4 Tips for Starting Your Own Business

Six months ago, DeAndre Harakas and Graham Terry were staring at their business vision: a digital platform that would allow sports coaches nationwide to connect with their players, establish team schedules, and build a cohesive culture both on and off the field.

By: Bailey Gerber & Jake Hreha

Six months ago, DeAndre Harakas and Graham Terry were staring at their business vision: a digital platform that would allow sports coaches nationwide to connect with their players, establish team schedules, and build a cohesive culture both on and off the field. They were armed with investor capital, but they hadn’t turned it into revenue, so they took a step back to identify the barriers preventing them from success.

Today, Terry and Harakas, who graduated from IWU in 2021, are experiencing unprecedented growth. Subscriptions to their business, All In Team Sports Hub, increased by five times in a single month – but how did they go from a business idea to a successful business? They sat down with us to share some tips on starting a business.

1. Build Your Brand

Harakas and Terry have seen firsthand that the foundation of a successful business launch is a clear, consistent brand. “One of my favorite quotes is ‘A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a service,’” says Terry. “It’s not just designing a good logo.”

“If you don’t have a consistent brand message, people will just categorize you into a bucket without giving you your own niche,” says Harakas. “People used to compare us to our competitors. They’d say, ‘Oh – you’re like this other company.’ They couldn’t recognize the unique elements of our brand.” Together, the two entrepreneurs have carved out their niche in the marketplace with All In Team Sports. When they share their service offerings with potential customers, people understand the story behind being “all in,” and they want to join the community.

2. Enlist Wise Counsel

Harakas and Terry didn’t hesitate to ask for help. Instead, they connected with business leaders and investors from the start. “We asked anyone who was willing to talk to us,” says Harakas. “At the beginning, it was experts in business operations. Now that we’re a little more established, we talk to coaching advisors who help us understand our audience better.” The input and advice they received helped them develop their business plan and business structure which led to business success.

Relying on mentors has allowed Harakas and Terry to learn from people who have experienced similar challenges. “I still have a mentor I meet with weekly to talk about the business,” says Terry. “You don’t get that kind of investment everywhere – so it’s important to seek it out.” Harakas and Terry would recommend finding a mentor whether you have a small business, just opened a new business, or you are already running successful businesses.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Launch Twice (or More)

If you’re starting a business, data is your best friend – but you can’t get significant customer feedback before you launch a service. “We had a mentor who told us early on in the process that it was okay to launch more than once,” says Harakas. “They were right.” Conducting market research is one way many business owners use data to help build a successful business model. Your business grows when you know as a business owner can make informed decisions.

When the co-founders initially offered All In, they realized how difficult it was for potential customers to sign up for the service. The process of generating subscriptions involved multiple meetings and demos. Coaches weren’t interested in that, so Harakas and Terry developed an automated workflow that allowed coaches to seamlessly enroll in a free trial for the service. “We couldn’t have automated our processes if we hadn’t realized how hard it was for coaches to sign up,” says Terry. “We had our initial launch, collected feedback from customers, and re-launched the service with a better process in place.”

4. Embrace Your Failures

No one likes the shame associated with failure, but according to Terry and Harakas, failure is the only thing that keeps entrepreneurs moving forward. “You have to be crazy to start a business,” Harakas jokes. “You’ve got to have the propensity to fail – over and over again.”

The more you fail, the more knowledge you’ll have for doing better next time – and ultimately, that’s what has kept Harakas and Terry moving forward. “We’ve always set really high goals for ourselves, even if we know we might fail,” says Terry. “Failing is such a huge part of building effective processes because you don’t know how to do it right until you’ve done it wrong.”

Even small business owners have to overcome failures on their road to developing a successful business. Small businesses face many of the same challenges large businesses do, just on a smaller scale. Understanding your prospective customers, business costs, startup costs, or business processes can all be challenges you must grow through to make your business succeed.

Turning Your Business Vision into Reality

Do you have dreams of starting your own business? Are you looking for a pathway that will accelerate your career? At IWU, we have a wide variety of business degrees that will help you rise to the next level. Check out our programs here.

Bailey Gerber

Content Creator, IWU-National and Global

Bailey Gerber is a vocabulary geek and grammar enthusiast at IWU – National and Global, so she spends most of her time writing and reviewing webpages, video scripts, flyers, and – of course – blog articles. She loves all things involving words, and in her spare time you’ll find her buried in a book (probably with a cup of coffee in hand).

Jake Hreha

SEO Copywriter, IWU

Jake Hreha is a graduate of Ball State University, where he majored in advertising with a concentration in media presentation and design. He is passionate about design, and in his free time he enjoys cycling, traveling, and reading.

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