Kunbi Tinuoye | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Kunbi Tinuoye

Background:  

UrbanGeekz is a video-centric news platform that spotlights people of color working in technology, science and business. Former NBC News correspondent Kunbi Tinuoye founded the site in February 2015. Among other partnerships, UrbanGeekz is currently collaborating with Atlanta Tech Village on a competition for tech entrepreneurs who are female or belong to underrepresented minorities.

The Mistake:

I probably underestimated just how challenging it would be to launch a successful startup with limited finances and resources. Initially, I leveraged my personal savings to fund the company. Looking back, I would have explored more funding options for the new business. 

On a positive note, limited finances pushed us to be more creative and we are now generating revenue, but the initial months were extremely tough. In fact, we still have no outside investors. I was so focused on building a successful brand I didn’t put enough thought into funding to keep the business afloat. 

If it wasn’t for my huge amount of faith, self-belief, and dogged determination I may have given up. But when you’re fueled by passion, you’ll find a way. I went in feet first and felt very strongly about my brand. 

Initially, I leveraged my personal savings to fund the company. 

The Lesson:

I have learned that it simply isn’t enough to rely on personal savings as a buffer in the early stages of launching a new business venture. Funding needs to be incorporated into the business model. There’s no point duplicating the big players with limited resources. Do your research to create a product or service that’s unique, innovative, and appealing to a broad base of consumers. If you create some innovative, people will take notice. Create something that will make the big players stand up and take notice.  

I would advise any aspiring entrepreneur or first time CEO to think carefully about multiple strategies to help fund their business, paying particular attention to generating revenue and cash flow. It’s not enough to simply focus on building a compelling brand or product. It’s crucial to incorporate funding into business models from day one. That could be anything from angel investment, financial support from family and friends, diversifying your business model, or simply dedicated time to a side hustle that generates revenue to help keep your startup afloat. 

Another option is to get a part-time job while in the startup phase. In fact, I still provide public relations assistance and press consultations for startups and fellow entrepreneurs! The thing is, there will always be unexpected costs and bills and it’s crucial that startups are able to deal with these inevitable challenges head on. 

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti.

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