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Inside the mind of an entrepreneur

"If you can’t describe what you do in five words you probably have to simplify what you do."

After a successful career as a business technologist, working for a number of large publicly listed companies for over 20 years, Liz Tehan took a leap of faith to see if she had what it takes to launch and run her own start-up.

Below she will share some of her top tips for budding entrepreneurs.

What is it like to be an entrepreneur?

It all started in 2012, when Liz decided to take twelve months’ leave from her role as a business technologist to learn more about superannuation. 

‘I wanted to make sure my family was set for the future,’ she says.

Little did she know then, that the decision to research retirement funding would lead to the launch of her social shopping hub Set That!

Seeking to make online shopping easier, more inspiring and rewarding, Set That went live in 2013 and now brings together over one million products from more than 100 global iconic stores to a single website.

But, there was one deciding factor that set Liz’ start-up apart from many others that have failed. She gave it all she had from the beginning.

‘We are not a normal little start-up. We invested significant money into the business and have been doing so from the start.’

‘The investment we made at the very beginning kept us going in the first few months, if not years, and taking away some of the money pressure was a big motivator to keep going through the troughs,’ she says.

Now, after three years in the market, Liz’ business is still at the forefront of aggregation-type online shopping and she says that’s a good place to be as an entrepreneur.

‘The technology we have developed has now also been used by other online publishers to build stronger engagement within their community around social styling and shopping.

‘It also allows them to commercialise what was previously static data through what is called native advertising,’ she says.

Recognising the rollercoaster ride of building and running a business, and seeing a gap in the market in terms of how little support there is for aspiring entrepreneurs, Liz has also launched a second company, The Wise Tribe, to share her learnings.

Liz Tehan’s top ten tips and insights

  • A great thing about being an entrepreneur is that you get to make all the decisions about the business – there are no hierarchical levels, no consensus has to be reached – it’s only you and you just have to back yourself.
  • Marketing is very easy to underestimate – every business has to have a digital component this day, because if you are not on google nobody will find you
  • If you can’t describe what you do in five words you probably have to simplify what you do
  • If you are not resilient you will not be a successful entrepreneur
  • A large part of your business will be all about you – your willingness to roll up your sleeves and get the work done in areas that previously you may have had little or no experience
  • You will have to be willing to risk money and reputation on an idea
  • Stay in your paying job as long as possible. Start working on your idea during your free time until you are sure it will solve a problem and is unique
  • If you are in a corporate role at the moment, you might get the satisfaction of being an entrepreneur by filling an ‘intrapreneurial’ role in your current business
  • Don’t cut corners on your competitor analysis, your budget or analysing alternative business models before deciding to proceed – a start-up is so much more than just a great idea
  • You need a clear and compelling problem that people will pay money to solve in order to get investors to be interested in your business idea, and then you need to be able to demonstrate commercial success before they will sign up to back you. 
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