Vickie Chen is an 18-year gaming industry veteran and serves as the founder and CEO at AviaGames, Inc.
A hobby. Traditionally, an outlet, escape or simply a way for our minds to enjoy and focus on something outside the daily grind. While it’s a rarity for both work and a hobby to collide, I’m here to tell you that it is achievable. And when they do, it is the true meaning of “loving what you do.”
Playing games has always been at the forefront of my life. Growing up in China, I used to play Ddakji, or “milk caps,” and these games continued to be a passion of mine into adulthood. As I grew older, technology sped up. Phones went from communication tools to entertainment. This is where my interest in games transitioned from in-person to mobile, and it was this passion that drove me to dedicate my career to mobile gaming.
I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy journey, especially as a female in a primarily male-dominated industry. We are seeing change—in fact, the share of global startups with at least one female founding member doubled between 2009 and 2019. But oftentimes, women are still deterred from chasing the founder dream, as society has conditioned us to believe that we cannot handle the challenges of running a business in the same regard as men.
As a 19-year gaming industry veteran, my growth as a woman in the industry has been an ongoing battle. And, while I worked well with others, I wanted to follow my own path and create my own destiny.
No one wants to dread Monday mornings. The founder path certainly isn’t a simple one to take, but the challenges along the way make the wins that more rewarding. If you are thinking about turning your hobby into a business, following are a few tips to consider before taking the leap into entrepreneur territory.
Make a plan and set goals.
Every business needs a plan and goals to back it up. The plan needs to outline key elements of how you’ll run your business and ultimately make a profit. The business plan is also an important element when reaching out to investors or potential business partners.
Next up is goals. Whether it’s to provide a missing solution, fulfill social responsibility or simply make money, creating goals with clear intentions is imperative for business success. From inception to implementation, the early stages of building a business can be very difficult. Without goals, there is no way to track your progress or keep you accountable.
Build a solid support system.
As the foundation of your company’s success, choosing the right partners, co-founders and supporting team members can ultimately make or break your business. Sharing similar philosophies, along with mutual trust and respect, and complementing capabilities with the core team, is what has gotten me—and the company—to where we are today. Oftentimes, you will need to study and evaluate if individuals are contributing in a positive way or if they are holding the company back from achieving goals.
Find investors or partners who are engaged.
When looking for investors and/or partners, make sure they support your mission and product plans, have a solid understanding of your business and are aligned with your long-term goals. The old saying, “It takes money to make money,” still holds true today. At the onset of most businesses, a healthy cash flow is vital, and maintaining it is even more important.
Moreover, being able to show an ongoing amount of healthy cash flow is crucial when approaching new investors and partners and keeping current ones engaged. Outside of providing funding, focus on investors and partners that add value, new resources and talent to your business.
Industries, especially in the technology sector, are constantly changing. Staying in tune with trends and news and what others are doing can go a long way when looking for next steps to take in your career and/or adjusting a business model or initiative.
From time to time, I like to take a step back to remain aware of my own shortcomings and acknowledge where I need to expand and learn more. As a business owner, you will be faced with questions and important decision-making on a daily basis. Being well-educated and versed within your industry is essential in these circumstances, especially in industries where females are less represented and need to project confidence in every line of communication.
Develop a solid communication strategy.
You may have the best idea, but if no one knows about it, you won’t go far. Sharing company news, successes and accomplishments, as well as important updates and investor funding opportunities, is important to keep consumers and investors informed and assured that your company continues to drive profit.
Enlist a communications team to help create and deliver the right messaging to the right audiences at the right times. It’s imperative to ensure your company is receiving attention across industry news, networking groups and other avenues. This includes engaging online with social and digital networks and participating in industry events and conferences.
Be ready to pitch.
Always be prepared with a business pitch and answers to key questions. This includes current market size and potential growth, who your target audience and users are, your business model and plan, and why they should choose your company or product to invest time or money in.
Oftentimes, product or company pitches occur during unexpected run-ins on the street, over a quick cup of coffee or in a casual Zoom conversation. Prepare yourself with different pitch angles and templates that are customizable for various audiences and circumstances, from an elevator pitch to an hour-long presentation.
There is no doubt that making a startup work is not easy. However, there are fundamental steps to take, and if you have a good idea at the right time that’s also a hobby, it could be a win-win for everyone.
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