February 19, 2024 andrew

3 Values That Empower Entrepreneurs Just Starting Their Journey

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Launching a new venture from the ground up can be a thrilling process. Selecting your first workplace, narrowing down your business model and defining a clear action plan are all common exciting experiences that entrepreneurs go through. But even these first steps can present challenges to surpass.

My first startup was an internet company called Joyo.com, which I co-founded in late 1999. This was in the early days when the internet was still very young and full of undiscovered potential. Joyo’s first three months saw many fierce debates within my team as we struggled to agree on what we wanted our startup to achieve — with so many possibilities available in the internet space at that time, from e-commerce and web portals to travel sites and games, it was tough to decide on the best course of action.

In such moments, a founder needs to trust in their ability to make hard decisions and stick to them. This kind of steadfast resilience can help guide entrepreneurs through the early stages of a company. So, I finally decided to build Joyo.com as China’s first B2C e-commerce platform at the end of February 2000. Joyo became the largest such site in China at the time and was acquired by Amazon in 2004 and rebranded as Amazon China.

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My second venture, DHgate, was a much more arduous challenge. As China’s first B2B e-commerce platform, it was extremely difficult to prove our business model and attract investment. I discovered how truly cold and heartless the business world can be when we almost ran out of funds just before we launched in 2004. An investor who had signed a contract to fund us suddenly reneged on his promise in the eleventh hour, which meant that I had to turn to my own savings to pay the remaining employees at DHgate, never knowing if that week might be our last.

Without sufficient funds, we surrendered the office and moved to a 20sqm conference room next to the toilet of a friend’s company. My office chair was broken, but my hope was strong. I was able to find a way to stay focused on the positives and possibilities. Most importantly, I looked inward for strength and confidence in my business.

Beyond a lack of funding, the biggest problem we faced in the early days was that nobody trusted us. This was back in the mid-2000s when traditional trade was still booming. Nobody believed the entire complex process of international trade could be achieved online. Validating our business model was like running a marathon — a long and challenging ordeal.

Most entrepreneurs experience win-or-go-home moments like these. Mentally, the early stages can be the most difficult period of building a company. Yet, we persevered, and today DHgate is one of the world’s leading B2B cross-border e-commerce platforms.

Related: Core Values: What They Are, Why They’re Important, and How to Implement Them Today

The hardest challenges give the greatest rewards

Keeping a young company afloat is a daily struggle. Challenges and obstacles come from all directions — you may have to deal with limited access to capital, an undersized and overstretched team, a lack of market recognition in a possibly overcrowded market, and a lack of mass understanding around the business or technology, among other factors.

Your staff and investors all have lofty expectations, and you must also set high standards for yourself. Maintaining high motivation and energy in the office is a constant challenge, especially when everyone knows you’re feeling exhausted and anxious. This builds an incredible amount of pressure and stress, which rides on the shoulders of founders who already battle self-doubt daily.

Yet, running your own business can also be incredibly rewarding. Every entrepreneurial journey has its ups and downs; if you can find the right path and persevere through obstacles, you can achieve things that nobody has ever done before, and your efforts can pay off a hundred-fold. These growing pains are worth it for your own personal development, too.

Related: The 8 Biggest Challenges for New Entrepreneurs

Strong founders who make it through the initial stages of entrepreneurship tend to have certain key characteristics. New founders may benefit from embracing these three key values or standards to hold themselves to:

1. Talk to your heart to follow your passions

Your founding journey will be made all the easier when you are following a dream that you are truly passionate about. As a bonus, you’ll be able to make your team more passionate, too. When facing difficult decisions, talk to your heart for guidance. I have done this many times in my life to help me choose a path that excites my imagination and keeps my interest.

2. Be brave and dare to do difficult things

If you listen to your heart, you will hear an answer, and your next course of action will become clear. So, take action! Start looking for opportunities, and you will find them — it is practically inevitable if you look hard enough. As long as you know what your goal is, it doesn’t matter if you don’t see the path from the start. The important thing is to start walking down that road.

Related: The Top 5 Reasons Why Entrepreneurship is Difficult (and How to Overcome Them)

3. Be persistent

Eventually, you will stumble on your path. Everybody does. The key is to celebrate your failures, learn from them and keep moving on. Persistence just requires you to keep showing up daily to pursue your goals. If you listen to your heart and follow your passions, optimism, and confidence in your projects, come much easier. It may sound cliché, but I believe that while it’s not magic at first, steadfast persistence in any goal can create magic.

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