Companies & Industries

Pursue Your Entrepreneurial Dream


If there was ever a time to start your own business, it's now. Here's how to leverage personal branding and social media for entrepreneurial success

The economy has moved a dark cloud over the world, leaving some people without hope of sunshine. But others see a light between the clouds. These optimistic individuals have an opportunity to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams like never before. Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that the percentage of job seekers starting their own businesses has doubled, from 4.3% last year to 8.7% this year. It's no surprise that unemployed workers choose entrepreneurship over months of job-search misery. If there are no jobs, why not create your own?

The economy needs jobs more than children need pacifiers. "There is an international need for more entrepreneurs than ever before," says Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad's Conspiracy of the Rich (Business Plus, 2009). He believes entrepreneurs—not the government—can replenish the current economic wasteland. Entrepreneurship begs for risk, competitiveness, and creative ideas as well as the ability to withstand stress. So, are you a prospective entrepreneur?

If you are, then just like Mark Zuckerberg and the Google (GOOG) guys, you're going to need business advisers who are actual entrepreneurs, not just teachers or coaches. An Entrepreneurship 101 class won't help you build a million-dollar company in this lifetime. "It takes guts, and it takes good advisers," Kiyosaki says. "You have to be very careful who you take advice from, because most people are not entrepreneurs." By surrounding yourself with experienced people, you can complement your strengths and bring your dreams to life.

tap your passion

You also have to build your business on something you love, or you won't work hard enough to make it successful. Think about what unique value you can offer the marketplace, how you're going to deliver that value, and what support and resources you'll need to pull it off.

Another consideration: If you aren't visible, you don't exist, whether you're branding yourself, your company, or both. A brand allows you to charge a premium price, distinguish yourself from competitors, and establish an emotional connection with your audience. Awareness is also the first step in the consumer purchasing process. Kiyosaki learned about branding when he worked with rock bands, including Duran Duran and The Police. "It was really easy to open doors with a brand, but it was really tough if you're a no-name-brand band," he explains. Brands always get red-carpet treatment. You don't see Paris Hilton waiting in line at a party, do you? You can't imagine yourself hanging up on an executive at Apple (AAPL), can you?

A brand is represented by a corporate logo—or your own face if we're talking about personal brands. It has to be built on values, a mission, possibly a tagline. Most of all, it has to stand for something. There are no gray areas with brands. When a consumer is trying to decide between two companies or people, the brand that resonates the most will always be chosen.

Regardless of what kind of brand you wish to create, you'll need the help of social media. With 300 million people on Facebook, 50 million people on LinkedIn, and 22 million on Twitter, social media are here to stay. If you aren't wealthy and want to start an online business, this social marketplace is where it's at. Social-media tools are free, though they require a substantial amount of time to master and bring in business value. If you aren't an established brand, you should start following other entrepreneurs in your industry, learn from them, retweet them, and contact them offline for advice. These social networks can draw in potential customers, business partners, and investors if you play your cards right. It's just a few tweets or wall posts away.

There's no better time than now to start a business. With the constant depletion of jobs from the economy, you have the chance to stand out and make a difference. Start thinking about business ideas and the people around you who can support them. Think about your business brand and what you want it to stand for and achieve, and then leverage social-media tools to establish demand for your business. The choice is yours, but the possibilities are endless.

Dan Schawbel is a personal branding consultant and author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future and the publisher of Personal Branding Blog and Personal Branding Magazine. The New York Times called Schawbel a "personal branding guru." He is also a speaker and managing partner of Millennial Branding, a branding company that serves individuals and corporations. Recently he was named to Inc. magazine's 30 Under 30 list.

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