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5 Lessons I Learned After Opening My First Business at 21

People establish businesses for different reasons. It could be because they wanted to monetize their passion, saw an opportunity in the market, or to simply be their own boss. I’ve always aspired to build a business that revolved around what I loved so the responsibilities wouldn’t feel like a burden when it gets tough.

My partners and I didn’t have any experience in the Food Industry, and the only thing we knew was that we loved Japanese and Hawaiian food. We opened the restaurant fueled by nothing but confidence in ourselves and lessons from our ongoing college education.

Though opening day was one of the happiest days of my life, it didn’t stop there. In fact, it was only the beginning of my journey in the ups and downs of being a business owner.

Here are 5 important points I’ve realized while keeping the business afloat:

1. Loving to learn can go a long way

Given the fact that none of my partners and I had any professional experience in the food industry, we didn’t believe we were doomed. We hired a Professional Consultant who has been in the industry for a respectable amount of time that taught us what we needed to know such as where to get the necessary equipment, proper employee shifting schedules, where to get our suppliers, and even some leadership training.

He also referred a highly-competent Japanese Chef who taught us all the basics in a restaurant setting. Growing up unexposed to the kitchen, we had to allot a few days for the chef to teach us, especially me, first-level skills such as dicing, julienne, etc.

I didn’t allow my inexperience in the kitchen to stop me from making my dream come true. I kept trying until I knew more than enough, and to this day I’m still learning.

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” – Helen Keller

2. There will always be naysayers

Before the restaurant even opened, there were already naysayers. Even the photographers during our first food photoshoot doubted us. Whether it’s family, friends, or strangers, it’s important to remember why you started. The naysayers challenged me to push harder to work on the business to the point that I thought I was going crazy.

Our vision and mission echoed in my head and it overpowered the negative comments of those who doubted the business. Now, we serve customers daily and some of them have reached out to us to appreciate what we offer. That’s one of the things that keeps me going and believe me, it’s almost the best feeling.

3. People will step on you if you let them

A month after we opened, we were falsely accused of food poisoning and threatened to post on social media. As a restaurant owner that is one of the worst things to be accused of. Our staff were harassed almost every day for a week by this person who was asking for an apology for something we didn’t commit.

We investigated, stood our ground, didn’t apologize (it can be used against you), and informed the person that we forwarded this matter to our lawyer. We never heard from them ever again immediately after that. Some people are just looking for ways to bring your business down and you shouldn’t let them.

4. First-mover advantage shouldn’t make you complacent

Although the concept has existed in Western countries, it’s entirely new where I’m from (The Philippines). This was a calculated risk we were willing to take knowing it’s an untapped market. As the first in the country, it was an audacious endeavor where anything can happen. Being the first-mover meant that we could commit mistakes faster, thus learning instantly, and then improve.

There had to be a constant will to innovate even if we had no direct competitors yet. Eventually, we had competitors and this compelled us to brainstorm new strategies and ideas to promote our business.

I’ve never even heard of Guerilla Marketing before! We resorted to those methods with the mindset that being the first doesn’t matter. What matters is being the best and we continuously develop our concept to achieve that.

“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” – Mary Tyler Moore

5. Staying close to people that support you is important

My core group of friends since high school are one of the biggest fans of my restaurant. We would have group chats on Facebook Messenger and suddenly one of them will say they’re craving for food in my restaurant. Soon, all of them wanted it.

Now, they’re not saying they like it just because they’re my friends, but because they genuinely believe in me, the concept, and see my potential to grow. This continues to be one of my sources of inspiration, and for that I am forever grateful. In a sea of people who doubt you, find the few who believe in you through thick and thin.

Have you started your own business? What was your experiences? Leave your thoughts below!

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