What makes a business legitimate? Is it the act of creating your own business cards or quitting your full-time day-job and focusing all your attention to your startup? Or is it when you gain your first big client and cash your first paycheck?
We all know the short answer: register with the government. But, for every individual that has run a business, there are often other experiences that act as catalysts, so you no longer feel like you’re “faking it til you make it”.
For some reason, I thought in order to make my business legitimate, I needed a Facebook page. I painstakingly thought through what Barefoot Love was, created a logo from a sketch I had made on some rough paper, uploaded the logo onto a newly created Facebook page, invited my friends to like my page and bam… Barefoot Love was suddenly legitimized in my mind.
Never mind that I’d already sold products at two pop-ups, or that I had already designed some custom orders for clients, or that I had completed my business registration. For some reason, it was the act of creating something in the digital space that made me feel official.
I’ve asked some other people who started their business what their moment of “Woah, I’m running an actual business moment” was:
“I knew we were on our way after we talked to an investor and he started to put us in touch with his contacts in the industry. It was validation because it showed that he trusted our idea and thought it had legs enough to open his network to us.”
“I felt like our business went from an idea to a reality once we started providing services for our friends’ kids’ parties. It became even more official after learning more about how to start a business at InvestHK and then applying to become a legitimate business with the Hong Kong government. I think in the end, it was a combination of things: being hired, hiring a branding company to set up our website and then getting our company registered with the government.”
“I knew our sports and student leadership idea was onto something when the government gave us funding.”
“I realized I was legitimately a business when I had the confidence to put a price tag on my handcrafted product. A customer had bought one because of the quality, then returned with good comments and bought a second one. They then spread the word among their friends. To me, this was a sign, and it motivated me to keep going.”
“I knew we were big time when WPP reached out to us to try and buy us as their entry point into Africa.”
“It was when after months of chasing, we got a big bank to reach out to us and ask for a meeting. They came to our office to meet us and that was the least amount of work we had done to land a client. We got all their digital.”
Everyone’s moment of realizing that they were no longer faking it and that they were onto something… is different. For some it was receiving that first client, for others it was the validation from an investor, bank, or government. But, for everyone I spoke to, this moment often involved people engaging with your idea, whether it was a government body, a larger organization, an investor, a customer, or the bank.
That “Woah, I’m running an actual business” moment is only as important as the responses and relationships you build with people around you. As John Donne beautifully put it hundreds of years ago, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
It’s the idea of the connectedness of people and that we are all a part of a larger thing, even if you may feel like starting this business is a ‘you alone’ thing. It’s a reminder that you and your ideas do not exist in a vacuum, that connecting with others and having support from others is essential for a business to pursue bigger goals, more clients, and greater impact.
About the Author
Gloria So is an educator, specifically dreaming up programs that cultivate youth leadership and encourages empathy for the local community. In the last 10 years, she has created multiple service-learning programs, mobilized thousands of donations and provided education consultancy services to organizations. As the founder of Barefoot Love Co, she has stumbled on the exciting world of entrepreneurship and startups. From individuals to institutions, Gloria loves collaborating and partnering to do some social good together.