Uchechi Kalu Jacobson is a UX Designer, tech entrepreneur and CEO of Linking Arts, a full-service web design and development agency. Follow her @uchechi_writes.
What is the first thing you did to turn your current business from an idea into a reality?
My husband and the CTO of Linking Arts founded the company, so he actually took it from idea to reality. Now that we work together, we’re constantly trying to figure out who our ideal web development client is in order to help us target and attract the kind of clients we want to work with.
What is the scariest part of being a young entrepreneur and how can others overcome this fear?
The most challenging part of being an entrepreneur is facing the fear that you might fail — big time. How can others overcome this? I’ve always believed in the mantra “choose rejection over regret.” This is something I’ve thought about every time I’m afraid of trying something new. Failing is real, but so is not trying. It’s important to remember that wishing you had tried something is worse than trying and failing. I’d also encourage other entrepreneurs to remember that you can’t win the game (or come out on top) if you’re not even in it. You’ve got to stick your head out there and go for it.
Were you ever told not to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams? Who told you that, what did they say and why did you ignore them?
Coming from a Nigerian immigrant family, my parents definitely wanted me to choose a more traditional 9-to-5 route. There’s less risk, and that was important to them. So, they never told me not to do it, but they were cautious. On the other hand, they were entrepreneurs themselves (whether they would have thought to call it that or not), and I’ve come to believe that owning your own business runs in the immigrant blood line. Or at least mine!
No one told me not to pursue my dreams, but friends and family do question how I’m able to work with my husband. The raised eyebrows at social events helped me understand that working well with your partner may not be common, but it’s something that enhances our work.
The general consensus was that it’s risky to work with your partner and many choose not to do it. I ignored them because I know that we complement each other really well. I’m a UX Designer and CEO and my husband is a developer, designer and CTO and our different skills sets, temperaments and perspectives make for a strong and diverse foundation.
I chose to ignore everyone because there’s nothing like working towards your own business goals with your partner. We’re in this together and we’ve reached many milestones together. That’s been really powerful for us!
What is the No. 1 thing you wish you’d known starting out and how did you learn it?
I wish I knew that dealing with challenging clients was just part of the world of web development. This would have helped me navigate the ups and downs a lot better. Now, I’m much more aware of that.
What do you recommend all new founders do for their business — or their personal lives — that will help them the most?
Make your wellbeing a priority. I’m not talking about spending all your money at Whole Foods, but I am suggesting that we make time to stop work at a reasonable hour, get enough rest, drink enough water, move our bodies, take deep breaths, spend time with friends and family, have date nights, etc. I know this sounds simple, but when you own your own business, it’s often way too easy to blur the lines between personal time and work time.
It’s so important to take care of ourselves.
How do you end each day and why?
I end each day by taking 10 minutes to meditate. It’s not a lot of time, but it’s powerful. I just focus on breathing, clearing my head of the day and preparing myself to “unplug” from my work and day.
What is your best PR/marketing tip for business just starting up?
Find your niche market. It’s so easy to focus on our general markets, but it’s also important to ask yourself “What specific niche/problem am I addressing?”
For example, Linking Arts is in the web development market, but our niche is middle to large companies with tech-enabled businesses. If we dig even further into our niche, our sweet spots are helping startup founders go from idea to MVP, or working with events. It’s important to understand this so you can truly know your competition, competitive advantage, potential users, etc. All of this groundwork will help you lay the foundation for a strong content and marketing strategy.
What is your ultimate goal? What will you do if/when you get there?
My ultimate goal is to work with inspired entrepreneurs who understand their business and how we as a company can help them align that vision. We’d like to get to the point where we’re taking on one major, creative and inspiring project per quarter.
When we get there, we’ll take a trip to the beach and drink a margarita. We’ll say cheers and get up the next day and plan for the next big goal. Yes, that will be nice.