In 2009, Lisa von Sturmer founded Vancouver-based Growing City, North America’s first and only premium office composting service. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she worked as a television editor and producer for a mixed martial arts program. But after a trip to a remote island in BC where she experienced an excellent composting program first-hand, she was inspired to do the same thing in Vancouver so that she could contribute something positive to her community and the environment.
With $15,000 in a small business loan, she left television behind and launched Growing City, a business that is thriving (the company was even featured on Dragons’ Den this year). It goes without saying that Lisa has learned a lot about what it takes to run a business. Here are her best tips for success:
1. Decide what you want… from life. You have to start from the big picture, then build a business that will get you there. Most of us can list immediately all the things we don't want, but you need to start specifically listing what you do want in your life (how much money per year, how much time off do you want to take, if you want to work from home, what industry are you most excited to be in), and then figure out how to build your company to create that lifestyle for you. I highly recommend reading the 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss as he goes into this in detail. Working backwards means you create a much more fulfilling and purpose-driven business.
2. Just try! So many people stop themselves before they even get going. They don't believe they can succeed. As someone that came from a degree at Emily Carr and a television post production background, I'm telling you that you don't need an MBA or a “traditional” business background to start a company. You need perseverance, a vision/goal, and the willingness to learn and to do the work.
3. Include recurring revenue as part of your business model. Recurring revenue means that your clients pay you each month—like a subscription. I didn't have a business background when I built Growing City, but I knew I needed to focus on creating something that had recurring revenue. Let me tell you, basing my business model around that has saved me as an entrepreneur countless times! It really helps you grow a stronger business and adds a nice cushion if (and when) your fledgling business hits roadblocks.
4. There’s no age limit. You deserve to live a life that challenges, excites and fulfills you! Don't be afraid to be honest with yourself about what you really want. My mom became an entrepreneur two years ago after being a crown prosecutor for several years, and being in nursing for 20 years before that. My mom’s always been a huge inspiration to me because she's never been afraid to keep challenging herself. She now has her own legal defence firm and is living her dream. So never think that opportunity stops when you hit 30—if anything, it just gets started.