Tips for Starting a Company When You’re 20 – Interview with Swish Goswami

At the age of 21, Swish Goswami is the CEO & Founder of Trufan Inc, an Executive Board Member at Dunk, three-time TEDx speaker, UN Youth Ambassador, and LinkedIn Youth Editor. Swish has worked as a consultant for Google and American Express while also being recognized for numerous awards including the Startup Canada’s Young Entrepreneur Award and Plan Canada’s Top 20 under 20.

Here are some tips from Swish on starting your own company, what to expect, and how to overcome some of the hardships.

When did you realize you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I don’t think there was an exact date I could point to or even an age. When I was 7 years old, I built a hovercraft and that was the first indication to my parents that I thought in a very unorthodox way and I was constantly looking for ways to make money by myself. I sold the hovercraft and made $200 which to me at the time made me feel like a millionaire. At the age of 14, I joined a program called junior achievement which helped students learn about entrepreneurship. When I was 16, I started a non-profit, I was constantly doing things. I eventually realized I was a problem-solver above all, I didn’t necessarily classify myself as an entrepreneur until I took the plunge of entrepreneurship which is putting yourself in the most vulnerable place possible and trying to build a business within it. I would think I only became an entrepreneur when I dropped out of college. I am not saying you need to drop out of college, many entrepreneurs go to college work and then quit their jobs and become an entrepreneur in my opinion. I do believe in order to classify yourself as an entrepreneur, you have to have gone through some sort of risk calculus and made a move where you did take a leap and a plunge away from what is normally deemed comfortable.

What has been the hardest part and how have you overcome this?

Mental health and being an entrepreneur is a very hard thing to do. I think it is very glamorized from the outside, you’re going to be on private jets, eat really good food, making money, living in a beautiful place, going out all the time. It is a very glamorized field but I appreciate the non-glamorous side of entrepreneurship a lot as I am very extroverted, at the same time as I am getting older I am becoming more introverted and I am starting to be very introspective.

"...entrepreneurship is very lonely"

I love being by myself but at the same time, entrepreneurship is very lonely. There are going to be a lot of nights where you are on your laptop working while all your friends are out clubbing or times where your friends are in college and you’re not because you’re working on your own thing. It is a very lonely field but it is definitely collaborative when you start growing your company. That is where we are now I have six other people on our team, so I get to see other people every day when I come into work which is nice. At the same time, the early days are really tough and I think people fail for that reason. They get into it not thinking about that and start to realize “oh crap this is not just a 9-5 job, it’s actually a 9-9 job“.

You don’t know when you’re going to get paid, all the pay is resulting through your work and your work is a result of yourself and people freak out. To overcome this, you just have to keep working. In the earlier days of starting a company once a week, I would like to detach and play basketball or go hiking. I think balance is very important but that being said there will be nights where you will be working and no one else is. There will be nights when you’re lonely and you’re working by yourself and don’t have anyone else to call upon or count on to understand your problems. Sadly, during those days you have to realize you’re working towards something a lot bigger, its more than yourself, more than your company it is something that hopefully down the road will help the community, consumers and help make people’s lives a little easier.

"...a lot of people wouldn’t deem us to be credible due to how young we are"

Another hardship is being taken seriously at times, that has to do with age. When we were pitching our company around there were a lot of people who wouldn’t deem us to be credible or people who could run a company due to how young we are. I do think you meet people who are the total opposites and these people are on our advisory board, people who have invested in us. These are people who don’t look at age as a parameter of success. More importantly, these people are up to speed with entrepreneurship. In my opinion, entrepreneurship is a young man and a young woman’s game. If you take a look at the top startups the average age of those founders is 25/26. So, it’s starting to become a lot younger, people are creating companies out of university and raising money. Hopefully down the road, we’ll change how most people perceive young people. When this happens, normally I just move on really. I think you can try your best in convincing them but at the same time if someone is starting to view my age as a disadvantage it is very hard to convince them otherwise. It’s a vicious cycle, you’re a young person convincing someone to believe in young people who don’t want to because you’re young, it’s circular logic. I think you’re going to be wasting your time. There are a lot of adults out there who are willing to listen to you, you just have to find them. There are a lot of channels to find them either through networking events, talking to a professor/classmate, LinkedIn, Facebook, you just have to do that digging by yourself.

What are the 3 main tips you would give to yourself when you were first starting out?

1. Celebrate the small wins

That is something my team right now practices whether it be closing a client or raising a big amount of funding, we will celebrate the small wins all the time. They can be from wrapping up a deal, creating a solid graphic on Instagram or having a really good team call. These are all wins we like to celebrate, I think its key to making the team and the morale we have as a team up. We’re not waiting for the big moments to celebrate to have fun and feel good about ourselves.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff

This is something I have to tell myself generally in life. I think people tend to harm their mental health and tend to become v unhappy because they try to control things that are out of their control. I think what you can do is just realize that there are going to be a lot of things that will be out of your control, embrace it and move on. As much as possible focus your energy on things you can control and at the end of the day don’t sweat the small stuff.

3. Trust your teammates

This is something I am constantly trying to learn even now. I think it’s very easy as an entrepreneur to think you can do everything especially since the first two to three months of building the company tend to be just you or you and a friend and it’s very hard when teammates come to make them a) feel the same way you do about the company because it’s your baby b)it’s very hard for you to think that they’re going to be able to do  a great job. I just think you need to get over that, you need to realize that your teammates believe in you and your idea and that’s why they’re coming on. Ideally, it falls on your shoulders to hire the right people, but you need to trust that people figure things out on their own just because people have different ways of doing things doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

What does your daily schedule look like?

There isn’t really a routine for me right now, but that being said I wake up around 8:00 am, check emails, social media, any immediate things that I have to do on my phone. After that, I eat, shower head out the door at around 9:30 am. I either head straight to the office or go to a meeting. I stay at the office until my to-do list is done. Sometimes I’m done at 2:00 pm and other time I’m done at 8:00 pm – it really depends on the day and what needs to get done.

We usually have team calls around 3 times a week in the afternoon. When I do go home, I try to do something in the evening whether that be making a meal, playing video games, basketball, exercising, talking to my mom- which I try to do every day but sometimes I fail at it. I have dinner, watch some TV and I normally like to go to bed around 10:30 pm.

Interviewer Biography

Emma Lawrence, Community Relations Manager, is a fourth-year Dalhousie University student studying Sustainability and Environmental Science. She will be completing her masters in Sustainability Management next year and is hoping to pursue a career in Corporate Social Responsibility. You can catch her surrounded by dogs during the weekdays and out for brunch on the weekends.

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