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Startup lessons learned: Missouri entrepreneurs reflect on 2017

Throughout 2017, Missouri Business Alert had the opportunity to visit with and share the stories of startup founders from across the state.

As the year drew to a close, we checked in with the entrepreneurs we had covered to see how things were going, and we asked them all the same couple of questions. First question: What was the most important lesson you learned in 2017?

A sampling of the entrepreneurs’ responses is below. Some have been edited for length and clarity.

Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co. co-founder and president

“The most important entrepreneurial lesson I learned in 2017 was that your support system is everything. 2017 was a challenging year in a lot of ways, but I am incredibly fortunate to have an awesome support system not just with my family and coworkers, but through the Entrepreneurs Organization I’m part of in St. Louis and my forum group who have become some of my best friends.”


Jeff Orr, Maply co-founder and CEO

“My most important entrepreneurial lesson of 2017 has been quality over quantity for mentors. Everyone wants to share their opinion on your company. Realizing that you’re the best person in the world to carry out your company’s vision and being able to sift through the noise of suggestions to make the best decision for your business is an essential quality of good leadership. Spending time with too many ‘mentors’ is a huge distraction, as it often pulls you in conflicting directions. We’ve learned to find the small group of smart people that understand and believe in what we’re doing, and take advice from them.”

Zach Winkler, SafeTrek co-founder and CEO

“Never veer from the vision — if decisions aren’t aligning with it, something is broken.”





Anna Haney, Noviqu co-founder and CEO

“‘Don’t be afraid to deviate from the path.’ Entrepreneurship isn’t about having a plan and executing. It’s about having a plan and knowing when to deviate. You have to know your plan, have a general goal in mind and work towards it; but when that moment comes to decide if you should try something different, or potentially pivot, you have to be confident in the end goal and make decisions based on that. I’ve learned that hard work pays off for sure, but creative thinking and innovative problem-solving is what makes an entrepreneur’s journey unique.”

Amanda Quick, The Hatchery founder

“Ask more questions — this has been my go-to since beginning the process of opening The Hatchery. Sometimes I feel I could be judged for asking so many questions, but it has taught me a ton, saved me time and sometimes saved me money!”




Christ Harbert, Testery founder and CEO

“The most important entrepreneurial lesson I learned in 2017 is that we can’t allow fear or a desire for perfection to immobilize us. Sometimes these feelings are important signals that we aren’t ready. But all too often we really are ready and these feelings just prevent us from taking the actions that could make our lives significantly better.”



Billy Giordano, StaffedUp founder and COO

“Patience. We’re a growing company with a lot of hard work behind us, knowing there’s even more ahead. 2017 was all about setting a foundation for growth, both technically and fundamentally, and understanding that big ideas don’t just come to fruition overnight.”




Harrison Proffitt, Bungii co-founder

“I think the most important thing I’ve learned from this past year building Bungii is that starting a business requires some serious patience. Too many times have I gotten anxious, overwhelmed or complacent because things weren’t progressing as quickly as I’d hoped. But as I look back on 2017, it blows my mind what we were able to achieve and accomplish. Patience really is a virtue.”



Ben Jackson, Bungii co-founder

“If you can push through the hard times, execute and learn to fall in love with the daily grind, rejection and obstacles, good things usually happen. Launching the product/service/business is the easy part. It’s acquiring customers that is tough. Early 2017, we launched the first version of Bungii, which we had been working on for over a year. We thought once we released the app, users would come to us. However, it was the exact opposite: we launched Bungii to crickets. I spent the next six months with one focus: acquiring customers. It’s been a battle since day one, but I can now proudly say that we’ve seen incredible traction.”

Sintia Radu, Recordly co-founder and head of business development

“The most important lesson I learned in 2017 is that people make or break any kind of business. That team spirit is the most important, and that also ensuring you cover a different set of skills is pretty much the path to success. So to all those entrepreneurs out there, don’t do business with people you just like (like your family or friends), do business with competent people who know what and how to deliver.”


Alex Winkler, Kolu co-founder and CEO

“Living as an entrepreneur can be very difficult. The emotional toll that it can take on a person is something that you cannot really empathize with until you set out to do it on your own. I’ve lost touch with a lot of friends this year for various reasons, including the startup, and it has hurt. Sometimes checking in on an entrepreneur to make sure they are doing OK or just cheering them on can really make a difference. Just ‘liking’ their posts on social media and letting them see support can make them feel like they are a part of a community, even if it is only online.”

Drew Rogers, The Relevant Youth co-founder and CEO

“As a leader, you are responsible for creating and leading people towards a vision. If you are looking to accomplish a goal outside of your personal capabilities, it’s vital to understand how people within your organization are incentivized and motivated to work. I’ve learned the importance of being able to take people with you when trying to pursue a big goal. That skill, I’m continuing to learn, can exponentially improve your business.”

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