The Most Common Mistakes When Starting a Business—and How to Avoid Them

The Most Common Mistakes When Starting a Business—and How You Can Avoid Them

When you’re first starting a business, there’s so much you don’t know you don’t know—like how to price your offerings, market your business, or hire people to support you.

Every entrepreneur learns along the way, so why not save yourself some time and money (and potentially even business heartbreak) by learning from the candid stories and insights of those who’ve been there?

We tapped into the wisdom of 43 successful women from the Dreamers & Doers collective who didn’t hold back with sharing their hard-earned lessons gained from their early business mistakes. By hearing their stories and learning from their challenges, you have the potential to not only avoid common pitfalls and accelerate your own entrepreneurial journey but also to feel less alone knowing that we’re all human and mistakes are just part of the parkour and what gets us a step closer to figuring out what does work. Allow their experiences to serve as a beacon of inspiration and guidance as you dive deeper in your business or embark on new endeavors.

Anouck Gotlib

CEO of Belgian Boys, creating whole-ingredient, refrigerated breakfast options that allow families to prep less, smile more, and indulge better.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

We didn’t believe we had to spend a lot of time on accounting. We saw it as something you had to do for records and bookkeeping purposes in the event you get an audit.

I learned over the years that you cannot operate a business without a strong finance team. Accounting is not a one-person job. Finance is the blueprint you need in order to make any decision in your business.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Invest in your finances early. Thanks to clarity in financial planning, our decision making and the way every part of our business operates has dramatically improved.

Juhi Saha

CEO of Partner1, expertly guiding international businesses through the process of leveraging partnerships to enter the U.S. market and helping U.S. and international companies in navigating and growing from Microsoft and AWS partner programs.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I underestimated the importance of self-care and mental well-being. In my drive to honor my late father’s and brother’s legacies and build a successful company, I initially neglected my own health, working long hours without proper rest. It was a costly oversight that taught me the crucial balance between dedication and self-preservation. Learning from my children’s needs for regular breaks, playtime, and downtime, I discovered that slowing down to speed up allowed me to grow my company in a scalable and sustainable way.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Prioritize self-care and mental well-being from the beginning. Relentless work without proper rest and balance is not sustainable and can lead to burnout. Proactively schedule regular breaks, exercise, and activities that recharge you. Foster a positive work culture that values well-being, as it will enhance both your productivity and the overall success of your business. A well-rested mind and body are your greatest asset in navigating the entrepreneurial journey.

Uchenna Ngwudo

COO of Cee Cee’s Closet NYC LLC, empowering women worldwide through vibrant headwraps and a range of beauty, clothing, and home decor products.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I sought advice from people who did not understand my target customer. This led to me delaying the release of innovative products and stalling marketing campaigns due to second guessing myself. Over time, I learned to trust my gut and lean into my brand’s community for input on future projects.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Seek insights from your target audience directly, asking for invaluable feedback and making informed decisions that resonate with their preferences. This shift can accelerate your product development process and revitalize your marketing strategies, leading to increased engagement and loyalty among your customer base.

Degelis Pilla

Co-Founder and CEO of TribeTokes, creating premium, craft products for the next generation cannabis consumer.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I used a sourcing agent because I had no experience sourcing products such as packaging. The sourcing agent imposed very high minimums per SKU, which used up more of my startup capital than necessary. Later, I taught myself how to source directly on Alibaba and found out the MOQs could be ten times lower working directly with factories. My cash flow improved immensely.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Teach yourself how to reach out to factories overseas to request pricing, ordering, and process details. If you don’t know how to use certain applications, find designers on Upwork to help you. If you can achieve lower minimums per order, not only can you manage cash flow more efficiently, but if you need to make a change or there is a mistake, you won’t have wasted so many units. Investing my time in getting comfortable managing factory relationships resulted in a massive ROI!

Jes Osrow

Co-Founder and COO of The Rise Journey, helping organizations transform the employee experience using solutions that deliver measurable results to guide workplaces to inclusive excellence and sustainable growth.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Not niching down our offering in the beginning. We wanted to appeal to everybody, and this made it much harder to appeal to anyone—much less our target audience and buyer.

Only by taking the time to narrow the scope of our target audience were we finally able to effectively grow and expand our offerings later on with genuine interest and investment from our audiences.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Go out of your way to receive real feedback from others to get clear on your business idea, goals, and offerings. Have an unfiltered conversation about what you’re doing, what audiences you should target, which groups you should steer away from, and what communication and messaging is required to connect with your target audience. 

