Unleashing your inner entrepreneur: A Q&A with Lisa Messenger

So you have a business idea? Many of us do but taking the leap can be damn scary. In the lead-up to Melbourne’s Kick. Start. Smart. conference we speak to its founder for a dose of inspiration and some great entrepreneurial tips.

If you haven’t heard of Lisa Messenger chances are you’ve heard of one of her businesses or books. In the last 15 years, Messenger has authored and co-authored 16 books – including the recent Money and Mindfulness – become CEO of The Messenger Group, founded Collective Hub complete with a print magazine distributed into over 37 countries, and launched the Kick. Start. Smart. conferences. As one of Australia’s most outspoken entrepreneurs who aims to ‘disrupt, challenge and inspire audiences around the world’ we felt Messenger was well-placed to address some common concerns about becoming an entrepreneur.

What elements do you think hold people back from starting their own business?

There are a lot reasons why people don’t start their own business and many are unique to their own situation or season of life, but here are two key barriers that I often come across:

  • A lack of resources – money/capital required for product development, prototypes, websites, marketing, basic admin/accounting support etc. It all costs money and not everyone has a cash reserve or family/friends/investors willing to fund their creative pursuits. However, I have also found that you can do a lot without a lot if you are creative in your approach and incredibly smart about any spend. You can trade equity or services for start-up help (I’m a huge fan of this), join an incubator, seek out angel investor groups (these exist for the big and the small so don’t dismiss this until you fully investigate), search for small business grants, crowdfund or solicit venture-capital investors, for examples. As old fashioned as it sounds, I do believe the old adage: if there’s a will, there’s a way. And there is so much more acceptance in the current market for entrepreneurism and creativity/innovation generally so people are more open than ever before to listen to your ideas and get involved or connect you to people who could.
  • Fear of the unknown – fear is a huge barrier in life generally, but it can be paralysing in business. Quitting your job to start a business is a BIG deal or using the $20k you have diligently saved up to create a prototype that may or may not work is not an easy decision to make. BUT, and it’s a really big BUT, if you have an idea that is keeping you awake at night and it’s the one thing that also occupies your thoughts by day, chances are you need to take a risk and pursue it. We only get one chance at life and need to do everything we can to make it amazing. That means taking risks and putting yourself ‘out there’ from time to time. Fear is real and felt by all people wanting to start a business and it is true that ‘it might not work out’ but also, it just might.

Your book Money and Mindfulness suggests that people shouldn’t let money worries hold them back. How can people pursue an entrepreneurial dream without big funds?

Oops, just talked about this a little [above] but expanding on it … I love the quote “never for money, always for love” and I do fundamentally agree with that. I also know that money buys you choice and freedom, which is rather handy in business and in life generally, so I think it’s not wrong to desire money but it shouldn’t be your key driver. I also don’t think you should let a lack of it hold you back. If you are passionate about your idea or creative pursuit, then you should throw everything you have at it, to make it work. If you lack funds, get creative to get some – don’t just sit there thinking you have none and be paralysed by that. Be a “doer” not a “gunna”. Get out there and solve your problem! Research all options open to you – do you qualify for a business grant, do you have connected friends who could help, can you do a contra of business services to get some initial help? Then, be smart with every single dollar you spend so you make sure it’s all going in the right places. Think big, start small.

Entrepreneurial nerves can come from concerns about whether it’s a good idea and whether we’d manage and truly enjoy doing it. How might we know when we’re onto a good idea and one that we should pursue?

That will be different and unique for every person. For me, it’s always a combination of business smarts and gut intuition. Does this look commercially viable and do I intrinsically feel that it will fly in the market? Then test your ideas in a safe environment – from social media to more covert (large scale) avenues. Find out if there truly is a gap in the market or if you just have a “good” idea that makes you feel good! Be truthful with yourself and open minded to the research and knowledge you find. Don’t delude yourself. That being said, I do believe people can find success if they have enough passion and drive. Even if you have a product that is similar to someone else’s, then ask yourself – how can you make it better, different and more wanted by others?

Can you tell me about Collective Hub and how it can help budding entrepreneurs?

I created Collective Hub to empower people to live their very best lives, to chase their dreams, harness their passions and propel their skills. A few years down the track and I truly believe we are still 100% on course. The idea was to create something that looked like a glossy magazine but was, in fact, something completely different; without salacious gossip but a message for entrepreneurs or anyone entrepreneurial by nature, to live their best life. I knew people wouldn’t buy it if it looked like another business magazine so it had to come wrapped in something else. The plan from the start was to create a global company with many verticals, but the vehicle to begin it all was most definitely the magazine.

Personally, I have vowed to live my own life “out loud” talking about all the good and hard times of an entrepreneur. Perhaps the difference for me is that I AM an entrepreneur running a magazine (and many other company verticals), I’m not a magazine editor running a magazine about entrepreneurism. That means I understand, I really “get it” because I’m living the journey as well. I have to worry about cashflow and staff and not getting sued like all business owners! That makes me a tad different and I feel like our community has connected with that.

After interviewing so many people and interacting with a lot of entrepreneurs themselves, we realised that people needed some help. They needed a “kick start” of knowledge, wisdom and therapy! And thus we created Kick Start Smart to help creatives, intrapreneurs and budding/new entrepreneurs along the journey. It’s a HUGE day of knowledge sharing and some of the best networking around. Our events team always do a fantastic job at creating a really creative, nourishing environment to learn in and we try to curate a selection of speakers from small to big business so we can cover off a lot of issues from culture and innovation to trademarks and legals.

Could you list five tips for those sitting on a business idea and dreaming of taking the entrepreneurial leap?

  1. Get clear on your personal objectives, your ‘why’ and what you want to achieve with this idea
  2. Map it out quickly
  3. Research your industry/competitors/similar products exhaustively (most people skimp on this step and it is one of the most important ones)
  4. Then jump! Test your concept in a safe environment
  5. Lean on others – connect with like-minded people, smart friends, colleagues etc. because people more often than not want to help, even in a small way and, in my experience, these connections are the key to success.

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