

In addition to her exercise routine, Milan makes time to engage in her social life. “I enjoy hanging out with my girlfriends and just letting go,” she says. She loves to go out dancing or spend a relaxing night sipping wine and talking about life. This, too, is excellent advice. Part of being a well-balanced and healthy person is having a social life. We are deeply social organisms who need human connections to thrive, no matter how much of a curmudgeonly front some people may put up. Taking the time to meet your social needs by relaxing with friends is an excellent way to improve or maintain your mental and emotional health. When your mind operates at its best, you’ll feel a new kind of energy. 

Part of Milan’s social life now revolves around her friend group that stars on “The Real Housewives of Dubai.” The lifestyle portrayed in “The Real Housewives of Dubai” is true to life.  “Yes, we do brunch. Yes, we do lunch. We do all of those nice, fabulous things. But we’re Dubai girls. We’re always out in the desert. That’s our vibe,” Milan says. Indeed, Milan was recently bucked off the back of a camel while filming the show. Milan, who has had previous experience with camels, sensed that the animal was tired or in a bad mood. “You have to listen to animals,” explains Milan. “If they’re not in the mood, you cannot force them.” Despite her trepidation, she hopped on the camel, which immediately bucked her. “I broke a nail, scratched my arm, scratched my leg. I was bruised for like three days,” says Milan. 

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

Making time

Milan has a demanding schedule even without the added workload of filming a TV show. It’s one thing to encourage self-care and socializing, but realistically, how can anyone achieve all of that? There are 24 hours in a day. How does she manage to exercise, parent, work, cook, and socialize? 

“Sometimes I feel like I pull extra hours out of somewhere,” says Milan. “But to be honest, I’m very organized. I’m quite an organized person.” Milan says that making the effort to organize her life has saved her a tremendous amount of time and energy and significantly reduced the anxiety of everyday life. To keep on top of things, she schedules her day. This includes scheduling social events, workouts, and family time. 

While this might sound very detailed, Milan schedules her time in blocks. “I’m not as granular as Elon [Musk], but I am pretty on it when it comes to my schedule,” she explains. She tends to schedule her time in blocks rather than micromanaging it. She might schedule a four-hour block for work, a three-hour block of shooting for “Housewives,” and two hours with her husband in the evening. 

A typical day for Milan begins at 6. The kids are out the door to school by 7:30, and Milan is at the gym by 8:15. She works out for about 45 minutes, then heads to work. She has a working lunch, then in the afternoon she picks up the kids and takes them to any extracurriculars they have before heading home for a family dinner at 6:30. The kids are off to bed by 7:30, and she makes it a point to spend at least two hours with her husband in the evening before heading to bed around 10. 

The one drawback to being intensely scheduled, says Milan, is that it affects your ability to be spontaneous. Her plans can flex, but it would be difficult to incorporate an unplanned three-hour dinner date. Regardless, taking control of your time and getting organized makes everyday tasks easier and frees up a lot of mental energy. “If I can give anybody advice, it’s to just get organized…it saves so much anxiety and disorganization,” she says. 

Mental health 

Despite her strong organizational skills, there are days when Milan feels a little burned out. “I have so many days where I’m like, fuck this shit. I can’t anymore, and that’s it.” But rather than fixating on or internalizing her frustration, Milan vents it out. She lets the feeling hit her, then engages with it, acknowledges it, lets it go, and gets back to the task at hand. She is not one to marinate in her discontent.  

Acknowledging and engaging with feelings rather than pressing them down or letting them simmer is a skill that can be cultivated. Many modern Americans lack appropriate coping mechanisms and tend not to have a healthy emotional life. Many people are encouraged to hide or suppress their feelings from a young age. Men, in particular, have a difficult time expressing emotions. Like so many things, engagement is one of the best ways to handle emotions; Milan’s strategy of feeling what she feels and then letting it go is an excellent method of handling strong emotions. People don’t often discuss the emotional stress of entrepreneurship, but it is real, and learning how to handle it is an excellent way to improve yourself and your odds of success. 

In addition to managing one’s emotions, Milan says it is important to find a person with whom you can connect. “I’m so big on mental health and just securing and preserving my mental health. So if I ever feel overwhelmed, my husband is like my therapist. I can always go to him and tell him, listen, I feel overwhelmed…and he’s so supportive because he owns his own businesses as well.” Having someone you can talk to, whether a partner, spouse, family member, friend, or therapist, is essential for one’s mental health. “You have to find your person, whether it’s a therapist, a friend, or a family member. You have to find your person because, as an entrepreneur, you feel like, ‘I’m doing it all by myself,’ but you cannot do it all. You need a support system, whether a community of friends or just one person.”

