At 24, Alexa Von Tobel made one of the hardest decisions she says she has ever encountered—dropping out of Harvard Business School. But, she had a big idea and wanted to chase it.
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Today, Von Tobel, now 29, is the founder and CEO of LearnVest, a company that aims to empower women to take control of their personal finances. The company has quickly gained speed in a post financial-meltdown and-mortgage-crisis America, and this week hosted its first-ever LearnVest Live event in New York City, with more than 1,000 men and women in attendance.
Looking back, Von Tobel says she made the right choice, but wishes she had taken that leap of faith even sooner. One thing is for sure—Von Tobel said entrepreneurs need to choose wisely when venturing out on their own.
“Do something you really believe in,” she said. “I love what I do, so working isn’t work.”
Here are her tips for getting started:
No. 1: Find your passion. Von Tobel said no matter what kind of a business you are looking to launch, you must be passionate about it. Whether it’s food, fashion or design, you are essentially married to the business you are creating.
“It’s important, because you are going to be tired,” she said, noting most days stretch more than 18 hours. “You have to love what you do, because it’s really hard work and you have to want to get out of bed in the morning. I created LearnVest because it oozes out of my system.”
No. 2: Write it all down. Looking back, Von Tobel acknowledges her original business plan was a bit overzealous.
“I had a 75-page plan,” she said. “But looking back, I had written out the first two years of the company.”
That model helped her to scale and grow quickly, she said.
No. 3: Know what you are doing with your money. Invest and manage your business’ finances just as you would your own, Von Tobel said. Put some of your own money into the business as well, in order to have some skin in the game.
No. 4: Ask for help. Right off the bat, establish a team of advisors, she said.
“Get a team of advisors with more experience than you,” Von Tobel said. “Have your own relationships with them and give them equity in the business.”