Becoming an entrepreneur is a dream for many, albeit a risky one. Those who’ve taken the leap and started their own business will tell you it’s scary and rewarding all at the same time.
Three local entrepreneurs, Mark Shrayber, President and co-founder of muv, a Dallas-based events and transportation company; Sonia Kirkpatrick, founder and CEO of PediaPlex, an all-inclusive pediatric diagnostic and therapeutic clinic; and Jake Thompson, founder and Chief Encouragement Officer of Compete Every Day, a global lifestyle brand, spoke to Dr. Laura Munoz’s Global Entrepreneurship class at the University of Dallas about what it takes to start and grow a successful business.
The panelists began by answering a question about networking. Shrayber, who started his business at fresh out of college at age 22, said that a big part of networking is hustle. “I’ve worked since I was 13 so I know how to hustle,” he said. “So I talked to anyone who would listen. In order to build
your network, always have your radar on. But don’t network just for the purpose of networking. Learn to care about other people.”
Thompson agreed. “Networking is not speed dating,” he said. “The key to networking is giving more than you get. Ask other people questions like ‘What are you working on? How can I help you?’”
Kirkpatrick, already successful in business by the time she started PediPlex, relied on her contacts to help her grow her network. “I started my business as a capstone project during my MBA at the University of Dallas. Plus, I won a Texas Business Hall of Fame scholarship and I got insights from some of the top business leaders in the state,” she said. “They all agreed that you should always surround yourself with people who know more than you do.”
Although having a strong network of contacts can help entrepreneurs navigate tricky situations early in the startup process, all three panelists agreed that a little ignorance can be advantage. “At age 22, I think I was too dumb to know any better,” said Shrayber. “I tried to do everything. I was operating a limo company but I hated the headache of running the cars and drivers. Sometimes you have to decide what you are going to be great at. I realized I would be great at solving bigger problems for my clients.” Schrayber added that eventually, an entrepreneur’s confidence grows as they gain success over time. “But confidence is not the same thing as arrogance. Confidence is something you gain over time,” he said.
The panelists also discussed how to overcome the fear of failure that goes hand in hand with starting a business. Kirkpatrick said that quitting a great job was definitely scary: “About two years in, I said to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, what have I done?’ I had a lot to lose at the time.” Although starting a business comes with risk, Thompson recommended running head-on into failure: “So what if you fail? The world’s not going to explode. Nobody really cares. The people you really care about will help you pick yourself back up and keep going,” he said.
Doubts often accompany the fear of failure during the early days of their businesses. Thompson said that sometimes he questioned if he actually had what it would take to make it work. “I would ask myself, ‘Can I really do this?’” But a friend pointed out to him that since his brand focuses on inspiring people to greatness, he really had no choice. “He said, ‘You gotta keep going, no matter how hard it gets. It’s who you are.’” Kirkpatrick said although she had doubts, one person kept her going—her husband. “He wouldn’t let me give up,” she said. Shrayber added that many entrepreneurs succumb to their doubts and give up too early instead of adapting their plans to meet the needs of their market. “Sometimes it’s just luck, he said. “But you can make your own luck by keeping your radar on and staying humble. Always be a student and willing to learn from others and from your mistakes.”
The University of Dallas Executives on Campus program was founded to further the University’s mission of providing practice-based education, by inviting successful business leaders to share their experience with graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom. Through this program, alumni, business leaders, and their companies are invited to partner with the University in our shared pursuit of management excellence. For more information click here.