I was chatting with a good friend of mine yesterday. We were discussing the art of reframing a challenge or negative occurrence in life into something of better use. In the case of my entrepreneurial path, I told her that I making a better story.
What do I mean? Well, there’s no doubt that the failure of my crowdfunding campaign has shaken my confidence a bit. However, if it was successful, then maybe others would have seen that success as something that no one else could duplicate. That perhaps I had more things going for me like education or experience or luck etc.
I purposely started writing this blog to share the ups and downs of starting a business because few seem to do so. Instead, they’re all looking at it retrospectively and the lows don’t seem so low. Well, I’m showing you a low right now, and truthfully it sucks!
It’s hard to continue to take chances when it’s so easy to go back to a high paying job. However, I know that my true calling is as an entrepreneur, not as an executive working for someone else.
Sometimes it’s easier to be a professional in a shadow career than it is to turn pro in our real calling. When we turn pro, we stop running from our fears. We turn around and face them. We will have to choose between the life we want for our future and the life we have left behind.
A good story doesn’t show the road map of a “lucky” person. In fact a true story arc shows false highs and the depth of despair before the “hero” comes out on the other side having faced their personal or metaphorical demons and winning. Of course, this only happens if they don’t quit first. Those stories never get published.
My friend gave me a useful reboot. She reminded me of what I’m good at and what I have done before. Now, I just need to get my mind back on course to move this business past this current low.
Here’s to the next chapter and making a better story.
P.S. For some reason, this Lewis Howe podcast about personal branding and being crystal clear on your purpose really spoke to me today.
Everyone loves a good success story, and these days, “entrepreneur” is the coolest title out there. The truth is that it’s hard and rarely makes any money in the early years of a business. So, how do you explain the realities of being an entrepreneur when you’re being interviewed about your business before you’re successful?
P.S. I finally threw away the display at the tip yesterday. I don’t feel as bad since I bought the door at the Green Shed second-hand, and the metal could be salvaged. It has truly caused me more stress than almost anything else in prep for this campaign. If I need a new display, I will definitely get it done properly next time.
After working so hard on the launch for so long, I really thought that I was feeling pretty good despite it. However, two things have happened in the last 24 hours that tell me that I need a day off – a rest day.
First, I forgot I had groceries in the car yesterday and had to toss it all away. This happened a couple of months ago too.
Then I was scheduled to do a podcast interview today and had to toss the whole interview away because of way too many technical issues. Part of it was my fault, and part of it was because of the venue I chose to record the interview. I found myself stuttering with my questions way more than normal too.
I felt so bad afterwards for wasting my guest’s time that I offered to do some graphic design work for free that I knew they needed done.
So tonight, I had a massage and now have written a checklist to force myself to go through about 7 steps before starting each interview. I think I’ve also identified a better venue.
I’ve been working such crazy hours for so long now that I really don’t know how to switch off other than going to bed. Exercise used to be my other outlet, but I’ve been recovering from an injury since June which has limited my activities drastically. Hopefully the MRI on Monday will give me a way forward to recover.
Ultimately, I think I need a day off, and honestly I’m struggling to do that because I forgot how to turn off my business brain. I might just need a little bit of help from my friends once again.
Starting a new business is scary. Putting yourself out there in front of the world to potentially fail is something that most people won’t do, especially if they have already proven to have a successful working career up to that point.
I took that crazy step a number of months ago, and regardless of what happens tonight at our Stray No More product launch and over the next 30 days of the crowdfunding campaign, I am extremely grateful for all of the support from both new friends and old.
With just a few days to go before our product launch, we just finished about 90% of the video shots today and all of the photo shots yesterday. Yes, we’re still way behind schedule, but at least we are on the homestretch.
The display is trying to kill me
I finally picked up my display on Tuesday, but it’s not the best looking or steadiest thing you’ve ever seen. I totally regret buying an old door I found at the Green Shed rather than buying a new one for this project.
The display was designed to fold in half so that it would fit into my car, but this feature has also been it’s undoing. Who knew that it would be stuffed with cardboard to keep it’s form? I just wished my carpenter told me earlier (and got me it on time), and we could have swapped it for a $40 new one.
So, I spent the last two evenings painting it in my apartment complex’s garage to try to improve it’s appearance. I picked colours from my logo, but quickly realised that I should have used the darker green. The lighter green looked like a Canberra Raiders supporter lived behind the door. While I am actually a Raiders supporter, the colour also made my white prototype appear lime green too. Oops!
Blood fell from my fingers as I cut myself again that night. Then I scrapped the paint when I loaded it into my car. Ugh!
At the last minute, I decided to do the photo shoot without the display which I think was a good call. “Iggy,” the photographers’ dog at Lightbulb Studio helped too as a model, showing off the product.
Last night, I once again spent the evening in the garage painting the display a darker colour and to hide the scraps. At one point, the whole door started to come apart as it did the previous night. I tried superglue, but it didn’t work. This time, I resorted to black duct tape which did a pretty good job, but is obviously hard to hide.
As I tried to paint over the tape and the lime green, I accepted the fact that it was not going to be perfect and then decided to only partially paint the door so that it’s more of a creative mix of greens which also better hides the paint scrapes from the previous night and the tape.
