By Vakul Goel, owner/operator of Celebree School of Henrico
It’s a natural step to join corporate America after college. There’s a level of security that’s comforting and often a clear, streamlined path to success. But for some, this often isn’t enough, and you dream of more.
This was the case for me. After earning a master’s degree in computer science, I started a traditional corporate job. During this time working in corporate, I was often asked why I was so passionate about my job. The answer was always the same – I loved what I was doing and learned something new every day. I had the liberty to approach the solution from a new perspective, was reimbursed to my satisfaction, but above all – I loved the work environment and the people. I made friends for life.
Then why did I leave? Simply because I was following a childhood dream. I always wanted to run my own business, and when the opportunity arose, I grabbed it with both hands. In 2020, I took a leap of faith into entrepreneurship and in August 2022, I proudly opened the doors of my first Celebree School, a franchise leader in early childhood education, and surpassed anticipated enrollment numbers. Building on this success, I plan to open an additional four schools over the next several years.
Being an entrepreneur allows you to follow your passions, go after your dreams, and achieve financial freedom, which is why so many people dream about quitting their jobs and becoming small business owners. At the same time, the life of an entrepreneur is not an easy one. There are new challenges every day that you have to be ready for, and therefore, you must be strategic in making the move.
Transitioning from a steady corporate job to business ownership is intimidating. Knowing where to even begin and taking that first step is the most challenging part. The tips below are meant to help aspiring entrepreneurs in their transition. They certainly helped me.
1. Do your Research
The best way to prepare for the jump from a corporate job to entrepreneurship is to talk with those who have experience in making this same transition. Ask other entrepreneurs how their roles in corporate America prepared – or perhaps, failed to prepare – them to run a small business. What do they wish they had done differently? What do they wish they had known ahead of time? And, most importantly, would they do it again?
When I started my initial research, I was doing a deep dive into more than ten franchise brands. This included speaking with the respective corporate teams and franchisees. I evaluated multiple industries, and multiple brands within each of those industries. This helped me determine which brand I aligned with, and that aligned with me, before I had to decide where to invest.
2. Only Jump for the Right Reasons
Unfortunately, simply wanting to chase a dream isn’t enough of a reason to make this jump. It can’t be an emotional decision, as this kind of transition is so much more involved than that. While having the passion for entrepreneurship is great, you also need essential resources such as capital and a support system to back you.
Let logic take the lead in this crucial decision, because you must be 100% sure as it will require 100% of your energy. In addition to having the passion to succeed, you have to believe in yourself and surround yourself with family and mentors who equally believe in you.
3. Be Ready to Meet Uncertainty with Adaptability
Unlike a corporate job that, more than likely, has a set career path, entrepreneurship is not so certain. Are you prepared for risk and uncertainty? Are you comfortable with not having a set level of security? Being an entrepreneur involves higher highs and lower lows than working in an office.
To mitigate potential risk, look to align with a franchise brand that has a proven business model and a history of successful outcomes. These outcomes, also known as franchisees, are the perfect people to have in your support circle as you embark on this endeavor.
At your core, you’ll know if you have the mindset and ability to adapt and be flexible – or if you prefer to have every step of your strategy go as planned. Let this help guide your decision.
4. Have a Strong Understanding of Your Local Market
When done well, market research will help you craft the most suitable business strategy which will establish and grow your business into a major contender in the market. Being a resident of the area, or better yet – a native, will give you a leg up.
But regardless of your resident status, it is crucial for the success of your business to know your community-base, their demographics, sociographic, wants/needs, sentiment, etc. Furthermore, engrain yourself in that community to help organically build visibility for your business. Collectively, this will help you better run your business.
5. Finances. Not the End All be All, But Important for Your Start
Finances are the lifeblood of all businesses. Without money, you can’t start or sustain a business. It’s important to evaluate if you have enough capital to start, and keep afloat during the startup period.
Keep in mind that new businesses may take a while to turn a profit, let alone recoup your investment, so practice and maintain patience. In the end, it’s not all about money, but before you take the leap, it is critical to evaluate your financial situation to help make an informed decision.
Tap into these starter tips while evaluating a shift into entrepreneurship. Do your homework, set realistic expectations, overprepare, and be strategic – and in the end, you’ll be able to enjoy the reward of successful entrepreneurship.
Vakul has a master’s degree in computer science from The University of Oklahoma. After spending years in a traditional corporate America job, he took the leap into entrepreneurship and signed an agreement to open a Celebree school in his community. Vakul now owns/operates Celebree School of Henrico and plans to open an additional four schools over the next several years.