Allison LaGuardia

Owner and President of ALL Media, a media strategy, planning, and buying company for small-to-midsize brands. 

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I tried to do everything myself. I’ve come to realize and embrace that I am not an expert at everything. I now know where my strengths and weaknesses lay. 

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Be open and unapologetic for what you are building. Do not think you can do it all yourself. Know that people are there to help and support you in your journey. Look at the parts of your business that bring you the most joy and the parts that don’t. Look for people that love your work and will champion it for you. You won’t believe how powerful that will be.

Lucy Bedewi

Copywriter and Messaging Strategist at My Write Hand Woman, a boutique copywriting and messaging consulting business for bold women-owned businesses who want to cut through the noise online.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I was very quick to hire out things I wasn’t good at. That wouldn’t have been an issue, but my profit margins were extremely low. I wish I took a little more time in the beginning to learn things like basic tech setups, integrations, graphic design, and organizational skills so I didn’t shell out money whenever I hit a roadblock. I still believe in investing, but there’s benefit to knowing some of how to do something before hiring it out.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Carve out a few hours a week to learn something hard at its basic level. Being knowledgeable about the moving parts in your business holistically allows you to hire with more information and stay leaner longer.

Sarah Mack

Co-Founder and CEO of Vinat, a sister-founded wine company that works with vineyards to sell high-quality European wines directly to customers for less. 

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Early on, we tried to get numerous men in the wine industry to talk to us. Wine, unfortunately, still has a significant gender gap. In the U.S., it’s estimated that only 32% of U.S. sommeliers are women and an even smaller number of US winemakers are women. It wasn’t until a mentor introduced us to a woman in the wine industry that we started getting the right contacts to learn how the industry works.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Understand your industry’s dynamics, and don’t underestimate the power of women helping women. 

Ali Dunn

Founder and Enneagram & Leadership Coach at Ali Dunn Coaching, an Enneagram and leadership consultant who empowers female founders and career professionals to love the journey of life and career.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Thinking I could do it all alone—handling finances, marketing, and business development by myself. Despite signing up for every small business course and attending numerous marketing seminars, I found myself buried in spreadsheets, knee-deep in operating expenses, and barely breaking even. It took a lot of trial and error to realize I had to outsource to build a sustainable business.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Form a mastermind group or establish a board of directors comprising diverse, seasoned professionals with expertise beyond your scope. Meeting monthly to share ideas and resources will provide valuable insights to accelerate your business and keep it on track.

Ronit Menashe 

Co-Founder at WeNatal, transforming the fertility space with the first prenatal supplement optimized for her AND him.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Not trusting our instincts. We hired a website agency and received initial designs that were not on brand or up to our standards. Deep down, we knew this wasn’t going to be a good fit. Instead of listening to our gut, we persevered through countless rounds of edits and tried to make it work.

In hindsight, we should have pivoted and sought out a different agency. We learned a lot, but it was a costly lesson. Redoing the website just a year after its initial launch was not on our vision board. But the experience did remind us to trust our gut.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Listen to your gut! We believe intuition is actually the product of collecting small bits of knowledge over and over again and storing those experiences to guide you in future situations. Being in tune with and following your gut is such an undervalued skill.

KK Hart

Founder and CEO at Hart Marketing & Communications Inc, the as-seen-on-TV multidisciplinary business advisory and marketing company.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

For years, the idea of becoming a working mom filled me with uncertainty. No one seemed to talk about the real struggles. As a passionate entrepreneur in my 30s, I felt like I had to choose between my first love—my business—and growing a family. My career seemed to be winning, but something felt incomplete.

Determined to make an informed decision, I sought out successful mompreneurs. These candid conversations challenged my perspective and ultimately led to a breakthrough. I realized I could have both! Becoming a parent actually helped me grow and scale my business at quantum speed. I wish I wouldn’t have avoided this aspect of growth while starting my business.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Channel your desires and interests into something more productive and transformative, like giving back. For me, that meant volunteering as a court-appointed advocate (CASA) for children in foster care, an issue close to my heart and that solidified my long-held dream of adoption. Sometimes you need a transformative experience to give you clarity on the complexities and rewards of balancing the personal with the professional. 

