Top 3 Mistakes I Made Starting My First Business

Top 3 Mistakes I Made Starting My First Business

Shawna Brea

The entrepreneurial bug has been inside me since I was little. I’ve always said that it’s both a blessing and a curse at the same time.

Taking risks, making decisions on faith and feeling like everything you've worked so hard for could all crumble beneath you at any isn’t for everyone.

I started my first “business” at the ripe age of 11. By leveraging my ink stamp collection, I decided that I could sell personalized handmade greeting cards. I created a small sample portfolio and took it around the neighborhood door-to-door. My first sale was with a sweet old man who made a purchase for $.50. I was on my way to success!

It’s been a long road ever since. One that has proved both thrilling and terrifying. So many mistakes, wrong turns and foolish decisions. It’s part of the process right? Well, not always.

Although I do preach that failures are simply an investment into our future successes, I also believe that fresh entrepreneurs could and should be smarter about the path they take to building a profitable business.

I’m admittedly one of those independent entrepreneurs who thinks that I can figure it all out on my own, just by being savvy and strategic. Boy, was I wrong.

It wasn’t until I started seeking specific training and coaching that I started truly experiencing success. You can’t do this business planning thing on your own. No matter how savvy and strategic you are.

You also have to spend money to make money.

What a concept! It couldn’t be more accurate. If you’re not ready to invest in yourself, then what customers do you expect to invest in YOU?

All company’s big or small are in business to ultimately make money. Passion and purpose should be the root of everything, yet you won’t be in business long if you aren’t bringing in the money.

That means you need consumers to invest in you, your products, your services. Before ever asking them to purchase, you need to realize the value and gravity of committing to first invest in yourself.

That means choosing to spend put dollars on areas that will advance your business.

Instead of buying vacations, fancy dinners or new clothes, you could be making huge strides in growing your business.

You’re going to need to make sacrifices, but if you are truly committed to your success, then think of it more as an investment into achieving your dreams.

Even though I have never been afraid to spend a little money on my business, I wish that I had the guidance to tell me where to spend the money. I’ve made a lot of dumb decisions along the way.

When I started my first business at 26, it was slightly out of sorrow. I had just lost my stepfather to throat cancer, which was undoubtedly the most painful experience of my life. There are things that you just can never plan for. Losing a parent at a young age is one of them.

I channeled my grief into a lifelong goal of starting my own business, in memory of my stepfather. At the time of his initial cancer news back in 2006, I was beginning to run half marathons for the first time.

I had trouble finding athletic apparel that could be personalized (in honor of someone). Cotton shirts aren’t the best solution for running 13.1 miles. For the time being, I had made my own customer performance shirts with iron-on letters.

After his passing, I wanted to do something in his memory that would live up to the impact he made on me. Starting a business was that something for me. I realized that I could capture the market of participants of athletic and charity events who also wanted to run or walk in honor of a loved one.

Although the concept was solid, the execution was not. This is the problem many new entrepreneurs face. They are not sure where to invest in their business and end up spending it all the wrong places…ultimately running out of money.


I did many stupid things starting my first business. Here are the top three for you. I made these mistakes so you don't have to. Please avoid them at all costs!

1. No mentor or coach to advise me on decisions.

Not sure why that I felt that I could just do it all on my own. Maybe it was pride. Maybe it was naivety. Either way it was just plain stupid. I wasted so much time and money just by making the wrong choices that someone with experience could have warned me of.

If there is one thing that I could tell you it’s to find someone who has been in your shoes. It will not only speed up your rate to success, but it will save you a TON of money. Minimize the costly trial and error of starting a business on your own every way you can. Even if you have to spend money to work with someone. I guarantee it will save you thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.

2. No financial understanding of my break-even point.

Even though I had good business education in college, I failed to grasp the importance of understanding my own financials. How much money I needed to start, the amount of products I needed to sell in order to break even, and what it would take financially to run the business over the long term. Stupid! Lesson learned.

After going back to get my MBA in Entrepreneurship, I made a commitment to learn everything I could about the financials of business. Let me tell you, if you don’t understand how money is coming in and going out, you’ll never have a grasp on how to run a profitable business. Please find the time to focus on this area in your business if you haven’t already. It’s a huge key to success.

3. No transparency in my failures.

Starting a business on your own without a mentor and without financial understanding (see above two mistakes) leads to some pretty big failures. That’s what I was facing. Yet, I didn’t want to admit it.

Let’s be honest, no one likes to fail. It can be shameful and embarrassing. So we often keep failures to ourselves, thinking we learned our from our mistake. Yet, if you don’t talk about failures with others who can offer advice and feedback, then it will be hard to really improve and grow. You don’t want to live or work in a glass house.

Take failures as an opportunity to be honest with those who are supporting you. It will allow you to focus on the right things, be true to your mission and make a positive impact on those you want to reach. Isn’t that what building your business is all about?


To your success, 


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