How much would you sacrifice to start your own startup?

This article was first published by Val Yap, Founder and CEO, PolicyPal on her LinkedIn profile. Republished with her permission.

Jumping into the world of entrepreneurship is daunting. To become a startup founder, you have to sacrifice. Those sacrifices might be small, like changes to your daily routine to accommodate time to work on your startup. Or they can be significant, like investing your personal savings to build something that you hope will change the world. I firmly believe that to do anything of importance in this life requires sacrifice. It does not matter what the chosen pursuit is, whether it is running a marathon, breaking a world record or building a startup to achieve success (definition of success is subjective) will require sacrifice.

Building a startup can cost you a lot of time, a lot of money and lot of effort and still leave you with absolutely nothing to show for it at the end. Those sacrifices come at a cost — your time, financial safety, sleep, relationships. Prior to immersing myself in the startup scene and building a company, I had a period in my life where I was dedicated to competing in long-distance track and field races, overcoming personal life challenges (covered in my book, Balls Inc) which I believe have helped mold me to a stronger entrepreneur. 

Starting a business is simple, anyone can start a business but creating a successful business is hard. One of the hardest things you will ever do and it’s highly competitive. If we want to be the best, compete against the best, we got to be willing to put everything on the line for the new startup. Most founders I know put in average 80 to 100 hours a week. When I first started PolicyPal, I put in my personal savings to build the platform and ran paid ads from the salary I earned from my previous corporate job, hardly see my friends, rarely have family time and hobbies or Netflix if it’s not related to startup or insurance in specific, it’s non-existent. In the beginning, we have nothing except for our own fighting spirit and limited resources. By definition, everyone else in financial and insurance industry is bigger, further along, and way more established than us. To win, you have to swim upstream early on–and that requires hard work and long hours. There are no shortcuts.

I was rejected by hundred of investors because I was a solo female founder with no track record, so I had to work even harder. During our first two years, I pulled long hours from morning to night, working through the weekends where my weeks are blurred. There were no sick days or vacations. I regret missing my friends’ birthdays and weddings. I also had to get comfortable and adapt quickly to not having a salary until our investors told me that it is alright to pay myself a proper salary. The specific areas of sacrifice are different for each entrepreneur, but there is always sacrifice of one form or another. Success requires focus, and focus is about tradeoffs.

Some people might say, “Work Smart” and not “Work Hard”. In today’s world, I believe we got to do both, we need to work hard, and we need to work smart. Never be afraid of failing. Failing at something is the beginning. When we fail, we learn, and we learn fast. When we fail, we pivot, we adjust. When we fail, we get better the next time.

Based on research done by the local schools, entrepreneurship is ranked second for new graduates. If you are looking to get into start up, do not underestimate what is involved. I have shared parts of my journey in Balls Inc, I am still learning how to be a better entrepreneur, growing everyday to continue our mission to make insurance accessible to everyone. There is no short cut of “financial freedom” nor “working your own hours”. Go in with the mindset of sacrificing everything. If you end up not needing to, great, even better. I love building and creating things. I love the process of trying to get an idea off the ground so while these are all things I sacrifice I wouldn’t change it for the world.

The question is, if you are sitting here today, in 2021, thinking about doing something big with your life what are you going to sacrifice to make it happen?

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