Five Entrepreneurship Tips from a Pioneering Alumna
Like many entrepreneurs, Bibi Beverage founder and CEO Jen Du stumbled on a product idea while solving her own problem.
“I was never able to drink alcohol without feeling really, really sick,” says Du RBS’13, who would flush red, feel hot, get sick to her stomach, and often wind up with a headache. “And this [was] just after a few sips,” she adds. It didn’t take long before she gave up drinking—and activities that involved it, such as networking events, parties, tailgates, and happy hours.
By her early 30s, Du was tired of feeling left out, so she put her MBA in marketing and entrepreneurship from Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick to use. The result is Bibi Beverages, a line of vitamin- and plant-based detox shots designed to help people stay and feel healthy while drinking. The company is named after Bibiana, a 4th-century saint who helped people recover from illnesses, including headaches and hangovers.
Since its launch in 2018, the Texas-based company has been selling Du’s wellness shots across nine states, including New Jersey. In 2022, Bibi is slated to expand its distribution to 26 states. “It’s been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get to this point,” Du says. “But I knew this day would come.”
Having successfully scaled her business, Du is eager to pour out her heart—and her best advice—to fellow and aspiring entrepreneurs. Here are five of her top-shelf tips on how to think like a winner.
- Remember the rule of eight “no’s”
When you’re launching a venture, roadblocks are inevitable. Rejection is simply part of the process, Du says, and it doesn’t mean you or your company are destined to fail.
“A lot of people get really deterred when they get their first ‘no,’” she says. “But there’s a statistic out there: In sales, it takes eight rejections to get a ‘yes.’ I’ve witnessed this firsthand with retailers that I’ve done business with. [One] said ‘no’ to me for a year and a half, and now they’re one of our biggest clients.”
Sometimes, an early rejection can serve a business long term. “If you get told ‘no,’ take it as a blessing because a ‘no’ at that time means maybe you weren’t ready or they weren’t ready,” Du says. “Don’t take it personally. Don’t give up. Don’t let it deter you or demoralize you.”
- Tune in to “coronamplification”
For many of us, facing down the novel coronavirus has prompted personal reflection and brought hidden or suppressed feelings (especially at work) into focus. Du refers to this as coronamplification.
She explains it like this: “Things that were working well started working a lot better. And things that weren’t working well started really falling apart. Many new and successful businesses emerged during the pandemic because they paid attention to what was happening and what people were doing and needed. They turned a terrible situation into one of opportunity and many improved people’s lives.”
The key for entrepreneurs is to notice what’s working and what isn’t—and then to strategize accordingly. This can apply to your mission, motivation, work-life balance, or product or service.
- When networking, think scarlet
Networking is essential for building the connections that sustain a business and open doors to new opportunities. Du says there’s no better place to start than the Rutgers alumni network, which includes people you knew as well as those you’ve never met yet.
“If there’s the one thing I could encourage all graduates of Rutgers to do, it’s to help your fellow classmates, hire fellow classmates, and invest in your fellow alumni,” Du says. And she practices what she preaches. She’s heavily invested in the success of her fellow Rutgers alumni, particularly other MBA graduates. “It’s not just about the MBA experience, it’s about what you do with that and how you help your fellow MBAs after the fact,” she says. “If I see someone apply to my business and they have a degree from Rutgers, I’m going to take a harder look at that résumé because I want my community to rise up.”
- Make “profit first” your initial mantra
Too often, Du says, entrepreneurs get so fixated on valuation—a company’s estimated worth, which informs how much it might sell for later—that they fail to make their business sustainable. Many founders operate at a loss for years, hoping their sacrifices will pay off in a higher valuation down the road. Du is quick to critique this approach.
“You have to turn a profit, because you’ve got to keep the lights on and things running,” she says. This is critical for both present-day and long-term success. If you don’t have a profitable business, you’re unlikely to find investors or a buyer. They’re simply not going to want to buy or buy into a business that’s not sustainable.
- Adopt an abundance mindset
As Du sees it, an entrepreneur’s mindset plays a critical role in their business’s success or lack thereof. “When you are coming from a place of scarcity, people recognize that,” she says. “But if you operate from a place of abundance and opportunity, people like to be around that. And it’s during our most dire times that we need to harness that mentality even more.”
Many times, your mindset will be the only element of your business over which you have full domain, so Du advocates wielding that power wisely. “Your perspective is completely under your control,” she says. “What other people do is not in your control, but how you perceive that, and how you use it, is completely, 100 percent up to you.”
Watch Du discuss entrepreneurship, investing, and social impact in a recorded fireside chat with Lyneir Richardson, executive director of Rutgers’ Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.