Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with James Young, Founder of The Product Community, located in Plymouth, MI, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I founded and led a company called the Product Community. We are a product development learning community designed specifically for associations. We help associations productize their offerings in order to deepen engagement, find new markets, and diversify revenue. Associations are purpose-driven, nonprofit organizations with a hunger, but not always the capacity, for innovation. As our offerings are strategic in nature, our ideal customer is the person who leads the association (Executive Director or CEO). We do lots of things in the Product Community, but our core offering is a yearlong cohort program in which participants create and get to market new products with interdisciplinary teams using a combination of lean innovation and design thinking methods. It is exciting to design, develop, and deliver new cool new products that have an impact on the world!

Tell us about yourself

Except for one three-year stint, my career is full of newly created roles in risk-taking, entrepreneurial organizations. For instance, I was on the ground floor of a new college within college at George Mason University, and I was a founding executive at another startup university. I love starting things, rallying the community, and developing new initiatives. Three careers through lines inform my current business, the Product Community: (1) a passion for strategy, (2) a belief in strong culture drives a compelling vision, and (2) a diverse, interdisciplinary team outpaces siloed departmentally-driven organizations any day and every day.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Creating the Product Community, which combines my experience, my passions, and my skills. I love building interdisciplinary communities, I love solving complex problems with diverse participants, and I love building things that have an impact on people's lives and the market. Building a thriving community from scratch is definitely my biggest accomplishment.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

I went out on my own because I identified an unmet need, a hungry market, and I wanted to design something truly unique. Startup work is a significant commitment. It's sometimes hard to turn it off and tricky to achieve work-life balance. There are up days and down days and a lot of sacrifices, so believing deeply in what you do is vital.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. As you get started, make sure you have some financial runway so you're not tempted to compromise on your vision.
  2. Understand your market, develop a strong value proposition that meets market needs, build a great team, and serve with energy and optimism.
  3. Niche early and stay disciplined. Engage deeply with your market and deliver laser, sustainable, and focused value. All things to all people never work as a business strategy.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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