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The Keys to Finding Success as a First-Generation Entrepreneur

by jcp

By Mila Alishaev, Owner of Manhattan Laser Spa

There’s one thing they don’t tell you when you decide to become an entrepreneur: it’s not enough to know everything about your business, you also need to execute every facet of your business. Think everything through thoroughly, it’s just the first—and in many ways the easiest—step in becoming a successful entrepreneur. And for first-generation entrepreneurs, the steps are even more challenging.

When I started my business, Manhattan Laser Spa, as a first-generation entrepreneur, I knew that I had a great idea, but I also knew that I didn’t have the generational resources that many others did. I knew what I was getting into—or at least I thought I did—and dove in headfirst. But there was a huge learning curve on what it actually meant to run a business and be an entrepreneur. These are the key steps I wish I knew as a first-generation entrepreneur and that I think would help others get started with their own business.

Be Prepared to Work

When starting out, the biggest challenge for me was the amount of work that needed to be done. There’s this image of the entrepreneur having a great idea and then everything else falls into place. The reality is that much of the work comes after the great idea. That’s what really separates entrepreneurs from dreamers. As a business owner, you are responsible for negotiating your own leases, processing payroll, day-to-day operations, customer services, logistics and nearly everything else. Each one of these must be in ‘working order’ for the business to have any continuity.

As a first-generation entrepreneur, there was no roadmap for any of this. My mother and I hustled to learn all of the logistics of creating and running your own business. No matter how much you think you know, running your own business will quickly show you why companies hire people for these positions. Only through hard work and dedication was I able to grow my business to the point where I was able to hire others to delegate tasks. You can expect to wear nearly every hat in your business for years and you should be prepared to put in the hours to do so.

Be Involved

It’s important as the business starts to succeed that you still are involved in day-to-day operations. As your business grows and it becomes profitable and more people come into the fold, you cannot afford to take a step back and think everything will run on its own. It will not. You must be involved. It’s not just enough to know everything about your business; you need to be the one that executes what is happening. This isn’t about giving up control. It’s about making sure that the ideals of the business and what it is trying to attain are being followed and adhered to after opening.

There’s a bit of a Catch-22 with this. As the business gets bigger, the more difficult your job will become. If it becomes easier after opening, then you are probably doing something wrong. When I started Manhattan Laser Spa, which provides services including medical aesthetics, IV therapy, fillers, body contouring, microneedling, cosmetic injectables and more, I found that as we became more successful, the more I had to focus on running the business. A successful business only increases your demands, not lessens them. If you’re a first-generation entrepreneur thinking that starting a business will result in passive income in a few years, you will need to reevaluate if this type of business model is right for you.

Find and Be a Mentor

Being a first-generation entrepreneur can be amazing, but it also can be daunting. If you can, find someone experienced in business to be a mentor. Look to your local chamber of commerce or business groups to find someone that could help you navigate the pitfalls of running your own business. This is especially true if your business becomes a success. As your business becomes more successful and takes more of your time, the more difficult it can be to step back and see the big picture. Find someone that you can trust, someone who is tolerant, and someone who can keep your best interests in mind. This person, who has experience in running a business, will help you navigate the daily challenges you will face.

As you become, established and successful, it’s also crucial to pay this forward. Seek out other first-generation entrepreneurs and share with them your experience starting a small business. This will not only help newer entrepreneurs achieve their goals, but it will also keep you plugged into what is happening with new businesses and the community at large.

Protect Your Interests

Motivation and mentorship are important, but so are the legal aspects of running a business. If it was just up to a good idea or hard work, then everybody would be an entrepreneur. But something that I learned running Manhattan Laser Spa is that you need to employ a team of experts to help you navigate the legal and financial aspects of the business. There are four key areas that I recommended for any first-time entrepreneur:

  • Engage and hire an attorney. There are so many legal aspects to running a business, especially when it comes to local jurisdictions. Speak to an attorney that specializes in your area of business to understand the legal frameworks of the business, any risks and the things that can or cannot be done at your business. This will help to protect your interests in case of any legal issues.
  • Draft a partnership agreement. If you are entering a business with a partner, make sure you have a detailed contract in place. This includes each partner’s role, contributions and repercussions. You might be getting into business with your best friend and think nothing will ever happen, but even if one of you walks away on the best terms, an agreement will help to make navigating the unwinding of the business that much easier.
  • Stay in control. Many first-time entrepreneurs don’t have ready access to free capital and turn to third-party funding to start up or keep their businesses running. If you decide to take funding, make sure whatever funding agreement you commit to that you maintain control of the business.
  • Being mindful of deals. As far as funding goes, make sure whatever funding agreement you commit to, the control of the business stays with you. If the deal requires you to give up too much control, you’ll find yourself running someone else’s business.

Enjoy Your Success

As a first-generation business owner, the sense of accomplishment I had in opening Manhattan Laser Spa was unparalleled. Starting a business from scratch and seeing it thrive is one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever had, and even today, my main motivation in growing my business is to see that continued success.

But for any entrepreneur, it’s important to step back and have that sense of accomplishment to avoid burnout. Your business will require so much focus and dedication that you could easily not enjoy your success, which will take the joy out of running your business. Acknowledging and enjoying your success while surrounding yourself with the right people will give you the motivation to continue and grow your business.

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