Entrepreneur Jacqueline Stone reminds us, and herself, what it takes to keep your head above water.
Ah, the other side of entrepreneurship. Behind the veiled wall of business. The part that no one likes to talk about, but almost all of us have experienced: the cash flow crunch. Mine has been particularly painful this year as I’ve hit a lull in our quiet months (June-August) which is to be expected, paired with taking a risk and pouring money into product development and just for good measure, the universe decided that three huge engagement ring deals had to fall through.
It’s been a rough couple of months that were already turbulent on the personal front. “When it rains, it pours” is a saying that I understand on a much deeper level. But a wise old man once told me: “Pain is the touchstone for growth.” Isn’t that the truth! I’m using this time as a huge learning experience and also as a time to be honest with others that are in the same boat. Here are some things I’ve learned in this intense period:
#1 You are not alone.
Talk to any entrepreneur about your struggles for about 10 minutes and you’re sure to receive a tale of sleepless nights when payroll checks weren’t going to clear or inventory was sitting at a standstill. We all have challenges and it’s helpful to talk to others who have not only been through what you are experiencing, but also hear how they got through it and how you can too. One of my favorite interviews ever was with the incredible Cynthia Rowley, a famous fashion designer, who talked of her early days when sometimes the choice was between paying the rent or paying the seamstress. Playing Tetris with your bank accounts as you build your start-up Is not a fun game, but talk to anyone with success and they’ll tell you about their P.B. and J. days.
#2 Everyone makes mistakes.
All new business owners are apt to make a mistake or two along the way. Some lessons are tougher than others. I took money from a deal that I thought was a “sure thing” and spent it on product development. A deal gone south that I am paying for now, but one that I will get through. I’ve done horrible jewelry shows where I didn’t make a dime, lost thousands on opportunities that I thought were right for my business and had days where I wanted to throw in the towel. But I didn’t. And I won’t. Because you come to a place where the risks don’t bother you as much anymore. You start to learn what you’re made of and it’s a powerful place to be. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s what makes us human. What makes a successful entrepreneur is taking the mistakes in stride and choosing to hold onto the lesson learned rather the negative self-talk or using it as an excuse to give up.
#3 Everyone needs help.
Determined to figure stuff out on my own, I’ve definitely gotten myself into hot water that has been completely unnecessary. Mentors, advisors, and helpful advice aren’t always easy to come by, but they’re worth seeking out. I’m lucky that I have several advisors in my wheelhouse, some I pay for help, some offer it for free, but each one serves a different purpose. As an entrepreneur you are building a brand and in my case, a product, that is different than everyone else, otherwise you wouldn’t find the need to build something new. You are stepping into uncharted waters, with no map, sometimes surrounded by sharks and often trying to keep the boat afloat in extremely choppy waters. It’s in our best interest to talk to people who have survived the storm and can offer some guidance. As my coach, Dixie Gillaspie, tells me, “You can’t see the picture when you are inside the frame.” Having an outside opinion, often a professional one, helps you assess and see things from a different angle.
#4 If it isn’t hard, it probably isn’t worth it.
Ask anyone who has started a business how the experience has been for them. 99% of the time they will not respond with “Oh, it’s been a breeze!” Usually you’ll get mixed reviews: “It’s been tough, but starting to make headway.” Or “Wow, this has been probably the most difficult experience of my life, but also the most rewarding.” Starting a business is like having a child. It needs constant attention and care. You often feel on-call 24/7. But think back to anything in your life that has ever been worth having. Did you have to go the extra mile to get it? Probably. And running a successful business is no exception.
#5 Believe in something bigger.
When you run your own business you become the president of your own fan club. Often because you believe in something bigger than yourself. For me, my purpose is studying the evolution of love and I do this through my medium, jewelry. My passion, my craft, and my curiosity about the world around me keep me driven, focused and ready to take on the next challenge.
I’m not sharing anything new here, this is more my way of writing words of encouragement to myself. It’s not easy some days when you feel like you are putting out 20 fires at once. My passion keeps pulling me forward, but sometimes a hug would nice. Have you hugged an entrepreneur today? Trust me, you’ll be glad that you did.