How to get over the fear of starting your own business
UPDATED 7TH OCTOBER 2023
How do you conquer the fear of setting up a business? Sahar Hashemi OBE, founder of Coffee Republic, shares her inspiring story of finding the bravery to pursue her passion and become an entrepreneur. Read on to find out how you too can become unstoppable.
Need the courage to start a business? Leap and the net will appear
There are many fears to overcome when you start a business. Fear of failure. Imposter syndrome. Lack of experience or funds… Yet when Sahar Hashemi OBE appeared on our Conversations of Inspiration podcast, she said one of her biggest mottos in life is, “Leap, and the net will appear”, which is exactly what she did.
When Sahar realised she had fallen out of love with her profession as a lawyer, she took a leap of faith to pursue her passion. The catalyst for change was losing her father at 25, which led her to visit her brother in New York and discover the coffee bar concept. In just five years, Sahar and her brother built a nationally recognized brand — Coffee Republic — with 110 locations in the UK. So how did she put the anxiety aside of changing career so dramatically to achieve that level of success? She said it’s not as complicated as one might think, you just…
- Trust your instinct
- Do your competitor research
- Make sure you fulfil a customer need
- Take control of your goals
- Don’t take no for an answer
Use your fear as your fuel: don’t be afraid to make mistakes
Sahar says, “I could see that other people were shining. They were really blossoming and I was not. I remember this unhappiness, and thinking, what is this? My parents would have thought, ‘Grow up, this is life and work’s not meant to be fun.’ But I just wanted to love it and I knew there was something else out there for me. And there was. But you have to have the courage to go for it.”
Sahar researched the coffee scene in London at the time and discovered there was nothing like it. She returned to New York and was even kicked out of coffee bars for taking so many photographs, yet she didn’t give up. Her advice is:
- Whatever the battle, if you just know it has to be done a certain way, keep looking until you find your yes. Sahar and Bobby called 40 bank managers and met with 20 of them, 19 of whom turned them down. But the twentieth one said yes. She says, “I’m quite proud of the rejections. Howard Schultz got 279 rejections for Starbucks. You know, we always think it’s just us getting the no’s and just realising that greatness comes from them.” (Incidentally, MOBO Awards founder Kanya King CBE also said on her Conversations of Inspiration episode that to her, ‘NO’ stands for ‘Not Over’).
- Always put the customer's needs first. “I’m really big on unmet needs. You see, as they say, if the consumer economy had a sex, it would be female. So we make the majority of purchasing decisions and we’re great shoppers. If you can’t find something for yourself, that is the genesis of a great business idea. If you’re missing it, most likely other people will be as well.”
The power of hard work: what starting a business needs
In a world that often glorifies quick fixes and instant gratification, Sahar's philosophy of embracing the 'hard' part of life is a refreshing reminder of the true nature of success.
Sahar's parents taught her that if something’s easy, everyone would be doing it. This belief became a guiding principle, shaping her approach to grasping opportunities. She understood that greatness often comes from the most difficult paths and setting lofty goals that you stay in control of, which is good to remember. It doesn't come from small or superficial challenges.
The decision to quit her job as a lawyer and pursue entrepreneurship was not a simple one. It took years of training to enter the legal profession, and leaving that behind meant venturing into the unknown. Yet, it was precisely this uncertainty and difficulty that propelled Sahar to reach her potential — and you can too.
In her book, 'Anyone Can Do It’, Sahar asserts that anyone can become an entrepreneur. The process of turning an idea into reality is what defines entrepreneurship. It’s about sticking at it. Whether it's quitting a stable job to pursue a dream or tackling the challenges that come with starting a business, it's the hard work, determination and resilience that define success. So, take that leap, embrace the 'hard,' and trust that when you jump, something wonderful will happen — it's liberating and the path to becoming a great entrepreneur.
Getting over the fear of starting a business: key takeaways…
So how do you conquer the fear of setting up a business and find the courage to become an entrepreneur? Sahar Hashemi suggests the following to help you build a strong business, made to last...
1. Never take no for an answer:
Regardless of the challenge you face, trust your instincts, do your research and persevere. If you're certain that something must be done in a specific way, don't settle for anything less; keep pushing forward until you achieve the outcome you set your sights on.
2. Fulfil a need in the market:
For those who want to pursue entrepreneurship but don't have an idea or can't settle on one, Sahar encourages finding unmet needs in your own life and basing it on that. If you can identify a gap in the market or a personal need that's not being met, it can be the spark for a great business idea.
3. If it’s easy, it’s probably not worth it:
As Sahar said, “It is the hard parts that make us great.” Knowing this will help you get through the toughest of times and hopefully just start.