Katrina Purcell

Founder and CEO of Katrina Purcell LLC, a fractional COO and consulting firm focused on creating efficient growth and scale for tech companies and nonprofits.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Following advice from a source who was not in the place I wanted to eventually end up in. I played small in how I structured the business, which then later had to be completely redone. This caused delays in my first payments, hours at the bank, and unneeded frustration that could have been avoided if I had only had the confidence and right advisors.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Be honest with yourself about the big goals you have for your business. Be sure the business structure you choose can support those goals or scale to support them. Find a trusted CPA to explain the structures and advise you on what’s right for you.

Aura Telman

Founder of My First 90, helping startups grow their dream teams by setting up a complete HR foundation, fostering a strong company culture, and designing effective onboarding processes within 90 days.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Not recognizing its potential impact and importance. My marketing strategies reflected a limited perspective. Instead, I should have embraced the attitude that my business was a big deal, deserving of attention and celebration. Consistent marketing efforts and building brand awareness are crucial for a new business, regardless of the size or offerings. How you speak about your business from the beginning sets the tone for how others will speak about it in the future.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Create more hype around your business. Get excited, plan big launches, and tell more people about it. Often as new entrepreneurs, our fear that it won’t work out after we’ve made a big deal about it holds us back. Treating your business as a significant undertaking from the start is crucial. Building brand awareness is key, and there are numerous opportunities to do so through social media, events, public relations, or brand partnerships; leverage all the avenues you can to maximize your business launch.

Brianna Fitzpatrick

Founder and CEO of Digital Natives, an award-winning digital advertising agency, specializing in scaling mid-market brands.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I thought I could do it all myself and waited to hire until I almost hit a point of burnout. Just like raising a family, it takes a village to grow a business. Growing my team, learning from them, and investing in the right talent was the best decision I ever made.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Hire slow; fire fast. I’ve found most business problems end up being people problems. When the right people fall into position, that’s when the magic happens!

Bosky Mukherjee

Founder of PMDojo, a platform that helps women and minorities upskill into tech and move up in leadership roles.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I regret waiting until my 40s to begin, and I wish I hadn’t spent so much time perfecting the platform.

I once believed the only way to build a profitable business was through raising venture capital. I mistakenly thought bootstrapping was only for less ambitious ventures or side projects. 

This belief held me back for years because fundraising is incredibly challenging, especially for women who receive less than 2% of VC funds (even less for women of color). In 2019, I decided to bootstrap, a strategy I continue to employ. I went against conventional wisdom, embracing extreme scrappiness and avoiding spending on paid ads.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Develop the skill to separate signals from noise. There is a ton of advice; some of it is not helpful. Build the muscle memory to quickly discern what works, especially for women and working moms.

Don’t pressure yourself to follow every best practice. Just because something is labeled a best practice doesn’t mean it will work for you. 

Stephanie Skryzowski

Founder and CEO of 100 Degrees Consulting, providing CFO and bookkeeping services to nonprofits around the globe.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Not getting my legal ducks in a row from day one. I cobbled together client and employee agreements from what I found on Google, rather than investing in a professional lawyer to help me protect myself and my business because I wanted to save money. I simply assumed that my business wasn’t big enough to need professional legal support and didn’t realize the importance of being proactive in that area.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Sometimes the boring expenses are the ones that can save you thousands later on! Every entrepreneur should invest in the proper legal support from day one, whether it’s contracts, agreements, or simply advice to ensure you and your business are compliant and protected.

Ashley Graham

Founder and Publicist at The Conscious Publicist®️, a PR and media concierge raising the awareness of conscious thought leaders and organizations.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I only focused on day-to-day and month-to-month survival. Although it’s great to be enthusiastic about a new business in the early stages, entrepreneurs must carefully plan and prepare for the long term, which I learned much later after the launch. After navigating the mistakes and challenges of my first business for almost seven years, I learned what worked and what didn’t. I used this knowledge to strategically plan the launch of my current business, The Conscious Publicist®️, which is now built on a solid foundation for long-term success.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Spend time researching and planning the foundation for your business, from your product or service offering to your marketing strategy and financial projections, and always keep the long-term vision in mind. By doing so, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

Monica M. Rivera

Personal Brand Strategist and Speaker at YOU WANNA DO WHAT?!, helping founders, solopreneurs, and mid-career professionals unlock the power of their personal brand by crafting compelling narratives around their expertise and story.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Thinking I could serve everyone! I resisted defining a target audience until truck drivers started tuning into my podcast. It was a hilarious wake-up call that I needed to focus on my ideal audience and not just the biggest one.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Resist “shiny object syndrome.” Don’t chase every potential client, no matter the fit. Instead, imagine having limited resources and 1,000,000 customers ready to buy. How would you choose? This is a quick way to help narrow your niche.

