This post is part of a series from MIT students currently involved in the Student/Alumni Externship Program, which connects current students to alumni in workplaces worldwide during MIT’s Independent Activities Period. Alumni, learn how to get involved.
Guest blogger: Clara He MNG ’10, grad student in mechanical engineering
Alumnus host: Michael Daugherty ’07
What does it take to be an entrepreneur?
To be frank, I don’t know. That is why I applied for the externship with Mike, who in 2010 founded Bespoke Row, which provides tailored men’s clothing online.
After so many internships and long hours sitting in an office yet not accomplishing much, I realized that being an entrepreneur seemed to be a good choice. Yes, why not? I always have so many ideas, and I’m good at doing business models. It wouldn’t be that hard, right?
Then I came to Beijing this January to see how Mike runs his company. Like most of the entrepreneurs, Mike is running Bespoke Row without an investor; therefore, we work at coffee shops since it’s very expensive to rent office space in Beijing. I used to think working in a café was cool and romantic (poisoned by romantic movies). Yet in reality, we have to bear with occasional heated discussions around us, unexpected renovation that goes on all day, and smokers. Mike has set up a Beijing working group, so we always have other entrepreneurs working together with us. I can’t imagine how troublesome it would be to work alone since no one is there to take care of your stuff when you want to go the restroom.
I talked to Mike before I came to Beijing. I really liked his idea of shopping online while designing your own style, but sales weren’t that encouraging yet. We made only one sale to a returning customer (he brought a lot though) after Christmas. Apparently, we need to let more people get to know us before seeing some real money. Mike told me he has been running Bespoke Row with his own savings for more than a year. But there are just so many things to spend on! Data analysis websites, SEO applications, not even mentioning the tailors and fabric suppliers.
See, this is the truth: it takes much more than just a great idea and a good business model to start a business. You need to endure low income or even no income for a long time, poor working environments, and heavy workloads—you will be busy and thinking about your business all the time! Worse still, you may fail.
Be prepared, being an entrepreneur is far from easy.