In many cases, we find close family members to confide in. As an expat, Milan does not have that luxury. Her mother and her family literally live on the other side of the planet. Milan can’t call in a favor and ask her mom to watch the kids for an evening or even sit face-to-face and chat over coffee. Milan’s closest confidant is her husband, Rich. The two have a strong marriage and a deep connection, and they express their love by being pillars for one another. When she has a rough day or needs a break, Rich steps in to help her, watching the kids or taking care of the household while she engages in some self-care. And when he needs a break, Milan is more than happy to take the reins while he goes to hit some golf balls. “I don’t know what I would do without him,” she says. “We rely on each other for everything.” While monetary wealth and financial success are nice, finding love like that and building a happy family is the best way to generate real wealth. 

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

RHODUBAI star Lesa Milan / Photo by Faadhila Sharief and courtesy of Lesa Milan

Three tips for success from Lesa Milan

Lesa Milan is an excellent example of an entrepreneur who has worked hard and learned lessons to get to the top of her game. While she, like every other entrepreneur, had some help along the way, Milan is ultimately responsible for her own success. Before Mina Roe became a mature company, Milan wore all the hats. She has invested a substantial amount of sweat equity into her business, leading her to great success. What are her top three tips for entrepreneurs who want to achieve her level of success?

1. Due diligence

It might sound obvious, but it is surprisingly easy to overlook this step. Success in any sector is a function of understanding what exactly you’re getting into. “You have to do your research,” Milan says. “It’s so important to research your market.” In the early days of Mina Roe, when she struggled to launch the brand, Milan had overlooked some critical aspects of her business, including marketing. Detailed, thorough research on what it takes to succeed in your sector is a must.

The first step is to analyze the current state of the market. How are your competitors doing business? What are their margins like? How do they make money? What is your competitive advantage? These questions are right out of Business 101 and are foundational to success.

Success stories are fun, but a diligent entrepreneur should also examine failure. How have other businesses in this sector failed? What are common failure modes? What are the weaknesses in this business? Are there any lessons you can learn from the failure of others?

It is also essential to examine your startup costs. Make sure you budget for marketing, especially if your business is web-based: people do not just stumble across websites anymore, so you need to find a realistic plan to bring your product in front of consumers. 

Finally, part of doing your due diligence is asking how much work success will require. Milan has noticed that there are some corners of social media where hustle culture becomes toxic, but the simple fact is that not everybody needs to be an entrepreneur. It’s easy to feel almost obligated to start a side hustle, especially if everybody in your feed is building a business. But it’s okay not to do it if it’s not for you. “Everybody is not built to be an entrepreneur. You can be a great doctor, a great secretary, a great nurse.” She doesn’t want to discourage entrepreneurs, but she wants people thinking about making the jump to entrepreneurship to do their research first. Without that research, success is unlikely. 

2. Give 100%

The simple truth of entrepreneurship is that you can’t half-ass your way to the top. Sometimes, people are afraid to give their venture as much effort as possible. We worry that if we put 100% into a project and fail, we’ll have wasted time and money on a pointless pursuit. And if you view failure as a permanent state, that might be the case. But successful entrepreneurs have accepted that failure is not just an option, it’s a learning experience. Even if you give something 100% and fail, you can learn from the experience. What triggered the failure? What factors were in your control, and what could you have done differently?

The bottom line is that if you give something 100% and still fail, you can walk away proud and learn from the experience. If you give a project 50% and fail, you’re going to feel like a failure because deep down inside, you know you could have done more. Milan says, “Win or lose, it’s not a loss because I gave it 100%. It’s just lessons.”

Indeed, learning from failure is an important entrepreneurial skill. Reframing failure as a learning opportunity is a nifty cognitive trick that can help you grow from your experiences, even when they’re bad ones.

3. It takes money to make money

Any business is going to have startup costs. Whether you’re starting an eCommerce website or a water taxi service, you will need to account for the cost of doing business. Draw up a comprehensive budget and think about every aspect of your business. What tasks will you do yourself, and which will you farm out? What’s the most cost-effective way to manage operations? How much do materials cost? How much can I charge for my product or service? It’s important to thoroughly understand where your money will go and how much of it you’ll need to get started. “Research to understand what direction you’re going in and how much money it takes to start this business,” says Milan. And while it does take money to make money, even people who don’t have access to investment capital or other wealth can still start an enterprise. Do you have any connections who might be open to fundraising? Do you have any assets that can be leveraged or liquidated? Can you apply for small business loans or look for grants or other forms of financing? Or, is there a way to start small and build scalability into your operation? Whatever kind of venture you’re embarking on, you will need to face the fact that it does, in fact, take money to make money.


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