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Waiting for the Flock: Startup Skepticism

When someone starts a business, they often think the easiest thing they can do is start with friends and family. It’s been advised by every entrepreneurial article, mentor, and business guide to start with your family and friends, but I’ll be real with you - it’s bullshit.

Starting a business is often romanticized as a journey filled with passion, innovation, and the unwavering support of those closest to us. However, the reality is a lot of you run into the issue of your family and friends hesitating to back your new ventures until they see validation from strangers. I call this the sheep effect—a phenomenon rooted in psychological and social dynamics that can be a significant hurdle for new business owners.

Black man sitting having coffee and a looking at his computer

What's Really Behind It All

First things first, I need to let anyone who is starting their own thing hear this from me - It’s. NOT. You. This is actual psychological behavior that, at the core, is a well-documented psychological principle: the bandwagon effect ( shrugs eh I like my name better). People are naturally inclined to follow the actions of others, particularly when they’re unsure about what's going to happen. I get it. The tendency to "wait and see" is not necessarily a reflection of their belief in your abilities, but rather a cautious approach to avoid being the first to endorse a failed dream. No one wants to be a part of the losing team so they wait to see if others validate your winnings and then they cosign.

A man walking up the stairs with a suitcase

1. Fear of Taking Risks: Most people, including the closest people to you, naturally shy away from taking risks. Backing a startup, especially with money, comes with a big risk of losing it all. Until the business shows it's got what it takes, the fear of losing money or seeing it fail can really hold people back.

2. Following the Crowd: Social proof is when people copy what others are doing because they think it's the right move. When strangers start getting interested in a business, it acts as a stamp of approval. This makes family and friends feel more confident that the venture has potential, easing their worries about making a bad call.

3. Keeping Relationships Intact: Backing a startup isn't just about money—it's an emotional investment too. Family and friends might worry that if things go south, it could put a strain on their relationship with you. By waiting for others to give the thumbs up, they feel safer that their support won't end up causing drama between them.

“Friends and family will not start supporting you until strangers start celebrating you.” - Jefferson Green

An Entrepreneur's Take Away

For you, it can be really discouraging when your inner circle doesn't jump on board right away. You’ll often expect your closest allies to be your first supporters, both morally and financially. But knowing why they're holding back can help ease the frustration and isolation.

A woman sitting alone

Dreamers and Supporters: Within any network, there will always be a few visionaries—people who see your vision and are ready to ride with you, no questions asked. Keep those folks around. They're priceless. They provide not only initial support but also the confidence boost you need to keep going, especially through the early stages when you’re like, “what the fuck’s going on?”

Building Credibility: Use this as motivation to get love elsewhere when the people you want to support you don’t. Be motivated to broaden your horizons and expand yourself to the world. Hustle and get validation from strangers, investors, or early adopters who don't have any biases. After you’ve successfully gained this type of support, it can significantly boost your brand's profile and attract the attention of everyone who was initially hesitant.

Stick It Out: Consistency is key. I can never stress that enough. The journey of proving your concept to strangers can be a powerful experience for you. Use that frustration and discouragement and turn it into competitiveness, grit, and adaptability. Never losing sight of your vision while you’re at it. When your business starts gaining traction, then you can drop the mic. Show all the people you wanted to believe in you that you’ll stand on business with or without them.

Woman on a laptop with a black mug in focus that says This Is Working horizontally

Overcoming the Support Barrier

So, how do you deal with your inner circle's skepticism? Here are a few moves:

Forget making your family and friends your first line of defense. Pitch to strangers first. Remove the idea of pitching to your inner circle and focus on building a community outside. After you’ve done that then you can think about bringing them in as potential prospects.

Treat 'Em Like Strangers: Don't let your relationship with your friends and family cloud your business dealings. Treat them like you would treat strangers. Schedule a call or a meeting when you're trying to get them involved financially. Show them your product when you’re trying to make a sale.

Flex Your Fans: Show off your fans! It was hard work getting them to support you so be proud of it. Flaunt your testimonials, success stories, and early love from customers who didn’t know you from a whole in the wall. When others are recognizing your startup, your family and friends will follow.

Keep it a hunnid: Be straight up with your people about the highs and lows of your startup journey. When they see you're not sugarcoating anything, it builds trust and makes them more likely to join your team because, let's face it, they do wanna see you succeed, they just don't want to be a part of your failures. If they're not willing to lend a hand even in small ways, then fuck 'em. Find your support from someone else.

Start Small: Encourage your family and friends to make small, low-risk commitments at first. This could be anything from a small investment to sharing your business on social media or providing non-financial support. These little acts of support can build momentum and confidence. If they're not even willing to do the small stuff, then it's time to move on to someone who will.

The reluctance of family and friends to support a startup until strangers do is a natural, albeit frustrating (as fuck), phenomenon rooted in human psychology. But with a little bit of understanding, you can better navigate the early stages of your journey and theirs. Leverage the support from strangers, and eventually, all that hustle and proving yourself pays off big time.


I hope you enjoyed this article. Stay tuned for a follow-up on startup skepticism and how you can turn it into a monetization strategy.

1 Comment

Where are your references? I use references, so I don't carry any load myself.

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