Diary of an Entrepreneur: Lessons for My 23-Year-Old Self

Hi, I’m Robin – the Sales and Business Development Lead at Golden Equator Learning, and previously an ex-founder of a carpentry design studio, Designed.

As I reflect on the twists and turns of my entrepreneurial journey, there are several lessons I wish I could share with my 23-year-old self. These insights have shaped who I am today, and can hopefully guide aspiring entrepreneurs in navigating their path.

Here are the key lessons I’ve learned:

Start with a goal in mind

When I was 20, I had boundless energy and a ton of ideas, but I lacked direction. I would jump from one business idea to another every month, thinking that my drive alone would bring me success.

Looking back, I wished I had taken the time to understand my end goal before starting on my entrepreneurial journey. Was I driven by a passion to create, or was I seeking profitability and growth? Knowing your motivation is crucial. It wasn’t until I decided to revisit my roots in interior design and carpentry that I found a clear direction – to build a furniture company that could reflect my deep-seated love for design and craftsmanship.

Be a problem-solver first

Creating prototypes in my old workshop

While I was tinkering with ideas back then, I was also more focused on what I wanted to create rather than what problems I could solve. I didn’t realise the potential of upcycling (which later became the core problem my business was trying to solve) until a client asked me to turn recycled Malaysian railway wood into a coffee table. This project, while challenging, forced me to think creatively about how to turn trash into treasure.

The lesson here? When you focus on solving a critical problem, opportunities will naturally come your way.  For me, this focus on upcycling quickly became a unique selling point for my business as well, differentiating my products from my competitors.

Passion shines through

At Designed, I became the trailblazer of the company, constantly engaging with clients and networking with fellow entrepreneurs. These interactions were my fuel, and my enthusiasm for our work was evident to everyone I met. This genuine passion didn’t go unnoticed either – it attracted like-minded entrepreneurs and mentors who were eager to support my journey and help me advance in my business and career.

Through these experiences, I realised that doing what you love can open doors you never expected. The local entrepreneurship community, though small, was rich with individuals committed to giving back. Their support was invaluable, teaching me the significance of paying it forward. This culture of mutual support and mentorship was crucial to my development and success.

Remain open to finding your ikigai

One of my earliest apprentices being interviewed

My entrepreneurial journey took on a significant turn when I joined Reactor, a startup school and pre-accelerator for youths under 30. Initially, I saw it as just another job, but it quickly became apparent that teaching and mentoring young entrepreneurs was my ikigai, my reason for being.

Sharing my experiences, including the mistakes and the lessons learned, was incredibly fulfilling for me. Schools often don’t prepare students for the realities of business decisions — the trade-offs, the risks, and the uncertainties. And helping students navigate these complexities taught me something too – keeping an open mind to new opportunities can sometimes also guide you to new passions.

What you study does not dictate what you can do

I began my career in interior design, a field far removed from startups and entrepreneurship. However, my journey has spanned various industries and roles, each offering valuable lessons and new skills.

This experience taught me that your field of study doesn’t confine you to a specific career path. What truly matters is your willingness to explore different opportunities and gain diverse experiences.

However, it’s also essential to have clarity during this exploration phase. Before diving into a new venture, reflect on whether it aligns with your true passions and goals. This balance of risk-taking and self-reflection has been crucial in my career, helping me navigate uncertainties and ultimately discover my true calling.

Starting your journey as an entrepreneur is no easy feat – we’ve faced our own challenges along the way. But you don’t have to do it alone.  Reach out for a consultation with us, and let us be your trusted partner in bringing your vision to life. From brainstorming and ideation to prototyping and launching your product, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

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