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Fail Fast, Fail Hard, Learn lots

Five months ago I decided to launch a pilot project around the idea of creating a more sophisticated experience for women to swap clothes, online. The idea of sorting through a rack of clothing to find the right size, fit, and comfort has never been an experience I enjoy. Yet I also envied those who were able to find great deals on designer pieces. Above all, I had a closet full of things I wanted to see if I could make some money back on. After testing with a group of friends, I quickly justified there was an appetite for the project and immediately got to work. In less than a month I launched a test site, Facebook page, twitter account, Instagram profile, Pinterest account. I contracted a designer to help with a logo. I bought into an e-commerce platform, purchased a domain name, designed and printed business cards. In short, I got carried away with the instant empowerment of owning things online, that didn’t have much meaning.

During this time, I also read a number of books and blogs about entrepreneurship and started to notice some common themes. I started to gain a practical perspective and appreciation for what it takes to actually get a business of ground and learned some valuable lessons. In particular, that failing hard and failing fast is the easy part. Learning from your mistakes and figuring out how to adjust your course is the hard part. Here are some key takeaways from my pilot project experience:

If you have a “great” idea, chances are someone has already executed on it – This is probably one of the most frustrating things, especially when you feel like it’s something genuinely unique. Apple is great example of a company that took existing technology (for example, the iPad) and turned it into something relatable and accessible to the masses. There’s always an opportunity to make things better and it’s has everything to do with how well you can package your idea.

Creating an online presence is easy, but it’s not the most important piece – It’s ridiculously each to setup basic social media platforms like twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest and feel like that makes your business legitimate. What’s more important is what you’re going to do with it after. That’s the hard part, and it requires some serious planning and commitment. Don’t set yourself up for all that work just for the sake of being online.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people. No one is going to “steal” your idea – Talking to people was one of the most helpful things I found when launching the pilot project. Not only are most people encouraging, but also they offer a point of view on things that you otherwise may never see or hear.

Failing hard and failing fast is the easy way out – At some point, you’ll have to face some very real questions. Things like – How will I afford this? How does this fit into my greater goals? How much do I really believe in this idea? How much am I willing to put into making this succeed?

At the end of the day, it’s better to have tried than never to have at all and along the way, you might gain something much more valuable than a new business. Without a doubt, you’ll learn things about yourself, the way you work, and how you work with others. As long as you choose to take something positive away it won’t be wasted experience and you may realize that sometimes, the journey is more important than the destination.

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