Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Where's The FUN in Self-FUNding? 730 Days In the Trenches

Please note:  the following was written as an article about entrepreneurs.  The language can be quite "raw."

Where’s the “Fun” in Self-FUNding?

730 Days In the Trenches

Turning a dream into reality, on your own dime, is an experience in self-realization. Realizing what you're good at, what you're not so good at, and realizing that if turning dreams into reality was easy ... everyone would be doing it! As my dream, The CraftStar, hit our second birthday, I look back at the past 730 days and realize I've learned A LOT. And ... that just might be the most important part of the journey.
Passion, belief, passion, belief … it may sound like a mantra some guru told me to perform in front of my bathroom mirror every morning, but it’s not. If you’re truly passionate about your dream you don’t need to keep telling yourself to be passionate or have belief. It’s innate. If it’s not … consider a different path. Like the ole’ cliché goes: you have to believe it to achieve it.
Be A Chumbawumba. Remember them? They got knocked down and got up again. Actually, they didn’t, but that’s a whole other story about the music business. Having that passion and belief and showing it to the world is scary. You’re opening your heart … and you are going to run into those who will try to knock you down, knock it out of you, knock you off course. Take it. Cry, scream, punch a pillow … but just take it. Learn from it and move on. Move on and away from those knocks and knockers.
You need to get screwed. Yep. You need to get screwed – big time – at least once (and hopefully only once.) But that screw has to be so hard that you know never ever to go down that path again. My screw started even before we launched The CraftStar. As someone who didn’t have experience building complex websites, I had to rely on a “friend” to manage the build. But, something didn’t feel right through the process … call it a sixth sense or gut instinct – something was making me uncomfortable. But not knowing the coding game, I believed what I was being told – “This is the way it always works” (the several launch delays), “It will be fine”, etc. That was a HUGE mistake … a very expensive, time wasting, user confidence, mistake. When we launched the first version, it fell apart almost immediately. It was horrifying and heartbreaking - I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with such stress. There was my baby being born and it was withering away before my eyes. Even then, I was being told “that’s always the way it works – the bugs will be fixed” and how could I argue that? I didn’t know they (the tech company) was ripping me off and not doing the job as it was explained to me AND it was a “FRIEND” managing it. When I finally listened to my gut, and by now had the evidence the site wasn’t going to function as I was told it was, I had to make the horrible decision of finding a new tech company. In that process, I lost a friend, and A LOT of money. So, even if it feels the most comfortable route to go … look around before you take that next single step. Are there any screwers here? Do you have a gut feeling you should be listening to? If the answer is an obvious “yes” or even a slight whisper in your head reminding you of the big screw: STOP! Step. Away. From. The. Conversation. Once screwed, twice shy … and ten times aware.
Make sure you have “no”bodies in your life. No matter how passionate and confident in your dream, chances are pretty high you don’t know everything. Make sure you have people around you to challenge your latest “best idea in the whole entire world.” I can’t count the amount of “best ideas in the whole entire world” I’ve had for my business … to thanking the gods hours later that I didn’t make that call. You’re too (or should be) entrenched in your dream to see some of the realities. Those realities are so important and need to be pointed out by a “no” body.
Ask for a dartboard for Christmas. You need one of those. Look at the bullseye as your company’s success point and start throwing those darts. By the next Christmas, or whatever timeline you’ve set for yourself, make sure your dart throw is slowly refining and perfecting itself. The first week of throws you were off the board, the third week you hit the second circle. Keep throwing and throwing as you get closer and closer to that bullseye.
Have a stress cupboard. Fill it with chamomile tea, valerian, Xanax, or whatever gets you through the day. If you have a dream, and you have that passion and belief to work it towards reality – you’re going to get stressed – and that little cupboard could become mama’s best friend. If you’re not getting stressed, you’re either a relation of the Disney character Elsa or a robot. Neither of those a great entrepreneur makes. Stress (in small doses) is good for creativity, memory, and keeps things interesting – you need to learn to handle it.
Where’s Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Monica, Joey and Phoebe? Remember those friends of yours? At some point, you’re going to be walking up the stairs thinking “shit, I forgot Marcia’s birthday.” Or you’ll be brushing your teeth and say to yourself “I miss Anna … I haven’t seen her and the kids for ages.” Then you’ll get into bed and think “It’s been forever since April and I had our weekly mojito sessions.” And THEN it will hit you. You are and have been so focused on your dream … getting closer to that bullseye … that your social life consists of a mom and two rescue cats. Ok ... obviously that’s MY scenario, but I’ll bet you’ll have something similar. I have to admit, I still haven’t figured out how to get the business / life balance as a self-funded entrepreneur … because there’s always work to do. Don’t be surprised that some people just won’t get it.
Here’s how my most recent conversation with my father went: He said, “How’s that internet thing going?” I stood looking at him incredulously and replied “Which internet “thing” are you talking about? CNN? They seem to be doing pretty well. Or thecraftstar.com? You know, that thing I’ve spent every waking moment of life for the past three years working on or thinking about and the one I’ve spent every dime I ever made, including selling my house to fund it. Is that the internet “thing” you’re talking about?” Sarcasm isn’t pretty in a lady, but seriously … he doesn't get it.
Prepare to Get Naked: When you put your heart and soul out there for the world to see, you’ll find that’s sometimes that’s not enough. There’s a strange breed of people (strange to me, anyway) that glory in your flaws ... be them personal, character, professional. They’ll strip you down (while dancing around a May pole) until all you’re left with is the skin you were born with. It’s hard. It’s hurtful. But ... it does open your eyes to the “other side.” Did I mention it’s hard and hurtful? Learn from it, and start wearing extra layers of clothing. Thankfully that’s trendy.
I read an article with a quote that hit the nail on my head: “The accidental causes are the ones that can become a personal mission, a North star guiding your work and shaping your career.” * How fabulous is that? If you can relate … I believe you too have the passion and belief to go for your dream and make it a reality … hitting that bullseye. I left a very long and very successful career as a broadcasting executive to become an entrepreneur. I’ve had high highs along this path, and low lows – days I didn’t want to get our of bed because everything is hard. Or rather, nothing is easy. I left behind a huge paycheck to follow my dream in helping creative small businesses grow. I'm a single, female, self funded entrepreneur trying to compete with an established multi-hundred million dollar company. Geez .... what the hell was I thinking? That question comes up quite often … especially around the 28 or 29 of every month … when the rent check needs to be sent.
I’ll tell you what I was thinking … I was thinking there’s a need for creative small businesses to be respected, nourished, educated … given everything possible to help them succeed. Someone needed to step up because there are A LOT of these businesses and they’re not being given a fair chance in the e:commerce world. My belief and passion is giving them that platform … and that is The CraftStar. Why am I so passionate about this that I’ve risked literally everything I have to build the site? Because I’m one of them. And boy, do I have dreams for all of us. I have the most creative, fabulous, unique, innovative idea / goal in my bullseye, that I feel as a company we’re just at the point to pursue. So, even after all this time … my passion is burning as strong as ever because I AM going to make that idea happen. In fact, I’ll go so far to say it’s no longer “just” a dream – it’s a vision. And when you can see it, you can be it. Especially if you have a mom and two rescue cats that are always there for you when Chumbawumba starts playing.
Here’s to you – members of The CraftStar – I thank you with all my heart. As one of our biggest cheerleaders says: “It’s going to be great.”
Bethan Davies
FOUNDER / CEO The CraftStar
Image courtesy of: http://pixabay.com/en/users/Efraimstochter
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