How to Start a Business

November 17, 2022

Tips & Tricks

Career Advice




Happy Global Entrepreneurship Week! Being entrepreneurial means to be innovative, risk taking, and opportunity chasing. In honor of this celebration, we interviewed Yelling Mule’s CEO & Founder, James Shiner, and got his insight on what it takes to start a business.


What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?

For as long as I can remember I was always entrepreneurial. Whether it was selling lemonade or “pen guns” in elementary school I was always interested in making money doing something I could create and run myself. As soon as I was old enough to get a job at 14 years old, I started working at McDonalds – it wasn’t for me. It’s no coincidence that’s the same year I made my first money for developing a website and have been doing so ever since. 


Where did the concept of your business come from?

I was a teenager during the glory days of the internet and from the first time I saw it I was curious how it worked. I started messing around with early website builders like AngelFire but soon started teaching myself HTML, CSS and Python so I could build more custom websites. A friend of mine had an aunt who needed a website for her business, and this was when I realized I could get paid for doing what I loved.


What difficulties did you have when starting your business?

My biggest challenge when starting out was the fact that the internet bubble had just burst, and I was just a kid in high school. It was difficult at the time to convince a business that they needed a website, especially with the “it’s just a fad” notion many had after the bubble burst. It all started with physical letters I would mail to businesses offering my services and after I got a few I was able to expand based on referrals. Back then there was no SEO (there was hardly even Google) and certainly no social media, so merging new technologies with old marketing techniques was the only way.


As a business owner, what are some of your responsibilities?

Your role as a business owner changes over time. When I first started out it was marketing, advertising, sales, design, development, account management, accounting and whatever else I needed to do in order to get the business off the ground. As the business grew, I was able to hire designers, developers, sales, account management, marketing, etc. but that means the responsibilities I had shifted. Running an established business means adding new “hats” such as HR, office management, etc.


What kind of culture exists at Yelling Mule, and how was it created?

The culture at Yelling Mule is one that awards good ideas and getting your work done on time, while also having a relaxed working environment with a very flat management structure. We value every employee’s talent and abilities and want them to feel comfortable approaching their manager if they have a good idea, concern or really anything that’s on their mind. One of our core values is transparency and every year we have a “reverse review” where employees can review the company and rate their manager, the culture, etc.


What do you look for when hiring?

The main things I look for when hiring are talent and passion. In this industry many people start out designing and/or developing websites for fun. Whether it’s their personal site, a startup idea they had or a website for a club they’re a part of, they see websites as more than just a job. Talent can come with this passion, but it’s not always the case. We have very high standards here and although some things can be taught, we’re usually looking for employees who can hit the ground running.


What skills would you say are necessary to become an entrepreneur?

I’m a firm believer that people are either born entrepreneurs or not. It’s not something that can be taught, it lives in you from the minute you’re old enough to start your first venture. It’s a unique blend of skills that make up a successful entrepreneur, from having zero “give up” in you to being able to handle criticism and brush it off like it’s nothing. Some say you have to be obsessed with 1000% conviction, even when people say your idea is stupid or makes zero sense. Regardless of how well your first venture goes, you’ll have to deal with stress, anxiety, sleepless nights, angry customers and whatever else comes at you that day. In terms of teachable skills, you need to understand business, markets, finances and have excellent communication skills, leadership skills and problem solving should be second nature.


What are the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur?

My biggest challenge personally as an entrepreneur has always been work life balance. I would definitely consider myself a workaholic and I’m certain my friends and family would agree. I’ve sacrificed a number of relationships and at times personal health (mental and physical) to get to where I am today but as crazy as it may sound, I wouldn’t change a thing. In terms of general challenges an entrepreneur may face they can range from imposter syndrome, knowing when to call it quits (not all businesses work), pressure from family and friends to “get a real job”, financial difficulties, the first time you need to fire someone (it sucks) and so much more.


Can you share some tips for starting a business?

First and foremost, make sure you’re ready; this means mentally and financially. Mentally you need to prepare to go head down and balls to the wall for as long as it takes to get your business off the ground. Financially make sure you have enough savings or a steady job that can pay the bills until you’re profitable. I’m sure you’ve heard stories about people sleeping on couches eating ramen to get their business off the ground, but the truth is that’s just not necessary. There’s 24 hours in a day, if you have a full-time job that takes up 8, leaving you 8 hours to sleep and 8 hours to get your business off the ground. Less video games and binge watching.


What do you wish you had known before starting your business?

One major issue I’ve always had was accounting – I hate it. Whether it’s balancing the books at the end of the quarter / year, collecting money from clients or paying the bills. Hire an account as soon as you start making money and make sure you always know what you have coming in and going out.