Lessons learned the hard way in Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is hard; anyone who says otherwise is only kidding themselves. People like to talk about the flashy bits of starting a company and gloss over the difficult parts that make up 90% of the experience. It is the late nights. It is the seemingly regular occurrence of rushing to meet deadlines. It is not knowing if what you’re doing will make a difference, but you take a huge leap of faith anyway. It is the literal shed of blood, sweat and tears to see a dream through.

Even through those hardships, I can confidently say that none of us at SAAP Lao Kitchen would trade in our experiences for anything. Because there are also the highs that come with entrepreneurship. Highs like the recognition of your hard work and the acceptance of your product by customers. Those moments make the 90% bearable and enjoyable. Those moments make it all worthwhile.

You can imagine that the highs and lows make for one fun rollercoaster ride with lessons learned at every dip and turn. If we can impart any knowledge or wisdom from our experience, it would be to:

1.      Trust your gut

2.      Compromise

3.      Just keep swimming

First is trusting your gut. Since the beginning, we have received well-meaning advice from loved ones and mentors. Some ideas we implemented and some we didn’t. The hard part is to graciously accept their feedback while also staying true to yourself. You must have a strong core belief that is your truth no matter what. For instance, we have a vision of SAAP Lao Kitchen and a vision of how we want to introduce Lao food to the masses. We are not going to change or be something we are not.

Another aspect of trusting your gut comes when you and your team have a million ideas of where to take the company. The creativity seems to be never-ending and every idea sounds like the best idea. When we started out, we pursued most of those ideas. We learned by trial and error on what worked and what didn’t. Often it was the first idea we had that was the best. Understanding and quickly running with an idea is something you can never learn too early in your career.

This segues into the second lesson we’ve learned through this process, which is compromise. As you can imagine with six co-founders, there are six different ideas on how to run a company. Six separate dreams and reasons why we wanted to start SAAP Lao Kitchen. We each have strong personalities, and the hardest challenge we have to this day is understanding each other’s ideas and meeting in the middle for the greater good of the company. We check our egos at the door and try to listen to what everyone has to say.

Lastly is to just keep swimming. In our own personal experiences, we can attest that persistence has played into a lot of the opportunities that have opened for us. There will be ups and downs. Success and failures. You may even lose a few relationships. It may seem bleak with no light at the end of the tunnel but if you keep slogging and keep grinding, life always seem to work itself out.


-Cliff Douangdara