The Challenge: The most challenging part of running our business was simply getting it off the ground and becoming profitable. Even after studying entrepreneurship and writing a dozen business plans during college, we really had no idea where to begin. We had no money, no mentors and no direction. Being full of youthful enthusiasm isn't even close to what is needed to actually make money.
The Solution: We started reaching out to anyone who could help us. We contacted old professors, went to local networking event and emailed/tweeted to our favorite business bloggers online asking for advice. Every experienced entrepreneur remembers what it is like to struggle and wished they could have had someone to help mentor them through the process of becoming profitable. People are more than willing to take some time out of their day to answer your questions if you only ask them. The more feedback we got the better we were able to shape our business model.
The Lesson: The problem with most mentors is that they are afraid to shoot down your ideas and tell you that you are going to fail. Everyone wants to look at young entrepreneurs and say, "Isn't that nice, Matt's starting a business, he's just a great guy."
Unfortunately being a great guy doesn't make you money and in business, not everyone will get a trophy. You need to ask them to torture you with the tough questions and tear your business apart. Tell them you didn't come for encouragement; you came for them to ask the questions that will keep you up at night.
When you have little money to begin with, the window of opportunity to eat peanut butter and jelly and crash on couches is very limited -- you need cashflow to stay afloat. Ask yourself the tough questions like you were the savviest of investors and figure out the answers to them as fast as possible. Reach out to anyone who you can and tell them your optimism is no good here, tell it to me like it is. Your business will be stronger in the end.