It’s not the worst problem to have, but it’s a dilemma many entrepreneurs face: take a stable job, or risk your livelihood to turn your business idea into a reality?
As someone who chose the second path, I think I can offer some tips to help you figure out whether it’s time to take the leap:
1. You Are Committed to Your Idea and Have a Plan to Get It Off the Ground
Before you pursue your business full-time, you need to be 100 percent prepared. The responsibility for success or failure is entirely in your own hands. Before going all in, test out your idea as much as possible. You should be able to articulate clearly the problem your business will solve and the specific steps you will to take to execute your business plan.
When I decided to turn my business, Campus Protein, from a hobby into a full-time occupation after college, I’d already been growing it as a side hustle for some time. I’d seen the demand for my product firsthand and knew the next steps I needed to take to expand to other colleges.
If you still aren’t married to your idea or are grappling with major obstacles to viability, it may be wise to take the job offer. Continue to research and grow your business idea on the side until you are ready for the next level.
2. You Have the Finances to Pursue Your Idea
One of the most important questions to ask yourself is whether you will be able to fund your idea — and how. The primary reason any business fails is because it runs out of cash. There are a number of sources you can use to estimate the initial and ongoing expenses of launching your business. Take a hard look at these costs compared to the finances you have available. Can you successfully pitch your business idea and secure more funding if necessary? Will you have enough money to cover your personal expenses if it takes longer than expected for your business to become profitable?
As a college student, there was no way I could have continued to grow Campus Protein with just my own finances. It was only by winning a business competition at Indiana University that I was able to pursue that goal. Even then, we had to use that money wisely to grow the areas of our business that would provide the greatest return.
If we hadn’t secured that funding, didn’t budget it effectively, or didn’t bet big on just the few things that would provide the highest ROI, we would not have been successful. Had we not won the business competition, I would have taken different work after college until I was in a better financial position to take Campus Protein to the next level. I was still interviewing for jobs in the event we didn’t win the competition, and I had even accepted a job offer as a backup plan.
3. The Market Is Ripe for Your Idea
Successful businesses grow from the right idea at the right time. One of the reasons Campus Protein took off was because we had the first supplement business catering specifically to college students. We also had the chance to cement relationships with up-and-coming brands that were a great fit for the college market, and we were able to ride the coattails of that growth as those brands took off with our audience.
It is important to consider the timeliness of your business idea. If you don’t pursue it now, will you have a chance later, or will another company get there first?
4. You’ve Found the Right People to Bring Your Idea to Life
Good business partners are nearly impossible to come by. With Campus Protein, I realized quickly I couldn’t do it all on my own, so I asked my best friends and now business partners Mike and Tarun to come on board with me. Mike is an incredible networker and knew everyone on campus, which made him the greatest sales guy. Today, he is our chief sales officer and oversees our entire campus rep program. If I hadn’t pursued Campus Protein right after college, Mike and I probably would have gone our separate ways. Mike was vital to getting Campus Protein off the ground and ensuring we had a successful sales network.
Tarun is one of my best friends from high school. Tarun has been an incredible marketer from a young age, starting his first business in middle school selling gumballs. He was key to launching the brand at an additional location, Boston University, and helping us officially take Campus Protein national. He is now our chief marketing officer, brilliantly developing all of our campaigns and overseeing design and digital print.
It is important to recognize what you’re good at and bring on people who are smarter than you in areas that are not your expertise. When you have the right people around you with the talent and dedication necessary for your idea to succeed, you have one more reason to pursue your business now rather than later.
5. Your Heart Is in It
Life is too short to spend it on something you aren’t passionate about. If you know your idea is what will get you out of bed in the morning, go after it. Make sure you’re prepared, have a clear vision, and take the leap. The best way to face all the struggles of building a business from scratch is with the knowledge that you’re doing what you love.
Russell Saks is the founder and CEO of Campus Protein.