In 2011, we learned very quickly that running a business wasn’t as glamorous as we thought. A startup takes drive, risk and a lot of sacrifices. Being college students, we quickly learned the true definition of time management. But just because it was rough at times, doesn’t mean we didn’t have tons of fun. The journey was definitely the reward.
Here are 5 crucial moments that helped define the Big Fish Presentations Team in 2011 (not to mention the lessons we learned).
1) Finding the Right Business Partners
“Our first employees now partners.”
You need business partners that aren’t afraid to tell you that your idea sucks. These are the guys that are going to weed out all your bad ideas and leave you with a couple of good ones. Co-founders need to have a sense of trust and loyalty; the Big Fish co-founders all knew each other for seven years before they went into business together.
Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to listen to criticism from the people that matter.
2) Competing at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards
“Running on 3 hours of sleep and 2 hours till competition time.”
Getting the acceptance e-mail for the GSEA in Times Square, NY was one of the coolest things to happen for Big Fish in 2011. Being voted as one of the top promising student entrepreneur companies in the nation was a huge confidence booster for our first year. Meeting global business leaders and other top student entrepreneurs inspired us to build a scalable company that could change the world. Despite not winning the competition, it was very rewarding. After we got off of the plane, we went straight to the office and began planning how to take our company to the next level, which led to rebranding.
Lesson learned: If you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
“Super smile right there.”
Our original name was Future Genius Solutions. We hated it, but we stuck with it because we didn’t realize the importance of branding. As a presentation company, we came to understand that we’re storytellers, and it’s difficult to tell a story when your company’s name doesn’t mean anything to you. Employees Sam Claitor and Gus Murillo, now partners, came up with the idea for Big Fish Presentations. They realized the story that we could tell. We make small companies, “small fish,” look like “Big Fish” in a competitive market. Before Big Fish Presentations, we had ideas for company names, such as Piranha Graphics, Shark Fin Graphics and Rendition Graphics. We think Big Fish fits our style and our mission perfectly. Don’t you?
Lesson learned: Branding defines how the public views your company.
4) Getting our own office
“Yes, we floored our own office.”
Originally, we shared a co-working space with other student companies at LSU. While we had a lot of good friends over there, it just wasn’t big enough for our plans of expansion within the year. We knew we wanted a private space to call our own. Being five months old, we didn’t believe we were ready. However, with stable contracts and wisdom gained from the GSEA, we trusted ourselves and made the leap. It was one of the best decisions we ever made.
Lessons learned: Trust your gut instinct.
5) Recruiting the right talent; not settling for less.
“Apparently some of us tried to jump in this team photo…”
We needed a company that didn’t consist of “yes men,” that wasn’t motivated only by the paycheck, but by doing things that change lives. For example, we’ve helped people with investment presentations, conferences and community movements. We’ve got a rock star team that’s passionate about their work and refuses to do anything that they wouldn’t put their names on. These are the A-players that we believe make a company succeed and grow. This sets the standard for anyone working within our company.
Lesson learned: You can’t do everything yourself; hire people that are smarter than you.
Over the course of our first year, we’ve had ups and downs, trials and errors, but the good times outweigh the bad times. Through it all we became the company that we are now, not by luck or tricks, but through hard work and trust. Our experiences made us stronger, and we’re ready for the challenges and successes that await us in 2012.
We’ve shared our experiences as young entrepreneurs, but what about your experiences in starting a business? If you have any comments, advice or experiences you would like to share please post below.
Happy New Years!
– Big Fish Presentations team