After launching three consecutive businesses, which scaled over $100,000 with no start-up funding, Daniel DiPiazza gained the nickname of “millennial business guru.” And through his business coaching website, Rich20Something.com, the 29-year-old Detroit native teaches courses to young people on how to start their side businesses using their own skills.
“I think the main thing is information alone is not enough; trade secrets are only useful to people who are going to act on them,” the University of South Florida alumnus told EBONY.com. “In my industry, I’m an entrepreneur, but I’m also a teacher. It’s my job to bring people to the water, but I can’t make them drink. My courses revolve around teaching people how to think about starting a business and then how to act on it.”
The Los Angeles-based DiPiazza worked a series of dead-end gigs before having an epiphany to venture out on his own: “I was working at Longhorn Steakhouse in Atlanta. I was scooping these butterballs and my manager was just getting on my back about how the shape of the balls weren’t perfect and I was wasting time, and money,” he revealed. “I was thinking, ‘Man, I’m doing all this work. I had these skills and I don’t feel like I’m being valued. I need to figure out how to do this for myself.’ I didn’t quit that day, but that gave me this initial spark.”
Fast forward a few years later, he’s amassed nearly 50,000 social media followers seeking his no-nonsense professional guidance and authored the upcoming book, “RICH20SOMETHING: Ditch Your Average Job, Start an Epic Business, and Score the Life You Want.”
Here, DiPiazza offers a few of his ideas and action steps for entrepreneurial growth:
IDENTIFY YOUR SKILL
“The first thing is, everybody has something that they’re good at. Everyone has some sort of skill. With me, it was like, ‘All right, I know I can teach SAT (courses) because I’ve done that before, I did that in college. I bet that’s a skill that I can independently use.’ So, look for your skills. You can look in a couple of places. You can look in past job experiences. You can look at hobbies. You can consider your talents. For example, a lot of people can play an instrument, or they’re good at a sport, or they can teach a language that they know.”
LISTEN TO THE MARKET
“There are also things that people tell you you’re good at or things that people ask you for advice about—that’s the market. A lot of times the market will tell you what they want from you. If you have a friend who is constantly asking you for advice in a certain area, maybe that’s a direction for a business. One of my friends had a big truck and every week he’d get requests from people asking him to help them move. After a while he’s like, “All right this is going to have to be a business because I can’t keep moving my friends around for free.”
“Test to make sure that the idea is valid. We call this three-question validation. You don’t ever want to invest a lot of time or money into a business that isn’t going to work. You want to make sure it’s going to work beforehand. The three questions, or the three steps for three-question validation are:
1. Are there other people doing it? A lot of times we have this idea that we need to be the first to market. Really, it’s better if we pick something that other people have been doing before because we know that there’s a proven pathway. We can follow the yellow brick road. If there are other people that are doing it, move to the next step.
2. ‘Can I do it differently or better?’ A lot of times we think that we have to be the best in the market to make it work. Sometimes it can just be different. Let’s say that you’re a personal trainer. Rather than having people come to the gym or come to you, you go to people’s houses and you make that your unique angle.
3. The next step is just execute. You want to get your first three clients. You want to get your first three people to buy your services, or pay into them. Or if you can’t get people to pay you, or you’re too scared to ask from the beginning, get people to let you work with them for free and say, ‘Hey, listen, I’m going to do a great job for you. We’re going to work together. If you’re really happy with it, the only thing I ask is that you refer me to three more people who you think might benefit from this.’ You grow your network from there. You start inventorying your skills, you start testing to make sure it’s valid. Then you just execute. This isn’t like a magical process, but it takes a good amount of courage. I think that’s the thing that people forget about.
Karu F. Daniels has contributed to The New York Times, CNN, The Daily Beast, The New York Daily News and ABC News.