7 Oct, 2020

The Unsung Hero of Success

There’s a famous Picasso anecdote that goes like this:

In a restaurant one night, a man approached the painter and asked if he could sketch him something. 

Picasso complied and drew something quick yet beautiful on a piece of paper. He then offered it for $100,000.

Taken aback, the man said, “It only took you 30 seconds to draw it!”

To which Picasso responded, “It took me 30 years to draw it in 30 seconds.”

You may have heard of this story before. The version you read may have been a woman asking, had Picasso drawing on a napkin, asking for one million dollars, and saying 40 years instead of 30.

40 or 30, paper or napkin, man or woman, the gist of the story is the same: Success doesn’t happen overnight. 

Today, we’re here to talk about making mistakes. More specifically, we’ll take a look at past mistakes made by ecommerce business owners by taking you on a practical behind-the-scenes look at their journey to success.

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1. The Fourth Time’s the Charm

It took Ahmed Hadi four tries to finally find success with each serving as a valuable lesson for the next. 

With his first store, he learned the importance of branding; he couldn’t simply parade products in front of consumers and expect them to bite. 

His second store failed because of the product’s low quality. Though his store got visitors, they dropped off once people realized the product wasn’t worth its value.

Ahmed closed his third store because it was a seasonal opportunity. But that was where he caught his first glimpse of success. 

Applying everything he’d learned (and more) from his first three failures, he made nearly €3,500 in sales in two weeks with his fourth store.

And it wasn’t any two weeks but two weeks that was right smack in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

What makes people who succeed stand out is the ability to adapt in challenging situations. – Ahmed Hadi

2. From Niche to General

Like Ahmed, Chris Wane struggled with his initial stores. 

Following advice he’d read online, he started a niche store on his first try and sold snowboarding equipment. He got no sales.

With his second, he opted for a trendier product: beard oil. It failed.

Deciding to return to the sports category, his third store sold fitness equipment – again, rather unsuccessfully.

Despite the three fails, there was still fire left in Chris. So he decided to give it one final shot but down a different route this time – a general store. 

It worked. 

He got his first sale on his second day and with some help from his best friend, identified a winning product that helped to generate more than $13,000 in sales in 1.5 months.

3. Discovering Chinese New Year the Hard Way

Rodney and Kory had launched their store to coincide with the year-end holiday season, starting with Black Friday.

From November to January, sales kept picking up with each month outperforming the previous. 

After making over $100,000 in January, they started preparing for what they expected to be a stronger February and increased their ad spend.

But when February came knocking, things took a drastic turn. Their supplier notified them he was going to shut for three to four weeks because of Chinese New Year. That meant no new orders, no shipping, nothing.

The duo’s 1000-order-a-day success was in limbo.

In the weeks that followed, they spent hours on end on damage control and it was nothing short of a nightmare. 

But Rodney and Kory emerged from the experience stronger than before, and from it, was able to better prepare for that year’s holiday shopping season and the following year’s Chinese New Year.

You look back on it and you’re like, “Wow. Look how far we’ve come from when we started.” It’s beautiful. – Kory Szostak

4. An Unaligned Partnership

On paper, Vlad Gasan’s first business venture sure looked like it ticked all the right boxes. 

He was coming off the back of his position as a software product manager at one of the biggest tech companies in the world, eBay, to build a software company. He had money saved up and was ready to find a business partner and launch.

Check, check, and check.

But as Vlad was about to find out, starting a business with a partner isn’t for everyone.

It wasn’t long into the partnership when road bumps surfaced, which brought about friction between the pair. Vlad soon realized that they had vastly different mindsets and approaches.

The added stress and pressure of entrepreneurship pushed things further over the edge and forced them to call it quits.

“When you have too much pressure, sometimes people crack and that’s when things start falling apart. So that’s pretty much what happened to us and kind of like our love journey was very short,” said Vlad.

Conclusion

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. – Thomas Edison

What most people don’t see about successful entrepreneurs is the unsung hero behind it all: mistakes.

These merchants didn’t get to where they are today on their first try and down a straight road.

Only looking at their achievements and not their mistakes creates a false impression and sets unrealistic targets, which is oftentimes what makes some aspiring entrepreneurs give up at the first sign of trouble.

But it’s important to know that behind every success is a road laden with mistakes and hardship. It is these things and the willingness to persevere and fight through it that mold and create successful entrepreneurs.

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Ying Lin: Ying Lin is a journalist-turned-content marketer who is on a journey to help companies scale. She is also the co-founder of Dear Content, a content marketing boutique.