Sarah Loughry

Founder and CEO of Em Dash Content Studio, a boutique team of expert writers and strategists that help businesses show up on search engines and establish themselves as thought leaders.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I set my pricing extremely low in an attempt to make our services more affordable to small- and mid-size businesses. Rather than making our services more accessible, this just undervalued our business and made our margins so small it was difficult to scale.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Do your research and be confident. If I could go back, I would take more time to discover the industry average. Confidence is a bigger part of your value add than it’s often given credit for. It’s not just about setting a fair price; it’s about believing in the value you can provide to others.

Christine Tolton

Founder and CEO of Red Cat Marketing Inc., a leading global agency specializing in strategy, brand, and digital marketing. 

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Eagerly embracing a wide array of projects to showcase our versatility and skill set. While this allowed us to explore many opportunities and leverage our strengths across sectors, we soon realized the power of focusing on our core strengths and honing in on our zone of genius. Specializing in our niche of being a strategy shop not only highlighted our expertise but also made it easier for both clients and our team to understand whether we were the right fit.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

You don’t need to be all things to all people! While it may feel counterintuitive to narrow your offerings instead of expanding them, knowing and sticking to your core niche actually helps you stand out by shining a light on your unique benefits.

Marissa Joy Pick

Founder of Marissa Pick Consulting LLC, providing strategic consulting focused on digital transformation, content marketing, social media strategy, personal branding, and more.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

It’s natural to want to take on every task and wear every hat. However, as I quickly learned, this is not always the best approach. In fact, it can lead to burnout and subpar results. That’s why I’ve found it important to reach out to my network and bring in experts when needed. By subcontracting tasks outside of my skill set, I’ve been able to provide my clients with even better results. 

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Know when to say no and set boundaries. Being clear and direct is key; state your decision firmly and concisely, without apologizing or overexplaining. For example, instead of saying, “I’m not sure if I can do it,” say, “No, I am unable to take on this additional responsibility at the moment.” Remember, setting boundaries is an act of self-care and self-respect. 

Chandler J. Esq

Founder and Attorney at Lethal Legal, a modern law firm helping entrepreneurs secure rights to their brand and scale with a rock-solid reputation.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I felt I had to fit the stereotypical attorney mold. Turns out, I was completely wrong. Gone are the days where people want someone overly polished. Rather, people want relatable humans who can solve their problems—not just attorneys who look the part.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Being yourself is your biggest superpower. It is your differentiator and the exact reason people will be drawn to work with you. 

Allyn Rose Oertel

Founder and CEO of The Previvor Foundation, digital women’s health platform aimed at providing women with comprehensive information about their breast health and cancer prevention.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Not just throwing things at the wall and seeing what stuck. I’m the type of person who likes to brood on my ideas and wait until I have the “perfect” one. Then I get trapped in the paralysis state of never starting because nothing is “good enough.” Being a serial entrepreneur has taught me you just have to start, attack every pseudo good idea that you have, and eventually one great one will stick. You’ll never be fully ready; you just have to go for it.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Don’t be afraid to take risks or fail. Don’t be afraid of what anyone, other than yourself, will think. The only type of people who will criticize you for taking chances are the people who are too scared to do it themselves.

Ana Flores

Founder and Co-CEO of #WeAllGrow Latina, a 100% Latina-owned trailblazing social media, events, e-commerce, and membership ecosystem that ignites the voices and dreams of Latinas.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I told a man in my industry about my business idea while I was in pre-launch, thinking he would be supportive. Instead, he became offended because I wouldn’t accept his offer of bringing him on board as my 50/50 partner. He wanted a piece of the pie I had already put in the oven. I wanted to try this out on my own so I could, without interference, manifest the vision that was so firmly rooted in me. I resisted. He threatened me, saying he would launch a competing business if I did not partner with him. I wished him luck.

Just six months after I birthed what is now #WeAllGrow, his threat became a reality. He launched our first direct competition. His business was a replication of mine.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Be careful about who you trust. Contain the energy of your ideas, allowing them to amplify your passion. To protect your vision, you must first ground it within yourself by setting boundaries, practicing self-care, and surrounding yourself with supportive individuals who align with your values. 

