Overcoming the Fear of Starting a Business

Image of a black scared executive

Do you have a phenomenal business idea simmering in your mind, but fear holds you back from making it a reality? You’re not alone. I’ll be the first to admit- starting a business, especially when it exposes your work to the public, can be incredibly intimidating.

The fear of judgment, ridicule, and even failure can feel paralysing. We imagine ourselves being laughed at or ostracised, and our reputations in tatters. This fear can be compounded by the pressure of social media, where success is often portrayed as achieving monumental feats. We see million-dollar companies that were launched by some of the smartest people in the world and think, “There’s no way I can compete with that.”

Perhaps We witness others achieving massive success in their businesses. We see the relentless effort they pour into their ventures, and a disempowering thought creeps in: “I’ll never reach that level.” 

Illustration image of a black executive thinking

Discouraged, we fall back on familiar routines. Maybe we crawl into bed, our dreams put on hold for another day. Or perhaps we convince ourselves we need more preparation – another course, another book. We tell ourselves we’re simply too busy with work to even consider a new venture. But the truth is, fear is often the silent puppeteer, manipulating us into procrastination or busyness.

But here’s the truth: most successful businesses didn’t start big. They began with a spark, an idea nurtured and acted upon consistently and persistently. Some of the biggest businesses you know were started by people who had little experience or education. The good news is, you don’t have to be an overnight success story.

Let’s dismantle those fear barriers, one by one

  1. Fear of Judgment
    The reality is, most people are preoccupied with their own lives. They won’t be scrutinising your every move. And guess what? When you succeed, those initial doubts and criticisms often fade away. 

    As Nicholas Klein said, “First they ignore you, Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you.”

    One thing I know about life is that your fiercest critics tend to be the first ones to forget how critical they were when you succeed. Don’t let their noise extinguish your fire.

  2. Fear of Failure
    Yes, starting a business is a risk. But significant growth often lies outside our comfort zones. No one ever experiences exponential growth within their comfort zone. Here’s the secret: even if you don’t achieve overnight success, you’ll gain invaluable experience. You’ll learn, adapt, and emerge stronger.

  3. Fear of Lacking Skills

    Here’s a surprising truth: many high achievers and top performers underestimate their own abilities. Research confirms this is a common trait. You can read about this research here. You might be surprised by the skills you already possess that are just waiting to be unleashed. The beauty is there’s always room to learn and grow. And what better way to learn and grow than while doing what you love? 

    Remember, your unique blend of experiences, perspectives, and talents sets you apart. It’s this very individuality that makes you unique – it’s what makes you inexorably you.

How to Overcome Fear of Starting a Business

A black executive running a business
Black executive running a business

Now, how can you overcome these fears and turn your dream into reality?

  1. Start Small
    Dip your toes in the water with a side hustle. This allows you to test the entrepreneurial waters while keeping your current job as a safety net. This lets you discover if you enjoy the challenges and rewards of running a business. Remember, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. The initial intensity can be a powerful current, but a side hustle helps you assess your strengths and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

  2. Plan and Execute
    Don’t just dream about your business – create a roadmap for success! Develop a solid plan for your business that outlines your goals, target market, marketing strategy, and financial projections. There are a lot of resources out there to help you with that. This plan serves as your blueprint, guiding your decisions and keeping you focused.  

    Commit to taking action within a defined timeframe. Set realistic milestones for yourself, perhaps quarterly or bi-annually. Give yourself a trial period of one or two years to assess progress and gather data. This timeframe allows you to test your concept, refine your approach, and gain traction before deciding to significantly increase your investment or risk. Remember, even the most successful businesses take time to grow. Be patient, and persistent, and use this period to learn and adapt.


  3. Find Your Tribe

    No human ever thrives significantly in an endeavour without others. The saying rings true even for founders- no man is an island. Surround yourself with a powerful support network of aspiring entrepreneurs or seek out a seasoned mentor. Joining entrepreneur groups, online forums, or co-working spaces connects you with like-minded individuals facing similar challenges and opportunities. Bongohive is a great space for entrepreneurs.

    Share your experiences, ask questions, and offer encouragement. This camaraderie fosters a sense of belonging and provides a valuable source of peer-to-peer learning. 

Additionally, consider seeking out a mentor, someone with experience in your industry who can offer guidance and strategic advice. Their insights can help you navigate challenges, identify blind spots, and accelerate your learning curve. Remember, a strong support network is a powerful asset for any entrepreneur.

  4. Celebrate Small Wins
    Acknowledge your progress, no matter how small. And celebrate it. Each win, whether it’s your first client or a surge in website traffic, is a testament to your hard work and keeps you motivated. 
    I remember back in 2020 when we launched Wisteria Learning. We worked hard at it, but didn’t see much success. Eight months later, the first cheque arrived. I was elated. We celebrated the milestone. 

    To this day, I make it a point to celebrate small wins. Recently, we launched the Wisteria Business Review website in early 2024. A few weeks later, we had registered more than a hundred visits to our blog. I thought it would take a long time given I was afraid to start. 

I was inflicted by fear that I wasn’t a good writer. So, for the longest time, I shelved the idea somewhere in the recesses of my mind. But here we were- the first 100 visitors in a few short days! 

I still have a screenshot marking the first 100 visits to the blog. It’s not a big number, but it’s progress. Little wins are little promises that your efforts will pay off if you do not give up. 

  • Remember, taking care of yourself is vital. 
    Schedule time for activities you enjoy. A burnt-out entrepreneur is no good to their business. Taking breaks recharges your creativity and keeps you passionate about your venture.

Don’t let fear steal your entrepreneurial dream. Take that first step, embrace the journey, and watch your business blossom. After all, the only way to know if your idea has wings is to take the leap and learn to fly.

Alexander Zulu


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