2 mistakes That killed My Chair Massage Business: How A First Time Founder Can Avoid Them To Improve Their Shot At Success

Imagine you have all the money in the world to make your business a success. Now snap out of it and face the reality that you don’t, just like millions of other founders around the world. Avoiding these two mistakes that kill 98% of early-stage startups improves your shot at success.

Mistake 1: Oblivion Regarding Your Direct Competitors

I thought myself a genius when I got the aha moment and decided to import over 100 portable massage chairs for corporate massages in Africa back in 2016. After much desk research, I believed that no other business was doing the same thing in Kenya let alone in Africa except South Africa of course.

A few months down the line during a pitch meeting with a potential client, I learned that a group of blind women had been providing the same services to them for years. Unbelievably, despite this new knowledge I still managed to convince myself that they were not direct competitors simply because the organization was using their services as part of their community social responsibility activities.

My worst mistake, because a number of other UN-related organizations were using them as well. They were essentially eating my lunch. I was blinded by the excitement about my new product with the false belief that we were in a category of our own. Such beliefs lead to incongruence and heightened my stress levels because my ideal situation was not matching the real situation on the ground.

Mistake 2: Burdening Yourself With Unattainable Goals

If you are a high achiever then you most probably have fallen a victim to this vicious cycle of unattainable goals. Whatever happened to specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals.

In my case, I undoubtedly believed that the market would easily absorb the 100 chairs I imported within three months after launch. Thinking about it now, it sounds bonkers. The total number of chairs that were active by end of year one was only 10 in total, by end of year two we were using about 30 of them on and off depending on the season. It pays to be realistic about what your business can achieve within a set period. As a founder, it pays to underpromise yourself. This way you allow room to overdeliver and exceed your expectations, it’s a win.

A win gives us a sense of achievement no matter how small they are. When humans achieve, the brain releases dopamine which makes us feel good thus alleviating stress. This feel-good effect also acts as a reinforcer to our brain to pursue the next small win and thus strengthening our interest and the will to continue. In doing this, we minimize the level of anxiety caused by the notion that you are not doing enough when in essence we are busting your balls.

Lack of awareness led to my prolonged feelings of helplessness for extended periods with the false belief that I was not doing enough. You do not have to go through the same, because now you know better. As a founder, acknowledging the glaring presence of direct competitors and setting SMART goals will rid you of unnecessary anxiety leading to overall better mental health.



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Evalyn Oloo

Evalyn Oloo


Actively creating despite ferocious fails. I write about business lessons learned and life experiences with a hint of humor and a dash of mental health advice