The Ride of Your Life: 3 Keys to Startup Success from Four Little Rock Entrepreneurs

This morning, Arkansas Venture Center members attended a special 1 Million Cups Little Rock (#1MCLR) meeting which boasted a panel discussion with four Little Rock entrepreneurs moderated by Roby Brock.

The panel was made up of business owners covering a variety of industries from food to tech to legal. Participants included Tifany Hamlin of EZDiscovery, Sydney Brazil of The Hole Thing and Passion Pull, Phil Brandon of Rocktown Distillery, and Jeston George of Apptegy.com.

The panel shared the stories of how their businesses came to be and as well as some real-time business wisdom about product development and marketing. They also fielded questions from the audience, providing practical advice and insight for 1 Million Cups attendees.

Highlights from the panel included insights reflected by the discussion happening on Twitter (I’m going to insert images of live tweets from the event to support each point)

1. Validate Your Idea

Panelists talked about the importance of reaching out to actual customers or target customers to validate your idea. “Don’t just assume you know what the customer wants” attendees were warned.

2. Be Prepared to Pivot

Once you’ve validated your idea and know there is a market and how you should fit into it, be prepared to pivot. Phil Brandon of Rocktown Distillery had the quote of the day, which brought laughs from the audience.

“Moonshine was never in the business plan” - Phil Brandon

3. Position Yourself to “Jump”

A question by a 1 Million Cups attendee elicited this powerful advice from the panelists. It is vital that you position your idea and your company for the time when you go “all in”.

Phil Brandon told attendees that they would have to “kiss 8-5 goodbye.” Tifany Hamlin of EZDiscovery echoed his advice. An effective startup can’t be part-time. Eventually, you have to jump “off the cliff.”

Of course, preparation, planning and having a clear picture of what you’re jumping into is essential. Knowing what you signed up for helps an entrepreneur to be able to better face the unknowns and the pivots that will be required along the way.

Success in small business startup requires a cocktail of luck, preparedness and an ability to pivot quickly when new information or opportunities arise.