Starting a business can be exhausting, exciting and exhilarating--all at the same time. This is precisely why it's refreshing to hear words of encouragement from those who have done it before--and succeeded. We spoke with entrepreneurs we admire to cull the single best bit of startup advice they could muster--and the experiences that led to it. They're simple mottoes, to be sure, but their impact can be tremendous.
"Don't think, do."
So said a stranger to Jeff Curran, founder and CEO of Curran Catalog, a high-end home furnishings company in Seattle, more than 20 years ago.
The two men were sitting next to each other on a cross-country flight, and Curran, then 25, had just broken into the catalog business. They got to talking, and Curran spilled his idea for a startup while his neighbor interjected with devil's-advocate questions. When the plane landed and the two rose to claim their bags from the overhead bins, the stranger finally opened up his can of insight. Those three words inspired Curran to pour $15,000 of his own cash into launching his company, which has grown into a profitable B2B and B2C brand.
"After that plane flight, I'm sitting in the bathroom at my parents' house and I pick up [a financial] magazine, and this guy was on the cover," remembers Curran, now 47. Turns out the man was mutual-fund maven Mario Gabelli.
Curran still lives by Gabelli's advice. Earlier this year, after learning about profit margins in the high-end car-accessories business, Curran Catalog launched a new product line: designer flooring for collector and European automobiles. "There is such a thing as overthinking a big decision," Curran says. "Sometimes you just have to get it done."