This post is part of the “Small Business, Big Ideas” series, in which business leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators share their stories of overcoming obstacles and achieving success. “Small Business, Big Ideas” is sponsored by Chase. See more posts in the series »
Sulaiman Sanni, co-founder of nonprofit crowdfunding platform WeDidIt, says finding a mentor early is the best way startups can focus on the things that really matter.
“You’d spend less time, not waste weeks, when you have someone who has already been there and done that to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t actually that important. You might as well make a decision now and move on,'” Sanni told Business Insider.
Moving on is exactly what Sanni and co-founder Ben Lamson have done for the past two years, as they’ve expanded their startup from a fledgling business idea into a competition-winning service.
Launched in 2011, WeDidIt helps nonprofits crowdfund projects, much like Kickstarter does for individuals except WeDidIt takes the process one step further. Sanni and Lamson’s company provides nonprofits with tools like fundraising coaches to help them successfully transform a video campaign into an executed project.
Sanni said that without the help of the mentorship he and Lamson found while participating in the Miller Lite Tap The Future competition last year, they would have been lost.
“As an entrepreneur, in the early months, you’re doing things based off of your assumptions. You have no idea if real customers will like your product,”
Sanni said. “If you can get involved with a business competition where people are assessing your business plan to let you know that you’re on the right track, and on top of that give you some startup capital to put your idea into action, that’s golden.”
One year later, WeDidIt is helping other startups by acting as judges for this year’s competition, alongside business mogul and Shark Tank investor Daymond John.
The competition, which spans over the next three months, ending with the national final round in December, awards one entrepreneurial team a grand prize of a $US250,000 business development grant.
Though Sanni and Lamson said that they’re in the midst of seeking out additional venture capital of their own, they’re happy to share what they’ve learned in the last year with the competition’s participants.
“Work quickly and learn from your mistakes,” Lamson said. “Focus on things that are moving your business forward. If they’re not moving your business forward, they’re not worth it.”
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