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Commentary

Here’s What Entrepreneurs Don’t Get About Free Time

May 18, 2017

The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “What should budding entrepreneurs know about building a business?" is written by Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of Parachute.

My dad likes to say, “Success is being comfortable with uncertainty.” There’s a great deal of risk involved in building a brand as an entrepreneur. I entered an ocean of unknowns when Parachute launched—I’d quit my job and poured my savings into the business, and there were moments when I second-guessed myself. However, my dad’s advice helped me to remain committed to Parachute’s mission of delivering a good night’s sleep—even in those times of doubt.

There’s no guarantee for success, but remaining focused on the impact you’re looking to make is essential. What problem are you solving? If it’s already being done well, how are you doing it differently? Are you in it for the right reasons? Remaining steadfast in your mission to make a difference also helps to push through the tough times.

Here are a few other tips for building a business:

Develop a strong network
I joined Launchpad, a Santa Monica-based startup accelerator, to develop my direct-to-consumer bedding concept and brand. I was quickly introduced to investors, mentors, and other entrepreneurs who were all extremely helpful in getting my business up and running (and who continue to support me today). It’s also where I met my first hire.

I strongly believe in the reciprocal process of mentorship. I enjoy getting to know other entrepreneurs who are starting businesses of their own. I find myself learning and growing from those relationships, too.

See also: 7 Tips for Building a Successful Company

Know that teamwork makes the dream work
I started working on Parachute in January 2013 and spent a year building the business on my own. We launched in January 2014, and about two weeks in, I realized it wasn’t possible for me to continue doing it all on my own. I was taking investor meetings, packing boxes, answering the phone, responding to emails, and packing more boxes—all at once. I couldn’t remember the last time I had slept—and I was selling bedding!

Two or three weeks after Parachute launched, I made the first hire—someone who was willing to take that risk with me and defer salary until we raised money. Looking back, I realized I waited too long to hire. There are plenty of people who want to be involved in the early stages of building a business simply because it’s an invaluable experience.

Be one with your customers
I still read through our customer service emails and social media nightly. I often reach out directly if people have questions or are unhappy with any part of the experience. Picking up the phone makes a huge difference.

We’re always striving to learn more about our community through testing, research, and focus groups. I strongly advise budding entrepreneurs to truly listen to customer feedback and implement takeaways when appropriate. The customers are central to everything that you do, so their experience matters.

The feedback we received from our very first customers was inspiring: They shared that they had been waiting for a brand like us—that Parachute was enhancing their lives. I knew then that we’d found that product-market fit—that Parachute connected with people and was providing an experience that had been lacking. I made it my mission to grow the business with our customer’s needs in mind.

Make time to unwind
Maintaining a work-life balance is an ongoing learning experience and challenge. When I started Parachute, I committed to making work my number one priority. However, a balance is critical to not burn out—there’s so much more to life than just work. My best piece of advice is to be self-aware. Acknowledge when you need to step away and recharge, even if that only means designating an hour of phone-free time to spend with a loved one or committing to not checking your email after 10 p.m. It’s also important to stimulate your mind with non-work-related material and to make time for other passions—for me, that’s yoga.

Dream big
There’s nothing more rewarding at the end of the day than doing what you love and believe in. Our positive customer feedback makes all the hard work and sacrifices worthwhile.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, my advice is this: Do it and don’t look back or don’t do it at all. Trust your instincts, because when you’re doing something you love, you can’t imagine doing anything else.

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