Comet Corner features alumni who are experts in their fields to provide tips and insight on relevant topics.
As the CEO and co-founder of Unthink Inc. and YFret Inc., Tina Mani MS’95 has spent years navigating the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Last year, Mani was named the winner of the TiE Dallas Women’s Pitch Competition and represented the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in the organization’s first global pitch competition in 2020. Here, she shares her advice for beginning entrepreneurs, from how to get an idea off the ground to who to lean on in throughout the process.
- Build the foundation. How much cash will you need to reach a stage where you can show a prototype to customers or advisors? Be careful about spending money from day one, and prepare for a journey that will be longer than you anticipate. The first step is to validate the idea by talking to people who would be potential buyers or users of the product. You should be able to dive into details on one hand and take the 30,000-foot view alternatingly.
- Self-development is your best resource. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted, so toughen up and keep tools in your arsenal that help you sustain the journey. These include fitness of the mind, body and spirit through whatever tools work for you. This could include mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga and exercise, or even quality time with family and friends. Get in touch with your own purpose and align with it, because it creates a lot of much-needed energy. This is not easy and rarely ever comes as a single “aha” moment.
- Choose mentors and investors wisely. Early-stage companies usually get funds from people who are senior in the industry, have possibly worked with them before and trust their abilities. Seek an expert or someone well-connected in your industry for the first investment. The early investors matter a lot, and the right mentor and/or investor can make or break you. Be willing to let go of advisors who do not add value or are detrimental to your journey.
- Patience and clarity are key. You have to be impatient to achieve the immediate milestones but have enormous patience and faith to reach the destination. Work with deep focus, and at the same time, become good at influencing others. It’s important to establish clarity in articulating your vision and product as early in the journey as possible.
- Don’t do it alone. Entrepreneurship is not a solo game. Get the buy-in of people who are close to you and will support you. Starting a company is about creating value for others and yourself. You will need the help and support of people along the way: family, friends, colleagues, partners and customers.