Forbes / May 30, 2020
The definition of an entrepreneur, according to the Webster Dictionary, is a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk. What’s missing from this definition is the emotion and true passion that goes into entrepreneurship. It is this love for a challenge, the energy to want to change the status quo, and the need for something different that drives a person to want to start something from scratch.
I co-founded Thirstie with this very passion and drive to bring something entirely new to the beverage alcohol industry. I want to share with you today the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur.
To be a true builder, a risk taker, one who wants to zag when everyone else zigs, you need to have something different with the way you’re wired. No one in their right mind would want to build something from nothing. It’s significantly easier to work on something that has already been well defined and built successfully without any major risk. An entrepreneur runs towards the risk, accepting the challenge of building from the ground up.
Adding to that challenge is the reality that things don’t always go the way you anticipate they will. In fact, they probably won’t; the best businesses and companies I’ve been a part of were able to interpret the landscape and course-correct as needed. Often times this type of movement could be accomplished laterally, but sometimes it requires taking a few steps backward in order to move forward.
Being able to say “the vision we’ve been working towards isn’t working the way we anticipated and we’ll need to make changes” is an extremely difficult conversation to have, not only with your partners, and other stakeholders, but with yourself. To be able to admit that what you’ve built isn’t working, and that you may need to rethink the overall strategy, is probably the most challenging reality I’ve ever had to face. And I relish it.
At Thirstie, we started as an app individuals could use for on-demand alcohol delivery. After some moderate success in the area, the data we collected and insight we discovered revealed a clearer and more profitable business need; direct-to-consumer sales channel from spirit brands directly to consumers. We had spent years building out a very specific use case we were extremely excited and passionate about. Suddenly, the market indicated the need for a significant pivot.
While the industry and market remained constant, our entire business had to be reborn. This was a significant under-taking; designing unique software, targeting a new customer base, hiring talent for new specialties, etc. We found ourselves building from the ground up again, as if we had started the company anew.
On one hand, this was a thrilling moment; as an entrepreneur, you’re witnessing your own vision in its infancy, just beginning to take shape. On the other hand, it’s a gut-punch to let go of your original idea.
That’s why I believe that a true entrepreneur has something inherently different about the way they are wired. My co-founder and I accepted this challenge, essentially building a brand new company from the ground up.
Today we work with alcohol and spirit brands of all sizes, changing the way they interact with their consumers by selling products online. Thirstie’s e-commerce solutions moved 90x more product in December than the entire previous year. Today, we are taking on many new brands who want to meet significant consumer demand for e-commerce purchase and home delivery in response to the recent pandemic. None of that would have been possible if we hadn’t embraced the changing needs of the market, and in many respects, started our business all over again.
My advice to all entrepreneurs facing similar challenges is that while it may sometimes feel like you are starting over, you’re not. Everything you have developed until that point is what got you to that moment. Without that, none of this is possible. Listen to the market, collect data, and take counsel from those you trust around you. But no matter what, stay true to your vision. Just realize that to accomplish your ultimate goals, you’ll oftentimes need to take a few steps back to reevaluate before you can move forward.
For a true entrepreneur, there is no better feeling.
Always, Devaraj Devaraj Southworth, CEO & Co-Founder