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'Have a pay-the-bills plan in place'

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'Have a pay-the-bills plan in place'
Tyler Jensen. Photo: The Startup Garage YouTube screen capture.
13:57 CEST+02:00
In our ongoing feature series, The Local looks into a successful entrepreneur's life - the story behind their successes, major challenges and how being an entrepreneur changed them forever. This week, The Local talks to Tyler Jensen of The Startup Garage, which works with entrepreneurs in early stage, high-growth companies to help them attract investment and get out of the 'garage'.
American and self-described "serial entrepreneur" Tyler Jensen called Denmark home for one semester studying international business in Copenhagen. He then went on to found sport and social club VAVi, selling the company in 2008 for over 150 times the capital investment. Jensen now leads another creation of his that helps fledgling entrepreneurs get off the ground — San Diego-based The Startup Garage.
 
How did you come up with this business idea?
The Startup Garage started in 2009 when we picked up our first client. I had learned so much through the process of starting, running and eventually selling my last company, VAVi Sport and Social Club, I wanted to share my knowledge with others.  

The Startup Garage is a team of business experts — brought together with the purpose of providing solutions for entrepreneurs. Our specialty lies in our ability to hone in on the major milestones that investors care about by thoroughly preparing the business, its executives and investor documents to present a solid strategy and make your startup investment-ready. One big piece of our business is writing business plans and helping startups achieve the milestones investors care about in order to raise funding.

Typically a business plan takes 200 hours to research, write and build out the financial model if you are a first-timer. We want to ensure entrepreneurs focus on what they do best, whether it's creating new ideas, marketing or building their startup team. And leave business planning writing to the experts, at The Startup Garage.

What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?

I think that most of the challenges entrepreneurs face are personal challenges. With my first company, I didn't really put into place a 'pay my bills plan' before we started. I just thought the company would start making money really quickly, and I could pay myself a salary. The reality was that that wasn't true, and isn't true for most start-ups, so I struggled for a while just trying to figure out how to pay my bills, while still having time to get the business started.

As founder of The Startup Garage, learning the ins and out of so many industries takes an enormous about of time, research and knowledge. From technology apps to fashion startups to biotech, there's a lot to learn, especially to the degree it takes in order to advise entrepreneurs within those specific industries. With any challenge, overcoming it is always a result of taking bold and deliberate  actions.
 
How has the journey been so far?
It has been enjoyable. We started serving mostly small businesses and now have moved into mostly aspiring venture-backed high-growth companies. I really enjoy the variety of companies and entrepreneurs I get to work with. Plus, our results speak for themselves. In helping businesses raise funding, we are also reshaping the entire economic landscape.
 
How has becoming an entrepreneur changed you, personally?
Tons. I have to have discipline, focus, leadership skills and really take care of myself. Setting boundaries and setting aside time to take care of my health has been critical. What works for me is having a really good personal practice, focusing on making health my number one priority. That includes not only physical health but mental and spiritual and emotional health as well.

I would put a daily practice into place, like I have now, where I get up and either run or walk in the morning and then I do about 30 minutes of meditation and prayer.

I also make sure that I have a very clear plan, and I take breaks to make sure that I’m not getting off track. This really helps me stay efficient and focused.

Do you have any other personal reflections or a message to budding entrepreneurs?

Remember that it takes a long time to make money — Nine to 12 months for small businesses and two to three years for high-growth companies. Don't quit your job until you really can afford to, or make sure you have a pay-the-bills plan in place. I see so many good ideas fail because the founding team fails with their personal financial planning.

It's essential to put financial projections together and business plans together beforehand. Doing this saves a lot of headache, heartache and mistakes down the road. Have a blueprint and a strategic plan for your business — not just a great idea.

Sparsh SharmaSparsh Sharma holds a Master's in business administration and a Bachelor's in electrical engineering. After having worked in top Indian media companies, he came to Denmark in the fall of 2012 to study at Aarhus University and later worked at Lego. A Danish green card holder, he is currently looking for marketing or consulting opportunities globally, while working as a freelance journalist for The Local Denmark and blogging about his experiences in Denmark. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparsh_s.
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