Brittany Woitas

Founder and Managing Principal at Kōvly Studio, a brand and marketing agency for experience-driven brands.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I dreamt too small and had extremely modest aspirations. While that allowed me to dive into entrepreneurship with a bit less pressure, it slowed the trajectory of the business and the impact our team initially had.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Dare to dream bigger. I always ask our new clients, “If no obstacles stood in your way, what is your true vision for your business?”

Don’t let yourself get caught up in limiting beliefs, obstacles you must overcome, or even outside judgment or doubt. Set your intention, make a plan, and chase it with all you’ve got!

Dr. Melissa Barker, EdD

Founder and CEO of The Phoenix Project, an AI-powered platform revolutionizing women’s mental health by making psychedelic-assisted trauma healing radically accessible.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Trying to be everything to everyone. As a trauma survivor passionate about expanding access to healing, I felt a deep responsibility to serve every person hurting. This led to me overextending myself, diluting our focus, and struggling to create a sustainable model. I’ve since learned the power of starting small, focusing on a core community, and allowing the work to scale organically from a solid foundation.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Get crystal clear on your “why” and allow that to guide every decision—from who you serve to how you build. As purpose-driven founders, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to save the world. But real impact comes from engaging your core community, understanding their needs intimately, and executing on a focused vision to transform their lives. Start lean, stay connected to your North Star, and trust that sustainable growth will flow from authenticity and intentionality.

Catalina Parker

Co-Founder of Relatable Nonprofit, empowering growth-driven women with nonprofit hearts to succeed in consulting.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I neglected to understand my “why.” I failed to take the time to truly identify and clarify the purpose behind my business. By not defining my why early on, I found myself lacking direction and motivation, making it challenging to navigate the challenges of running a business effectively.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Start by defining your why, mission, and vision. These will act as your North Star throughout your business journey. If you make sure your actions are aligned with these three things, you will be successful. 

Meredith Noble

Co-Founder and CEO of Learn Grant Writing, helping burnt out professionals build a flexible and fulfilling career as a grant writer.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I didn’t hire someone to manage my inbox and calendar soon enough! I also didn’t charge nearly enough to be a viable business. I even resisted learning about taxes, making mistakes that cost me a lot at the time. 

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

First, you’re going to make mistakes. If you remember you’ll either succeed or grow, then the mistakes won’t derail you. The biggest gift you can give yourself is not letting your mistakes reflect on who you are. You are not a failure, even when something you try fails. 

Sam Sloan-Alvita

Founder of Alvita Coaching, empowering leaders at every stage by aligning their careers with their passions and societal impact. 

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Letting perfectionism hold me back from quickly sharing my ideas and content. I worried endlessly about getting everything just right, which ironically slowed our progress and caused us to miss out on valuable opportunities.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Lean into action. Don’t wait for your offerings to be flawless before sharing them with the world. Start where you are, use what you have, and improve as you learn. This way, you’ll build momentum and adapt more swiftly, which is crucial in the early stages of any venture.

Dom Farnan

Founder of DotConnect, a talent advisory that partners with heart-led companies to build outstanding teams and foster a people-focused culture. 

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Hiring too fast. Despite being a recruiting company, we grew so quickly, almost overnight. I had to rush to make some initial hires. Having made some hiring mistakes early on, I have a deeper appreciation for my customer and truly want to ensure they hire with intention at a pace that feels good for them and allows them to land the right person for their company.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Crystalize your vision and values before you start hiring. If you’re not able to articulate your vision to early employees, it’s unlikely you will align with talent that is right for your company. Don’t rush your hiring. Even as urgent as you need the spot filled, hiring the wrong person can set your company back. Be intentional when it comes to hiring. Go slow to go fast. 

Katherine Sprung

Founder of Squish Marshmallows, a small batch, handcrafted marshmallow company.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Trying to do everything myself! When you’re a solo-founder starting a bootstrapped business, you want to save money, so you do as much as you can by yourself. What ends up happening is you spend too much time wearing yourself thin and working in the business rather than on the business.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

It’s not always possible to hire people right away, unless you’ve raised funds. However, focus on your magic and hire experts to help you along when you can.

