In the early days of a startup or side hustle, it can seem like the possibility of growing your business to a full-time endeavor is a pipe dream. It’s not uncommon for startups to fail, and the reasons for failure are as diverse and varied as the startup founders themselves.
Regardless of what phase of business you’re in, it’s important to be reminded that success is possible. That truth is evidenced by these three startup founders, who grew their businesses rapidly. Here, they share the keys to their growth.
Lead with Your Heart
Katherine Adams’ mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and died in 2013, just a year after the diagnosis. This tragedy was compounded for Adams’ family by the fact that the mother-in-law didn’t have any life insurance. “A funeral is the third largest expense a family will incur,” says Adams (pictured above). “After going to through such a traumatic experience and dealing with a huge financial burden, a light bulb went off.” That same year, Adams got licensed as a retirement income specialist and started a side hustle helping clients plan for retirement through life insurance.
It didn’t take long for Adams to realize that the service-oriented work of helping clients with life insurance was not only a fulfilling career, but that the financial potential was far greater than her current job of owning and operating a day spa. “The income for two days of work selling insurance surpassed what I was able to pay myself working five days a week at the spa,” she says. “I realized that there was a huge need for hard-working, ethical agents in the insurance world and made the transition to full-time after I sold my spa in 2014.” Her business, Creative Legacy Group, does nearly $2 million in revenue annually.
Adams says one of the primary components of her success is servant leadership. “Putting others needs first and leaving situations better than you found them are mottos to live by in any business,” she says. “Lead with your heart.”
Along with his now-business partner, Matthew Ross was slaving away at an investment banking firm before he started The Slumber Yard, an independent reviews website for bedding products, in 2016. “We knew there was an opportunity in our industry since it was such a new concept for consumers, but we didn’t feel comfortable enough to quit our jobs and make it a full-time venture from the start,” Ross says. “Instead, we decided to start working on the project on the side to see if we could gain any traction.”
Ross and his partner were hopeful that the venture had full-time potential, but they were also inexperienced in the world of digital media, website development and SEO.
After a year of solid effort, The Slumber Yard reached the number one position for a highly searched-keyword: a pivotal milestone for any online business. “With that win under our belt, we could see a clear path to supporting ourselves full-time with the venture, so we decided to take the risk and focus all of our attention on the business,” says Ross.
The success of The Slumber Yard hinged on its independence, a vital element for gaining consumer trust. “By remaining independent, we can stand by our unbiased content and I think the average consumer appreciates this,” Ross says. “They trust what we say and continue to rely on us for purchase decisions because they know we have their best interests at heart.”
Be Consistent and Patient
Marc Andre was a full-time auditor looking to make some extra cash when he started his web design startup. After just a year and half, he was able to leave his full-time job and has now been self-employed for more than a decade. He even sold one of his blogs in 2013 for half a million dollars.
At first, Andre had no plans for his side hustle to grow—he spent about five hours on it each week. “Once I started to see some results I knew that there was a lot of potential and I got more serious about it,” he says. “At that point I started putting in about 30 hours per week on the evenings and weekends.”
The crux of Andre’s success was this consistent effort and patience. “I treated my side hustle like a job and I had regular working hours,” he says. “Growing an online business takes time and you have to be willing to put in a lot of work before you start to make money.”
Heart, Consistency and Independence
Whatever your industry, this diverse group of startup founders stand as an inspiration that success is possible. Pave a path for your startup’s rapid growth through heart, independence and consistent effort.
Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training community; SaleHoo, an online dropship and wholesale directory, co-founder of Smtp2Go, an email delivery service and investor in SwiftMed, a virtual GP clinic. Through these companies, Simon provides the education and resources for ecommerce professionals to start their own businesses and achieve occupational independence. Simon can be followed on Twitter and LinkedIn and regularly comments for Forbes, Fortune, SMH and NZ Business.