When Biz Stone, one of the co-founders of Twitter, was in high school he wanted to go out for sports to expand his social crowd. He tried out for basketball, football, and baseball, but couldn't make up for the fact that he had never played sports as a child. Most people would have given up at that moment, but instead he hit upon the idea that his school didn't have a lacrosse team. If he started one, then everyone would begin at the same level. He started a team and ended up being a decent player. He writes, "It wasn't until later that I realized that this is the core of entrepreneurship—being the person who makes something happen for yourself."
I enjoyed that anecdote in Things a Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone. His creative solution to his problem would never have occurred to me! Here are a few other tips I picked up:
1. Don't Wait to Be Asked
Here's how Biz Stone got his first job in publishing: while working at a publisher moving boxes of books, he saw the specs for a book cover, sat down at a computer while the art department was at lunch, designed a cover, and slipped it in the pile to go to New York for review. His cover was chosen and he was offered a job by the art director. Notice he didn't wait for someone to ask if he'd like to do graphic design. In fact, he skipped the conventional route completely: finish college, search the job ads, send out resumes, interview ...
This same strategy applies to artists and crafty businesses. You could wait for an editor to stumble across your brilliant work on Instagram or you could submit it yourself to the magazine. You could wait until the upscale gift shop asks to sell your work or you could ask them who handles their wholesale accounts. Yes, it's nice to be asked, but you shouldn't put your dreams on hold waiting for someone else to set them in motion. If I'd waited to be asked to submit a book proposal, I would not have a published book.
2. Be Passionate
Stone ran into trouble when he worked at Odeo, a startup focused on podcasting. The team had a good business plan, but Stone and other team members weren't actually interested in podcasts. They didn't listen to them or record them. He writes, "If you don't love what you're building, if you're not an avid user yourself, then you will most likely fail even if you're doing everything else right." Even though he lacked passion for podcasting, it was while at Odeo that he helped come up with the idea that would eventually become Twitter.
The story behind the popular knitting site Ralvery is a great example of how a passion can turn into a business. Founder Jessica Forbes felt frustrated trying to find information about the patterns and yarns she loved and wanted to form a community of like-minded individuals. As of February 28, 2014, they had 4 million folks on the site.
3. Try, Try Again
Twitter was not Stone's first start-up effort. His first failed. He maxed out his credit cards and moved into his mom's basement. He could have given up at that point, but he didn't.
Your first effort might not end up being your final direction. It's okay to look for another path. Jocelyn Gayle Krodman started her handmade business selling jewelry. She made a few needle-felted animals to help bulk up her displays at a craft fair. The animals sold out and she started her Petit Felts shop with a passion didn't feel for jewelry. Designer Katie Bly admits that some of her best selling designs like her resin opals come from her mistakes. Change, adapt, grow!
About the Book
Things a Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone is a short, engaging book. The lessons and experiences from high school through the beginning of Twitter felt the most relevant for any artist or entrepreneur. I guarantee you'll find at least one revelation that will make your jaw drop. (For me, this was his "no homework policy" in high school. Really? Seriously? That worked?) If you're a Twitter fan, you may be more interested in the latter half of the book, which concentrates more on the growing pains and rapid expansion of the company. For me, Stone's unusual approach to business was far more compelling than the history of a technology-based company.