Kim Jursa

Executive Brand Strategist at Kim Jursa Brand Strategy LLC, specializing in building business growth maps—with the brands to match—so companies can excel.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I waited for “brand perfection” before officially launching my business. As a brand strategist, it’s literally my job to provide a focused target market, razor-sharp brand positioning, and an identity that fits like a tailor-made suit. I thought my business needed to be at 100% to reflect the bespoke quality of my consulting services before signing six-figure projects. Looking back, I would’ve jumped into new business development and parallel path branding. My clients were primarily excited by the prospect of having access to my services; they weren’t waiting for perfection.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Get your brand up to about 70-80% and dive in! Starting a business is all about learning through trial and error, so your brand strategy will naturally evolve. Focus on making progress and driving sales rather than waiting for brand perfection.

Deirdre Purdy

Co-Founder of Purdy Marketing Co., delivering bespoke marketing solutions for tech-forward businesses.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Undervaluing ourselves and our services. Eager to get the ball rolling, we jumped into projects without properly pricing the scope of work or giving ourselves credit for the services we provide. This misstep led to us getting locked into underpriced retainers while likely giving an inaccurate perception of our quality of work. Once we started charging what our services are actually worth, we began attracting our ideal clients who are willing to invest in quality marketing. It’s also made our business more sustainable and profitable.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Understand industry rates so you can set your prices competitively. Confidently communicate the unique value and benefits you offer so clients understand what they’re paying for. Remember that not everyone will be a fit. Be prepared to say no to opportunities that don’t meet your pricing standards and only take on clients who truly value your work. 

Alex Mufson, LCSW

Founder and CEO of Rêv, redirecting the flow of capital from those who do harm with it to those who heal with it.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I ran my first successful business from 2008 to 2016. I learned to never build a business that depends completely on my energy again! I got really sick during that business’ life cycle, and it wasn’t set up to scale or sell. I gave my business everything, but if I took my foot off the accelerator, it didn’t give anything back. For the next business I founded, I aimed to de-center myself as soon as possible. That approach took it from zero to seven figures and a successful exit in under four years.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Make sure your personal identity is strong so your business is a project that you are passionate about and not an extension of who you are. You will make better decisions in the long run this way!

Sydney Sherman de Arenas

Founder and CEO of Admin Boutique, supporting entrepreneurs and busy individuals through administrative, marketing, and operations support.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I hired based on personal connections rather than skill, which led to a poor hire and the loss of a client. Additionally, relying on word-of-mouth made me complacent about sales and marketing, leaving us without an online presence when we pivoted to a virtual model. These lessons taught me to prioritize skills in hiring and always have a solid marketing strategy.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Hire smart, not fast—finding the right talent saves costly mistakes. Don’t wait to build a sales funnel; even with strong word-of-mouth, a proactive marketing strategy is essential for sustainable growth, especially as your business model evolves.

Julie Zhu

Fractional CMO at Julie Zhu LLC, a marketing consultancy based in NYC.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I waited too long to talk about my business because I thought I didn’t have anyone to talk about it with. I also didn’t know how to explain what I was doing. But as soon as I started talking about it, even people who I had thought had no business background gave me some of the best feedback and unexpected ideas.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Talk about what you do. It will give you clarity, new sparks, and might bring potential business partners and friends your way!

Lauren Loreto

Founder of Brand Good Time, a good-times-only content marketing and web development agency that works with growth-stage startups to increase their visibility and share of voice.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

My first business was a result of quickly shifting from freelancer to company. I lacked the foundational components I preached to every client we had—be firm in your vision messaging and branding. Over time, I was left with a brand that, from a marketing and business structure point of view, felt disjointed in every possible way. This led to disorganization, over and under-scoping projects, and no real clear direction for the brand. While this wasted so much time and money, it ultimately led to the creation of the brand I have today, which was born out of a clear vision and time spent honing in on the components that make brands successful from the jump.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Nail your vision first. This can feel daunting because no one has a crystal ball and knows where they’ll end up. But taking the time to sit down and really plan out the trajectory of the business will help you narrow down your vision and stay true to it.

Michelle Penczak

Founder and CEO of Squared Away, a remote executive assistant agency empowering military spouses with flexible, career-enhancing roles.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Not creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) from day one. I thought I could figure everything out as I went, but this led to months of backtracking to document each process. Having SOPs from the start would have saved us so much time and hassle. Learning this lesson taught me the importance of documenting while we scale, and it’s been key in helping my team work faster and smoother.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Everything you do, you will more than likely do again. Write it down; it doesn’t have to be pretty.

