In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
My name is Andrew Zenoff and I’m a lifelong inventor and social entrepreneur. My new company is BEAM Authentic, a new kind of wearable that displays images, text and logos you can control with an app. Our goal is to unite people around shared interests, positive intentions and social activism.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
Being an entrepreneur means being a business magician who turns ideas into functional realities. Not only do you have to have a vision, you have to manifest that vision into form and then take it to market.
What was your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Raising money expansion capital for a brick-and-mortar concept I built in 2000 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Everyone was focused on internet companies and I was going against the grain with a new healthcare-retail company that focused on pregnant women and new moms. Nobody wanted to fund it because it wasn’t an online company, but I knew there was no replacement for a face-to-face, mom-to-mom connection.
Still, I was strapped to the wall with no funding to keep it going or expand. I spent three years trying everything I could — I did more than 200 presentations. I felt like I had nowhere to turn and then it occurred to me: Our customers! They loved us, they were loyal and believed in the concept. I made the investment opportunity available to them and within 60 days had raised $2 million. I was oversubscribed and we expanded.
What trait do you depend on most when making decisions and why is that useful for you?
Trusting my gut is my paramount guiding force. I’ve used it to decide to do everything I have ever done. My gut, over all of the experts and experienced advice, hasn’t failed me yet.
How has your leadership style evolved?
I have learned over years about my assets and strengths and, similarly, my weaknesses. I know when to lead and when to let others step up. I have also become focused on empowering others by asking the right questions and helping them find their own solutions. Similarly, I’ve learned the importance of guiding people in the creation of their own plans and benchmarks instead of asking them to follow my plan. People are more motivated when they can create their own path and work to achieve their goals.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
“Be the change.” I use these three words to remind myself to take full responsibility for making things happen. In the end, it comes down to our own intentions and actions. Sure, we have to rely on others, but it’s up to each of us to create and manifest our own destinies, one small step at a time. Part of “be the change” is to continue taking action. If you don’t know what to do next, just do something. That “something” will open up new doors — it is the laws of physics, of actions and reactions (Newton’s laws). I see them work all the time.