What I learned by failing and how mentors could have helped

This is a guest post by entrepreneur Sharky Liu:

Sharky Liu

When I started my current business DentistFind.com I was very cognoscente of the pain and mistakes I made in my last venture. Most people think JUZD Streetwear was a success and in many ways it was: we had many celebrities wearing the clothes; over 40 stores carried the line; been in numerous top fashion magazines; featured in a national commercial, a feature movie; and made history by getting our first collection into Holt Renfrew. Despite the many successes, the obstacles and failures were too exhausting and eventually led to a burn out. One thing could have prevented it is finding the right mentors. Sounds simple but the keyword is “right” which is quintessential and also difficult.

Running in the dark
What if you had to run a long distance race and you were not told of the distance or the reward and you have to run in the dark. Would you get demotivated after 5 mins, 15 mins, 1 hour, 3 hours, 4 days, 3 months? or years? And how do you know how much energy to expand and how would you pace yourself? The first year or so of JUZD Streetwear was like running in the dark, I was creating and designing and not knowing if I was on the right path but I still persisted and my success finally hit, we got into Holt Renfrew! We had a series of successes but still did not know where we were going and how long the race would be and where the next checkpoint was.

A good mentor who has been through it and understands the perspective of a startup, is important in helping you to create realistic expectations and pace yourself.

Lack of Foundation
Despite having success with our first collection we did not have a the system to produce more collections quickly. There were too many things we had to invent, figure out, then reinvent. While experience working for someone else would have greatly helped, a mentor who has operated a business would have seen this and made recommendations and corrections along the way.

What do the professionals do?
Tony Robbins and Tim Ferris recommend something that is very powerful: modeling. Do as the greats have done because they figured out the formula and it works. Instead of expanding energy reinventing and trying to figure everything out, we could have just done things the way other successful designers did and moved a lot faster. There is this often missed abstract concept call momentum. When a business starts to move quickly there is excitement and motivation which fuels the engine and leads to exponential progress. While we didn’t need a mentor to tell us this, he might have saw this and brought it to our attention.

Manufacturing Process
A big area where we lost a lot of money and time was with the manufacturing process. It’s not rocket science but it’s actually tougher in a way because there are many things you don’t know, that you don’t know. A lesson we learned is to always get a sample and test the product no matter how minor the change or how easy it is to envision the effect a change in the design will have.

Missing the Opportunities
For someone who haa been through it, they can tell you that once you start getting successes there will be many opportunities. You have to be ready and be selective because some opportunities will hurt you more than they help.

I have learned many lessons and know there are still many more to learn. Now I’m more open and know the importance of getting the right advice. There are so many things to work on in a startup that it is impossible to have everything right, you need to learn shortcuts. This is where it is essential to have the right set of mentors to guide you through.

Sharky Liu is the founder of DentistFind.com and JUZD Streetwear. He created DentistFind.com to help people find a dentist they love and build a strong relationship. Sharky spends his free time creating art and designs for JUZD Streetwear and meeting other ambitious people.

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