Over the past year, I have met many entrepreneurs and looked at 25+ business plans in-depth. I typically find that entrepreneurs present interesting business plans that have a decent shot of success, and a healthy dose of risk. The truth is, few plans are terrible. Most bad plans have either been weeded out or worked on and improved. On the other end of the spectrum, rarely do I see a slam dunk business plan. The opportunity is to take a promising business venture and make it stand out.
Entrepreneurs come in all different flavors: scientists, tech geeks, mbas, semi-retired executives, journalists, work-from-home moms, and nutritionists. Over the last few months, I have been tracking the progress of a supermodel entrepreneur with great curiosity. When you hear the word supermodel, it’s unlikely that your first reaction is successful business leader. But I had an experience 15 years ago that left me more open minded. While I was in college, I led a speaker series, and I decided to take a chance and bring in Tyra Banks to stand shoulder to shoulder with Michael Bloomberg, Tom Clancy, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, and the speechwriter for President Clinton. I knew that my fellow college students would be excited to have Tyra Banks on campus, but I was nervous about her ability to deliver an hour speech. Even worse, just moments before her speech, she revealed that she had left all of her written notes back in California (if only iPads and memory sticks were en vogue in 1996). What then transpired was unbelievable. Tyra was intelligent and charismatic. She was confident and engaging. Truly, she was our most remarkable speaker … more dynamic and provocative than our business and political leaders. This, from a supermodel without the benefit of a written speech. For weeks, all everyone could remark about was how absolutely brilliant Tyra Banks was. If you’ve followed her path, she has leverage supermodel success to become a successful business leader.
Now, let me share a current experience with my new supermodel entrepreneur friend, a young budding entrepreneur. I came with an open mind, hoping to find a modern day Tyra Banks, and hoped that she would live up to my now higher expectations of supermodels. Indeed, she hasn’t disappointed. In the months that I have followed her venture, she has opened more investor and partner doors than any of the other entrepreneurs that I am in contact with. She has made improvements to a decent plan and brought on a Wharton MBA as her partner. And she has a term sheet for a $1.5 million first round investment, in less than half the time that most entrepreneurs take to get to term sheet. It’s even at a fair valuation.
What I have realized from this experience, is that most entrepreneurs are intelligent. So it’s not intelligence that is going to distinguish you as an entrepreneur. Likewise, anyone can create and write a good business plan. It’s other traits that distinguish entrepreneurs. It’s the woman who had so much confidence in her plan that she had her mom tap into her retirement investments for funding, brought her venture to breakeven, and then tapped additional investors. It’s the young scientist who utilized sleepless nights during his Ph.D. program to get a head start on his venture. It’s the social entrepreneur who was so passionate for his cause, that he was able to build a team and his product for pennies on the dollar because others believed in his mission. It’s the supermodel that was fearless in opening every door, and then exceeded expectations to leave a positive impression across the media & venture community.
When you think about what’s going to make you a successful entrepreneur, or successful in life … “I’m smart” is not enough. Good for you if you’re smart. But it’s going to take something more. Courage and charisma. Confidence and commitment. You might not be a supermodel … but if you give 110%, bring passion, and embrace what makes you different, you can be a super entrepreneur.