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2020 Startup Missouri Expo: Entrepreneurs & Experts

Stephanie McGrew, Chris Brown, Mindy McCubbin, Fanta Kaba and Sarah Schlafly

Stephanie McGrew (clockwise from top left), Chris Brown, Mindy McCubbin, Fanta Kaba and Sarah Schlafly share insights on what they learned from their biggest mistakes as first-time business owners.

Editor’s note: Each issue of Startup Missouri includes the feature “My Biggest Mistake,” in which Missouri entrepreneurs share the hard-won knowledge they’ve acquired while launching their businesses. In this installment, we share the responses of startup owners and experts on entrepreneurship who participated as presenters or panelists during our three-day 2020 Startup Missouri Expo held virtually Sept. 15-17.

As a first-time business owner, what was your biggest mistake, and what did you learn from it?

[I learned to] get a contract for EVERYTHING.  No matter if it is with a family member or a close friendship.  That contract will save you and set boundaries. It will also ensure that both parties know what is expected of them and will allow them to also uphold those expectations.

 — Stephanie McGrew, a Texas native who moved to Missouri to further her education, opened her fitness studio, Lone Star Physiques, in Kirksville. She now has two locations, as well as a healthy meal-prep service, and she owns the Kirksville Escape Room.

My biggest mistake in building my first business was not talking to customers enough before building our “solutions.” I thought I knew the market and started building without taking the time to interview my target clients. I ended up building something that they didn’t find as valuable as I did.

 — Chris Brown is a Kansas City attorney who in 2013 left a mid-size law firm to become a full-time entrepreneur. Since then, he’s created and sold companies, and he’s mentored many entrepreneurs and freelancers. He represents Kansas City startups, freelancers and small businesses through his firm, Venture Legal.

My biggest mistake as a business owner was not following my gut instinct backed by research from the very beginning. As a new entrepreneur, when I was starting off something, I struggled with listening to my voice and incorporating my own story with why I began the brand. In this day of society, consumers want more than a product. They want to know who the founder is, what [the founder’s] story is, and to feel inspired. Since recognizing the importance and power of my voice and story, I have been able to connect with our customers, who we call our tribe members.

 — Fanta Kaba is an MBA student at the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis and the founder and owner of New York-based skincare brand Golden Roots Essentials. Her products are exclusively available online and have been shipped to more than 30 states in the past year.

My biggest mistake was not understanding the power of leverage. I am a professional investor, so I am a bit embarrassed by this. The leverage I am speaking of comes from knowing how to leverage human capital. When I first started my firm, I thought I needed to do it all myself (every role — CFO, compliance, branding, etc.). And I quickly realized that you can compound your growth much faster if you are willing to be ruthlessly efficient in delegating, systematizing and outsourcing the roles that others are stronger and better at than you.

 — Mindy McCubbin is a co-founder of the Columbia-based Women’s Investment Network for Entrepreneurs, which aims to remedy gender-based discrimination in investing and propel early-stage growth of women-led companies. She works with small business owners and entrepreneurs as  owner and founder of Truman Wealth Advisors in Columbia.

Starting out, I was not very good at delegating. I have become immensely better at delegating. But I had this idea that I needed to touch and approve everything before it went out . . . That was very difficult, starting out. It was just, getting that trust. If someone else does it their own way, that’s perfectly fine. I don’t need to mess in every single aspect of the company.

 — Sarah Schlafly is the CEO of Mighty Cricket, a next-generation protein company with a mission to build a clean protein supply to sustain the world. In 2014, Inc. magazine recognized her as a military entrepreneur for her work with one of her previous companies.

To hear more from these and other participants in the virtual 2020 Startup Missouri Expo, click here

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