Five pieces of advice from a female entrepreneur
As a first-time entrepreneur running a content start-up, I've learned a few things in the last few months. Each lesson was a painful reminder of how far I still need to go. Each lesson came at a high cost, the least of which is my self-confidence. However, whenever I feel discouraged by them, I just try to remember that failing is the best way to be certain that something won't work. Depressing? I think not. When you eliminate bad options, you get better ones.
I want to list down my learnings here here for me to remember and for you to hopefully apply to your own life, whether you have a business or not.
Fall madly in love with ideas, but abandon them when they don't work out. Being passionate about an idea is good because it will give you the energy to exhaust all possible means of making it happen. But you should also know when to give up on them. Resources are, after all, finite and you can only put out so much. It's painful to the ego and embarrassing especially when you already have other people on board, but it's better to fail as fast and as cheap as possible.
Learn how to step back from the haze of passion so you can see where you're actually going.
Understand that there are things you can change, and things you cannot. At a recent event, I wanted to have a live video feed via the projector. But when I got to the venue, I found out the projector doesn't have an HDMI port. Okay, anyway. The flowers we had ordered arrived, which weren't that cheap...and saw they were old, not fully bloomed, and not even pink. Okay, anyway.
We were already on the final stages of a proposal, which seemed like it was already approved...but it was not, due to a conflict of interest. Okay, anyway.
Raging and glooming about things beyond our control is not productive. It's easy and it can feel good, but it's ultimately useless. Do focus on the things you can actually do something about instead of giving up when you don't get what you expected. There is a bigger goal out there and you shouldn't forget it.
Talk to other stakeholders to mine for problems and solutions. Some people are surprised to find that I'm an introvert and a pretty private person. I'm shy and I don't like spending large amounts of time with others if I can avoid it. I was like this for many years, until I realized that I can not grow without learning from other people. What are their best practices? Problems? Solutions? How do I apply this to my organization? How can my organization help them?
Realizing that you know nothing is the best way to start learning something. So talk. Listen. Synthesize. Apply.
No victory is too small. Being an entrepreneur is an incredibly humbling experience. For a good few years now, I thought I had "made it". I'm a riot. I thought it would be easy because now I have more people and more resources. But scaling up is not the same as staying in a comfortable spot. It's starting from the very bottom - again - and realizing old assumptions simply don't apply.
It has dawned on me that shit, making my business profitable is going to take so much time and money and tears and sweat. I am going to be disappointed and discouraged every step of the way. Some people are not going to believe in me and what I'm trying to do. I am going to make expensive mistakes and decisions I would rather not.
What keeps me going is the occasional victory. It can be anything from getting a new client on board, or randomly meeting someone in the changing room saying Project Vanity helped her get through depression.
Be psychotically optimistic. I read in an article somewhere that entrepreneurs, aside from having a certain set of skills, also need to be psychotically optimistic. Makes sense. Dealing with all this uncertainty and doors shutting in my face is doing a number on my peace of mind. But I believe that I have something valuable and I'm willing to take a chance on it. It helps that others have faith in me as well!
So today is another Monday, and I will make this week my bitch. See that you do, too.