Video shoot challenges
Early this morning I stopped at a retail store to pick up a baby gate for the video, and then headed across town for the video shoot. I thought it might take about 2 hours, but with all the set-up issues, it took about 3.5 hours instead.
We had purposely decided to film this video outside because we weren’t pretending to be an expensive commercial shoot. Instead, this was a grassroots campaign like crowdfunding used to be. But shooting outside does have its challenges.
First, the door blew over and bent the metal frame. From the side, it was pretty crooked, but we managed to hide it in the front-view. We had to put things behind the door to keep it from falling over again.
Then, the baby gate I had bought (I did try to borrow one first), was harder than I expected to put together. When I finally did, I realised that it was defective and wouldn’t close properly. Ugh!
We had planned to use a teleprompter that I could read since the script was fairly long, but unfortunately the glare made it difficult for me or the cameraman to see. So eventually, I had to try to memorise a few lines at a time which wouldn’t have been so hard if it were not the fact that my brain is really full right now.
Other issues included the wipe board being swept away by the wind in the middle of the scene (I thought a bird had jumped on it by the noise), I struggled to remove some extra panels on the prototype for one scene because I worked so hard earlier in making sure they would stay together, and the general issues with “looky-loos” and people passing with skateboards and basketballs as you would expect during school holidays in a public place.
The final issue was when we went to take the door back to the car, and the whole thing broke into two pieces. At least it was lighter to load.
Embrace the faults with some cheese
By the time we were done, I could have been crying, but instead I told my cameraman from the beginning that this was not going to be a fancy product commercial. So we might as well embrace the faults and make it slightly cheesy. In laughter, we agreed that a blooper reel would have to be created afterwards which would include scenes from the pets.
At this point in the journey, I haven’t had a perfect week or day, but we’re on the homestretch (at least to Milestone 1A), and I cannot possibly try any harder to get this business off the ground, That’s really all I can do. The results will reveal themselves soon.
There’s no doubt that I’m stressed as I get closer to my crowdfunding launch date. So, I’ve been trying to fill my brain with things that will keep my mind positive and hopeful – essentially reminders to keep “putting on my big girl panties.”
One of the books I’m reading is from David Goggins titled, Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds. Any person who is willing to endure three Navy Seal boot camps in a calendar year despite injuries and fear of water, is a hero to me. The most inspirational part was learning how he used his horrendous, childhood memories to turn his body and mind into unbreakable machines.
When things were tough when I was younger, my mother used to remind me that, “we’re still better off then many.” I’m not sure that Goggins could’ve said that at any point of his childhood, and yet look what he’s managed to do. He’s an example of true toughness and what we are all capable of when our “why” is important enough, and we’re willing to give anything to reach a dream.
So, today as I stress about everything that is going wrong and could go wrong with my new business, I’ll keep “putting on my big girl panties.” I can only try to be as tough as Goggins (in my own way) as I push forward with my own goals.
Yesterday was an interesting day: one of highs and lows that are testing my resilience and fortitude as an entrepreneur to push through with this business idea.
The first was finding out that I wasn’t short-listed for a local government innovation grant. I really thought I would at least get past the first round, but I can only guess that it had to do with the fact that I was trying to crowdfund the rest of the money.
If I were in their position, I can see the risk of their money not being used for an actual outcome. I’ll follow up with them next week to try to get some feedback. In the meantime, looks like I’ll have to pay the patent lawyers out of my savings… again.
The other was a good thing – a major milestone yesterday! I finally got to see the prototype of Product #3 for the first time. It looked fantastic. In fact, it looked to be of higher quality than I had expected which means I need to revisit my pricing strategy.
There was a problem though as the connector pieces were made from a different process and plastic than the main pieces (just for the prototype), and they don’t hold tight enough right now. It’s a simple fix in the manufacturing phase, especially since we expected some things to fail in this first prototype.
However, I’m on a pretty tight deadline at the moment, and I start shooting video on Sunday. We don’t have time to go back and have the connector remade just for the video. As such, we’ve come up with a decent work around in the meantime, but it does mean the assembled pieces aren’t quite as robust as planned at the moment.
The other challenge that we recognised yesterday was that the Chinese New Year shut-down in China is going to delay the moulds. Fortunately the holiday is in late January this year (rather than February), and so we’ve looked at the calendar and believe that we can get everything shipped to customers in March 2020 if the campaign is successful. That’s about a month longer than I wished.
In any case, I’m certainly testing my resilience as an entrepreneur this week as I got home at 10pm last night from Brisbane and jumped on the 6am flight to Melbourne this morning for some other meetings. As tired and a bit stressed as I am, it still feels way better than having a job!
There are a lot of rules written by well-meaning people that don’t necessarily make any sense now or perhaps for a given circumstance. This week has reinforced my view that I should follow my gut instinct regardless of the rules when it comes to making decisions for my business. I suppose it’s a privilege of being an entrepreneur, as well as a risk in supporting one too.
As an example, this week I was willing to give up financial support from a sponsor by breaking the original rules that were set for a program. I questioned the rules and decided to go in a direction that I thought was better for my company. Later, I also did a proper analysis to confirm.
The reality was that my gut instincts pointed me in the right direction from the beginning. The analysis only made it easier to explain to others, and fortunately that sponsor decided to stick with me afterwards.