There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: Neha Gajwani, CEO of SmackTom, a business the young entrepreneur started—on eBay—after graduating from college in 2009. After graduation Neha traveled to India for three months, helping women there use their strengths to become financially independent.
That helped her decide to use her own strengths in data analytics to start an electronics accessories store, which has grown exponentially in the past several years. SmackTom was ranked No. 4 on Inc. magazine’s list of Top 10 Fastest Growing Women-Led Companies last year.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Neha Gajwani: A pen doctor. Early on, I found out that when you scribble a bit with a pen that’s not working, it begins to write again. So I thought I had magical powers to make pens work and imagined people bringing them to me to fix them.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Gajwani: When I was 17 I volunteered to work with small groups of women in rural villages in India, trying to encourage them use their skills in a financially productive way. For instance, if they were good at making handbags, we showed them how to make money selling them. The cause was great, but we didn’t get enough women up on their feet and self-sufficient. I took away from it that I’d like to use my own strengths to start my own company with the long-term goal of giving these women the tools they need to succeed.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Gajwani: Yes. In the beginning I didn’t take things that seriously. I’m from a family of entrepreneurs, so I didn’t think it would be that hard to start. This was, of course, a little naïve of me. Understanding the effort that goes into running your own business when you have a dedicated team took me some time to realize. Once I did, we hit the ground running.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Gajwani: What’s the worst that can happen? [People] say no. So ask.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Gajwani: Keep going, [even] if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s uncomfortable, but many people have done it before. Every problem seems big, but you have to be willing to fight through that uncomfortable feeling and manage as best you can. Through this determination you can build a successful business.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Gajwani: Love something when you’re good at it. I never used to work out, but now that I can do it and not look completely silly, I love it. If you work hard, you’ll fall in love. If you’re already in love, work harder
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.