Lessons from Three Years as an Entrepreneur

Agricultural Food Systems has now been in business for three years!

It’s been an interesting year for AFS: we completely redesigned the TenderID prototype, took part in another round of testing with the USDA, continued fine-tuning our technology, and were featured on CNNMoney’s website with fellow John Brown University alumni businesses James+James and Craftistas.

Any entrepreneurial journey must be one marked by constant learning. Sometimes this learning comes through success, other times it comes through hardship and failure. As Winston Churchill put it,I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” In other words, every situation presents an opportunity to grow. During my first year running AFS, I learned the importance of thinking strategically, constantly moving forward, and staying humble. The second year as an entrepreneur taught me to not let my identity be defined by my work, the benefits of delaying gratification, and how collaboration is an integral part of innovation. Those six themes were prevalent again this year as we continued to move forward with our R&D. Here are three additional lessons I learned this year:     Read more of this post

The Illusion of Busyness

Honey Bee Swarm

Americans are busy.

Or at least they like to say that they are.

As an entrepreneur and college ministry director, I’m around a lot of “busy” people. While some people are legitimately busy, many people are operating under an illusion of busyness. We think we are a lot busier than we really are. Rather than focus on one assignment at a time in order to systematically knock them out, we try to multitask instead which often obliterates our productivity. Due to poor time management skills (and the constant temptation offered by email, social media, and cell phones), tasks that should take one hour to complete consume two, three, even four hours instead. Add to this the way our culture subconsciously equates a person’s “busyness level” with his/her value and success, and it’s no wonder people talk/brag/complain about how busy they are all the time

How can we shatter this illusion of busyness? Here are three pointers:  Read more of this post

Entrepreneurship Isn’t Sexy

At work

What comes to mind when you think of entrepreneurship?

The image that many have of the startup world is a bunch of 20-somethings pitching their businesses in hoodies and jeans, playing ping-pong, working flexible hours, drinking lots of beer and Red Bull, and closing million or billion dollar acquisition deals. Entrepreneurship is seen as trendy, sexy, and a fun and easy way to make a lot of money, especially among my Millennial counterparts (60% of whom consider themselves entrepreneurs). People currently employed at other companies view entrepreneurship as the gateway to freedom and prosperity. Universities, cities, and entire states view startups as their economic saviors and as a result bend over backwards to cater to and attract them. This is the picture that has been painted of entrepreneurship.  Read more of this post

The Entrepreneurial Race Part 4: Getting Sponsors

BTCC Final Round Brands Hatch 20th October 2012

This is the fourth post in the “Entrepreneurial Race” series. Click here to read Part 1: Getting to the Track (funding options), Part 2: Picking a Pit Crew  (selecting a Board of Advisors), and Part 3: On Your Mark, Get Set, GO! (launching).

Race cars have a lot of stickers on them. Each one represents a sponsor that has paid to have their logo placed on the vehicle with the expectation it will be seen in person, online, on TV, in a magazine, and in other images of the vehicle. The sponsorships help the race teams to pay their drivers and pit crews as well as cover fuel, tire, and maintenance costs for the race car.

Most entrepreneurs need to enlist their own sponsors at some point in their startup lifecycle. In order to get “stickers” on their startups to cover costs and accelerate growth, the founders must go out and pitch their businesses to potential investors [for more on four different funding options, check out Part 1 of this series].  Read more of this post

4 Tips to Keep in Mind When Starting a Business [Guest Post]

[Guest post courtesy of James Smith, co-founder of James+James. Scroll to the bottom to learn more about James and James+James.]

Twenty-two months ago I was unemployed. Today, I’m blessed with co-owning a furniture manufacturing company called James+James. Currently, James+James has over 17 full-time employees and has sold products in over 30 states and it’s still growing! My college friend James and I started the business in my garage and it has been one heck of a ride so far.

I was honored when Lawson asked me to pen a post about what I believe has been the main contributing factors to our continued growth. While I look forward to writing more in the future about our specific online and social strategies, I thought it best to start at a higher, less tactical level. With that in mind, here are four important tips to keep in mind when starting a business:  Read more of this post

The Entrepreneurial Race Part 3: On Your Mark, Get Set, GO!

The Fast and the Furious

This is the third post in the “Entrepreneurial Race” series. Click here to read Part 1: Getting to the TrackPart 2: Picking a Pit Crew, and Part 4: Getting Sponsors.

Gentlemen, start your engines!

When it comes to racing, the start is one of the most important locations on the entire race. Just a few seconds can make the difference between finishing first or last.

The same is true for a new business: the launch is critical. Once a team of founders has explored funding options and assembled a Board of Advisors, they must figure out their launch strategy. Here are some tips for getting a startup off to a good start:  Read more of this post

Lessons from Two Years as an Entrepreneur

Agricultural Food Systems, a company three friends and I started after graduating from John Brown University, celebrated its two year anniversary of incorporation yesterday!

Last year, I shared three lessons I learned during my first year as an entrepreneur. Since last May, AFS participated in the first cohort of the ARK Challenge, began testing of the TenderID in conjunction with the USDA, and was featured in Bloomberg Businessweek and Arkansas Business (article 1 || article 2).

As I’ve continued on my entrepreneurial journey, one of my personal mantras has been “never stop learning.” If for some reason AFS doesn’t work out (which hopefully won’t happen) and I learn nothing in the process, then the whole experience has been wasted. However, if it fails and I have some valuable takeaways, then it was a worthwhile (though costly) endeavor. As Winston Churchill said, “I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.”

That being said, here are three lessons I’ve learned in the past year: Read more of this post

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