As I’m fresh out of college and very early into my career, I’ve been thinking a lot about potential career paths I can go down. I’m working as a full-time Quality Engineer and hope to eventually steer towards a job in SecOps, maybe as a penetration tester or security admin. For now, that seems to be my linear trajectory in terms of my degree and my work experience so far.
But, even though I’m out of college, I still like to explore other options in my free time. I’ve been building web applications and learning about personal finance and investing on the side. What has excited me the most in recent learnings is entrepreneurship.
Whether it’s on the side or full-time, I am determined to start my own business. I want the fulfillment that comes with creating something that improves people’s lives. As of right now, I’m combining my experience as a Quality Engineer and self-taught web developer to build a quality web application people will enjoy and benefit themselves
It’s exciting to think that once I’m done with stage one of the product, I’ll be able to work closely with customers, getting their feedback to improve my product. Eventually, I’ll strategize ways to make it profitable, but that’s more of an afterthought. I think the real satisfaction comes from customer satisfaction.
So, that’s where my career-centered head is at right now. To reach this goal, I’ve been reading much more frequently. My current read is Sam Calagione’s Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Beer from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.
As you could have inferred from the title, Sam is the founder of Dogfish Head Brewery. He rose to great success crafting beer of the highest quality using what he coins as an “off-centered” approach.
I found his business journey incredibly inspiring and would love to share my biggest takeaways.
The exciting world of small business
I used to think of small businesses as family-owned corner stores or gift shops that would struggle year-to-year, barely making ends meet. It didn’t seem worth it to go through the challenge of starting up a business just to have all of your hard work not provide you a decent living.
Reading Sam’s book, opened up my eyes to take on a completely different perspective on the world of small business. In fact, small businesses have several significant advantages over large corporations and have the ability to be extremely lucrative.
Exceptional, one-of-a-kind quality
When you start a business, you’re likely working to target a smaller, more specific audience. Mostly because you don’t have the capital to buy large factories and produce billions of products when you’re just starting out. So, you have to compete in other ways.
In Sam’s case, he sought to make quality, fresh craft beers with high alcohol content. The big players like Coors and Miller make bland, cheap beers to appeal to the broadest market. In contrast, Sam focused on brewing quality, beers that beer enthusiasts would be willing to pay a premium price for.
This may seem like a counterintuitive strategy. If you want to be a big player, you have to get the most people possible to buy your product. However, this strategy inspired me to want to build a business all the more.
Using my passions to create something of quality and expertise (in my opinion) adds much more value to the world than pumping out a bunch of cheap crap every day. You may not reach billionaire status doing this but you can certainly make millions and do it with much more satisfaction. And who knows, your business can have the potential to grow past this point if it’s scalable.
Another advantage smaller businesses have over larger companies is that they have a much smaller consumer base. This means that the customer is much closer to the business.
Sam used this advantage in the early stages to get feedback from customers. He would have long conversations over a pint in his pub to see how they liked newer brews or host events with free samples and live music. When the customer was dissatisfied with a mistake he made, he would go as far as to reimburse them with company merch and new beer.
Being closer to the customer means you are able to use their constructive feedback to improve your business. It also means that you can provide them with a more personalized experience, making it more likely they would continue engaging in business with you and give you some word-of-mouth advertising as a bonus.
A good different
Possibly my favorite advantage of a small business is that they’re unique. As consumers, we get so caught up in the comfort and familiarity of name brands that we overlook products that are not only quality but offer unique experiences.
At Doghead, Sam would routinely make test batches himself, throwing different ingredients from his pub’s kitchen into beers and getting feedback from customers. He also did extensive research to make his beers as one-of-a-kind as possible. His brewery focused on being as “off-centered” from the mainstream as possible.
Although large businesses take up most of the market, they are vastly outnumbered by small to medium-sized businesses. These smaller businesses offer experiences a large business could never offer to produce at such a massive scale.
I hope this inspired you to consider starting your own business or at least opened up your perspective towards other areas of income. In the US especially, we are conditioned to believe that the path towards success is linear: through hard work in education, then to hopefully work hard enough to get into higher education, then get a job, and then work harder still to move to higher positions in a company.
While starting a business may seem like a risky venture, it is entirely possible to start one from within the comfort of a job. Just know that you won’t be able to dedicate as much of the most important asset it would need to thrive: your time.
I highly encourage you to at least try to start a business no matter how big or small you want it to be. Even if you don’t create the next Apple, you’re guaranteed to learn and decide if this path is right for you.
Just remember life is short and to have regrets is far worse than trying and failing.
Good luck with your endeavors whatever they may be!