Stacie Sussman

CRO of RevUp Advisory, maximizing your sales and marketing efforts to grow your revenue with the help of our all-star team.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

Saying yes to every client and project. I quickly learned that trying to be everything to everyone is a recipe for burnout and diluted focus. Now, I have a rigorous discovery process to ensure we’re not only capable of helping the client but also a great cultural fit. Setting boundaries and being selective has transformed my business and elevated the quality of our work to an exceptional level.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Set firm, clear boundaries with all your clients from the start. Many consultants fall into the trap of scope creep because they don’t know how to stay firm. It takes real-world experience and years of mastery, but being upfront with clients about expectations sets the tone for the entire project. Establishing these boundaries early on will ensure a more successful and respectful engagement.

Kinsey Wolf

Founder of Polaris Growth Studio, a growth consultancy for future-focused technology companies specializing in GTM, marketing strategy, product marketing, and sales enablement.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I tried to do it all. While being a generalist can be a superpower, growth really happens when you invest your time, energy, and intention into a few key areas. Today, I’m proud to focus on growth strategy for technology companies. I still spend some time on passion projects to keep me learning, but most of my energy is spent on getting even better at delivering the most value to a tailored cohort of clients.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Focus! Entrepreneurs are inclined to see opportunities everywhere, but the best ones know that the secret to success is saying “no” at the right time. Trust your intuition. If you start to feel you’re being spread too thin, that’s a good signal that a little more editing might be beneficial.

Celi Arias

Founder and CEO of Grown Ass Business, helping entrepreneurs infuse their business with key growth systems, custom strategy, and leadership mindset so they can make more revenue without wanting to burn it all down.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I’ve been in business for over 20 years, and along the way, I’ve made more mistakes than I can count. A more recent face-palm moment was launching a group program based on my methodology without building an audience. Although I’d been a COO, head coach, and then built a reputation as a one-on-one consultant, jumping into launching a group program wasn’t a bad move. But I did it before creating any brand recognition and trust around the methodology. It meant that filling the program was like trying to climb Mount Everest in flip-flops—an uphill battle. I did it, and the program is a gem, but business is hard enough; we don’t need to make it any harder on ourselves.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

There is a specific order to growth. And while skipping certain steps doesn’t render your journey impossible, it can make the process more challenging than necessary.

By adhering to the proper growth sequence and ensuring that each stage is completed before moving on to the next, entrepreneurs can set themselves up for a smoother, more successful journey. Losing sight of this principle, even briefly, can lead to unnecessary obstacles and setbacks.

Kat Lourenco

Founder of Birds of a Feather Co., a collective of industry veterans empowering creative teams—from strategic storytelling to streamlined execution.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

I thought I was a hero for taking on a ton of client work. I was wrong. I spent all my time working in the business and very little time working on the business.

By the time we finished those contracts, our revenue went off a cliff. It took months to reset the damage done to the business and my confidence.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Fiercely protect your time to work on business development. Great client relationships are built with consistency over time. You can’t build from a place of urgency or scarcity. 

Lexi St. Laurent Hartmann

Founder and CEO of iHartContent, a bilingual, women-led content agency dedicated to helping growing agencies, consultants, and marketing professionals bridge hiring gaps and increase bandwidth through boutique-quality white label marketing fulfillment.

My biggest mistake when starting my business:

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I was in such a rush to bring on clients that I priced my services with precisely zero strategy beyond the need to keep the lights on. The last thing on my mind was scaling or hiring a team. To my surprise, we grew quickly—from zero to six-figures in six months. Despite that apparent success, when the time came to expand our team and infrastructure to support this growth, the margins simply weren’t there. It led to an uncomfortable period of raising prices, offboarding clients who could not afford them, and restructuring our offerings in a way that was more sustainable and profitable.

My advice for others starting out to help them avoid making those same mistakes:

Channel some of that creative energy you have in the planning stages of your business into visualizing what you’d truly like your days to look like as an entrepreneur. Be honest with yourself. If you envision freedom in time and finances, it’s essential to understand the revenue milestones you’ll need to hit to get there.

All individuals featured in this article are members of Dreamers & Doers, an award-winning community that amplifies extraordinary women entrepreneurs, investors, and leaders by securing PR, forging authentic connections, and curating high-impact resources. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and get involved here.

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